Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series taking a look back at 2019
I started working for Great Lakes Now in April. At the time, I had been to two of the five Great Lakes I was tasked with covering.
Not a great record.
I grew up in Singapore, an island between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. I love the ocean, I love saltwater, and I was deeply skeptical of how interesting the Great Lakes could be in contrast to the vastness of the deep blue.
It takes time to fall in love. You have to know someone, learn someone. I think it took me to this summer, when I doubled the number of Great Lakes I’ve experienced, to realize that I love the lakes as much as I still love the sea.
Part I: Lake Michigan
This wasn’t the first time I had been to Lake Michigan. That was back in 2013, a little after I permanently moved to the States.
But in August 2017, I visited a friend from Hart, Michigan, who took me to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes where we tumbled about on the hot sand and made absolute fools of ourselves to our own great enjoyment.
She took me to some of her favorite hidden spots, spots she’d found growing up exploring the area, one of which was in Cedar Point County Park.
It looked like a perfect beach, with everything in shades of pastel—tan sand that looked like suede and a baby blue sky. The waters were a blue-green that was incredibly easy on the eyes.
I saw a woman, wrapped in a blanket, sitting at the edge of a wooden bridge, just watching the waters. I quickly snapped a photo. Her face wasn’t in the photo. The woman could have been any of us, enjoying a nice breeze and a sweet summer day. It felt like the perfect capture of a beautiful moment.
Then I spent the next few hours getting crap from my friend for taking a picture of someone without them knowing.
It was so worth it, and I still don’t feel guilty. So there.
Part II: Lake Superior
My Lake Michigan experiences were evidently too tame.
The next lake I checked off my list was Lake Superior, also in 2017. I didn’t go to a beach and watch it from afar like a forlorn unrequited admirer.
I went to Marquette and I jumped off the Black Rocks right into the bright, clear waters.
What a rush. I did not take any photos because, well, see: jumping into the lake. The phone was left in the car, and I just stayed in the moment.
It was freezing cold (as expected) and, given Lake Superior’s expanse and diversity, just one tiny fraction of the whole Lake Superior experience. That just means I’ll have to go back.
Part III: Lake Erie
I checked a lot of firsts off with this adventure. I come from a very urban family. There were no trips fishing or camping with my parents.
Time spent outdoors meant taking me to the nearby playground or to free jazz concerts in the park on weekends.
So during the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources’ weeklong course for reporters on water quality at the end of June, not only did I get to see Lake Erie for the first time, I got to ride a charter boat on Lake Erie, I got to try fishing and I got to cook some walleye that I caught myself, instead of just buying salmon from the store.
When I’m nervous I don’t panic in the moment. Instead I get very focused on whatever tasks I have given myself or been given by someone else. The boat captain decided that I was a good helper because of said focus and immediate obedience of any commands he gave me.
“Change that band.”
“Set up the next rod.”
“Come here, hold that for me.”
“Here, reel it in.”
“Open that container for me.”
“Shift that over.”
I didn’t think, I just did, and at the end we had a pretty bucket of nine walleye.
This probably isn’t going to start some new tradition of weekend fishing trips with my dad, but I stuck my share of the catch into my freezer and cooked some for my parents when they came to visit a couple months later. They loved it.
Part IV: Lake Huron
A friend from Singapore came to visit me at the end of September. She was attending a wedding in Dallas, Texas, and detoured to Detroit for a few days to hang out. Her goal: check off as many American experiences as possible in three days.
I took a few hours curating a careful list. Stuff like Tex-Mex, barbeque and IHOP were handled in Dallas. (Notice the pattern.) In the end, I took her to have bad Chinese food at Panda Express, try Detroit’s historic Lafayette Coney Island and go apple-picking at a cider mill, among other things.
And of course, I couldn’t let her visit the Great Lakes state without seeing a Great Lake.
We drove to Bay City State Park. Halfway there, it started pouring rain. Unfortunate, but we kept driving anyway, figuring we could at least glance at the lake before heading to Frankenmuth to see Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
Luckily for us, the rain gentled to a barely-there drizzle when we got there. We parked, headed to the beach and just watched the waves for about 15 minutes. It was gorgeous. The horizon seemed to stretch on forever.
I wasn’t sure if I was legally parked, so we didn’t linger much longer than that.
And that was it—four down, one to go.
Since then, working here, I’ve learned much more about the lakes. I write and edit stories about the politics, science, economics and culture related to them. I help produce our monthly TV show and its digital content where we help you experience the lakes in new ways, with people you haven’t yet met. I hear pitches from public relations folks, writers and scientists about what matters about the lakes.
None of them are wrong. We each bring our own perspectives—and agendas—to our work, and that includes the Great Lakes.
For me, it’s about bringing you, our audience, all the news and information about them we can. My own limited, if growing, experiences help with that, and I know that in both my personal and professional lives, I’ll have many more to learn and share.
Oh, and I’ll get you next summer, Lake Ontario.
Featured image: Fishing on Lake Erie. Photo by John Flesher.