I wanted to show my husband the lake where I’d spent so much time.
When we moved there, we were told the lake was Memory Lake. Later we learned the name had been changed from “Swamp Lake”. You can see it that link that the lake is kinda two lakes with a little connecting bit. We only knew the near side of the lake for the longest time.
When we first moved to Wasilla, I was in 7th grade. I was still in school, that bus ride away to Peter’s Creek. I did NOT want to move to Wasilla, because I knew my social standing would drop immediately. There were NO cute boys in Wasilla. Okay, maybe one but he was not very nice.
But it didn’t matter because almost right away I was informed that I would be homeschooled. Social standing was a thing of the past. Social flattening was more like it.
But THAT left us a lot of time to learn the mysteries of the lake. My brother Chris liked to fish in the lake, and caught about 10 little trout or landlocked salmon. They were 9-12 inches long, really not big enough to eat compared to real salmon. We fed them to the cat.
We wondered where the lake got its water. We kinda tried to go around the perimeter to see if a stream flowed in. But there were houses all around the lake, so we were nervous about trespassing.
This was our lake. There was a public lake, Wasilla lake, that people would go swim at. People would even drive from Eagle river sometimes to go swim at our lake. They used to swim in Mirror lake, just past Peter’s Creek, but then Mirror Lake got Beaver Fever and you couldn’t swim in it anymore. But this was our lake. We could walk to it anytime.
Chris was the one who stuck to it. And he discovered that there was a whole second lake past the choke point.
The subdivision had it’s own well, and that empty lot was how we accessed the lake. The lake was surrounded by swamp, so we learned the art of choosing the highest bumps of plants in the flat meadow of swamp between the road and the lake. Otherwise, we’d get a shoeful of bog. I had no interest in fishing, but I liked the lake. I liked ice skating and went every day I could. Chris Ice fished with holes that other people left, because he didn’t have a borer.
In the summer, he would go somewhere and fish from the shore. Sometimes we would swim, but I couldn’t swim near the fishing line for fear of getting hooked. Mom didn’t want me to swim alone, but I talked her into letting me if I had a life jacket on.
Here’s the picture: Alaskan summer, where temperatures above 70 are rare. The lake, aptly named Swamp Lake, colder than the air, with lake weeds and leeches and deep silt at the bottom.
We tried to fathom the muck at the bottom of the lake once. I wiggled my feet down into it as far as it would go. It got colder as you went down, very cold. I stopped when it got up to mid-calf, but only because Chris suggested that the leeches probably lived down in there. It was harder to get my foot out than in.
I checked my feet carefully for leeches after that. It was true, the leeches lived on the bottom mostly. The strategy when swimming was to leap out into the water and touch the bottom as little as possible. The life jacket helped with this, and we usually kept our shoes on. Even aside from leeches, the bottom was very slimy, ucky, cold and definitely something to avoid.
The leeches weren’t too bad. Wasilla Lake had worse leeches. I think we found a leech on ourselves a maximum of 5 times. The leeches were small, only about three brown slimy inches long, and you just pulled them off with a squeal and a shudder and that was the end of that.
We did discuss whether or not the lake weeds could tangle in our feet and pull us down to our deaths. Chris said yes. I thought it was unlikely. But we avoided them, since they were definitely slimy.
But when husband Chris and I drove past the entry point to the lake, it was very overgrown. I remembered a gravel lot. There were a lot of trees and bushes now. You couldn’t see the lake from the road anymore.
And it was raining, and neither of us felt like getting out and seeing the lake. I figured we’d get shoes full of bogwater if we tried.