Ten Reasons Why Lakes Are Better Than Everything Else

Okay, people: this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and it’s really earth-shattering, so I hope you’ll give it serious consideration.

After having spent time in many different bodies of water this summer, from pools to lakes to streams to ponds to the ocean, I have decided that, of them all, lakes are unequivocally better than the rest.

I think we can all agree that ponds, streams, rivers, and creeks are cute enough, especially as water features in backyards. They’re fun, too, what with ponds freezing over for ice skating and creeks containing all sorts of hiding spots for creatures that kids love to hunt, not to mention things like rafting and rope swings. And there’s, like, fly fishing in rivers and all that jazz. But beyond that, they don’t really count.

Which leaves us pools, lakes, and oceans as the only “true” summer water spots. I know there are people who will swear that a pool is the only way to go, or that the ocean is superior, but, well… how do I say this…

They’re wrong.

This is not just conjecture but has been determined based on evidence, research, and cold hard facts (which are totally my opinions, but after having thought about this so seriously, it’s basically irrefutable. Obvs). Allow me to explain further.

Comparison #1: WILD THINGS

So, yeah, the ocean has lots of amazing and fascinating animals that live in or near it. Penguins and sea lions and adorable pods of dolphins and herons and neat-o crabs and, like, an entire ecosystem. Oh, and whales! And sea turtles! Sea turtles are cool! The wildlife of the ocean is rad and vast and a marine biologist’s nirvana.

But there’s also plenty of wildlife to be found in lakes – fish and birds and crawdads and frogs and turtles and dragonflies. True, they may not be as varied as the ocean, but there is no shortage of creatures that make their homes lakeside.

fish annie
fish ella dragonfly

Pools have no wildlife at all unless you count the frogs and snakes and errant mice that accidentally fall in. You cannot (successfully) go fishing or crabbing in a pool. You will not hear a loon’s haunting cry from the oval in your backyard. Pools are wildlife-free.

On the other hand, unless you’re playing Marco Polo and you’re the Marco-caller with your eyes closed, you’ll probably never be standing waist-deep in a pool and suddenly feel something brush against your calf (omg what was that???), sending you running to shore in a frenzied panic. There’s something to be said for that.

Lakes: 2
Oceans: 2
Pools: 1

Comparison #2: DANGEROUS WILD THINGS

Yes, both oceans and lakes are home to fascinating animals, but there is one very important distinction between the two: the things that you find in lakes are probably not going to hunt you down and kill you. Did Jaws take place in a lake? Orca? Moby Dick? There are no sharks in lakes. Or crazy eels. Or jellyfish. Or any of the myriad other stinging, biting things that can come up out of the bottomless deep and scare the bejeezus out of you or swallow you whole.

kiawah90
Like oh, say, this six-foot delight that a fisherman accidentally reeled in twenty feet in front of us on the beach in Kiawah a few years back. It was kinda cool, but are you kidding me??

I mean, sure, there are some potentially fear-inducing creatures in lakes – crayfish, small water snakes, really ugly catfish – but they’re harmless minnows compared to paralyzing jellyfish and freakin’ sharks.
summer geese
You know what my kids said when they saw this flock of birds? “Oh, look! A whole family of geese!” You know what they didn’t say? “I could feel the vibration of this entire shark gnawing into my skin. You could feel the whole body shaking as it’s digging into my torso.” BECAUSE THERE AREN’T SHARKS IN LAKES, OMG.

Likewise, because pools contain no wildlife whatsoever (not on purpose, anyway), they are void of life-threatening creatures as well. Hence…

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 0
Pools: 1

Comparison #3: COLLECTIBLES

The critters that swim and nest and frolic in oceans and lakes aren’t the only treasures to be found there. Who hasn’t gone to the ocean and returned home with beautiful shells, sand dollars, driftwood, or a starfish that was once alive and happy but ultimately suffocated and died so it could become part of a beachy display in the living room? Oceans are full of such riches, and there is little more enjoyable than walking along a flat stretch of beach and hunting for seashells; it’s almost mythical. After all, no one sold their shells by the pool deck, did they?

While not as prolific, lakes do have shells, too. And driftwood. And sea glass (lake glass?). And if you happen to be among the lucky ones who can visit one of the Finger Lakes in western New York, you’ll also find gazillions of fossils along the shore.fossils2fossils1These guys have stars on their ends – neat, no?

Despite the evidence presented here, the variety of fossils is endless, and my girls and I have spent countless hours combing the shoreline for them, marveling over their age (“These are really millions of years old, Mommy??”), and inventing stories about what they were like before they became fossilized.

You will not be finding fossils and shells in your neighborhood pool. As lovely as diving toys and foam noodles and floating beer coolers can be, they are not typically considered collectibles.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 1
Pools: 0

Comparison #4: FAUNA

In fairness, one (small) plus to swimming in a pool is that you never have to worry that you’ll be happily swimming along and suddenly find yourself screeching like an octopus has ensnared you from below, entangled in a patch of weeds that have grown ten feet straight up from the bottom. You also won’t come out covered in algae (I hope) or that nasty, stinky seaweed with the little popper bubbles on them. Pools, while boring, are nevertheless devoid of slimy plants. Lakes and oceans? Not so much.

Lakes: 0
Oceans: 0
Pools: 1

Comparison #5: Visibility

There are a good many people who say they prefer pools to oceans and lakes simply because they can see the bottom. (Tip: if the pool is so murky you can’t see the bottom, swimming in said water is probably a bad idea. Unless you think a course of penicillin sounds like fun.) Yeah, I think those people are pretty much wimps and aren’t the type you’d invite to join your Amazing Race team, but still, I can’t deny that there’s something comforting about knowing what you’re getting into. Literally.

With that said, there are many, many days when the water at my family’s lake house is so clear and still we are easily able to see the bottom – even from the end of the dock. Sure, that’s not possible when you’re out in the middle and it’s deeper, but if you’re just looking to enjoy swimming near shore and you want to know what’s below you, you’re in luck.

Oceans, on the other hand, are always mysterious. The ever-changing, ever-moving water provides little to no opportunity to see into the depths, meaning you’re totally taking your life into your own hands every time you venture in.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 0
Pools: 2

Comparison #6: WAVES, TIDES, AND CURRENTS

Some would argue that the very inconsistent nature of the ocean makes it more appealing. To this I say, that’s crap. Sure, there’s a certain allure to having the tides come in and out, to the waves crashing about, to the fact that every hour will bring something different. It’s certainly never boring. But that doesn’t make it better.

Lakes, too, have waves. You can fall asleep to the gentle lapping of the water, brushing the shoreline. You can bob along medium-sized crests, floating gently on your tube. Or, if you so choose, you can crash around on white capped peaks. My point is, there are definitely waves on lakes, but they’re not usually the knock-you-about, overturn-your-boat, rip-your-bathing-suit-from-you kind.

My husband loves these kinds of waves, the ones big enough to turn you about and cover your head and send you on a nice, long bodysurf. I endure these kinds of waves, because I’m sensible enough to understand that it’s not fun to be pummeled in the face by water so hard that it hurts, to be unable to breathe, and to not be able to feel the ground beneath your feet.

This was taken while we were in Puerto Rico. Yes, it seems all tropical and lovely and bodysurf-y – and it was all tropical and lovely and bodysurf-y – but I had to fight like the dickens to keep my bathing suit on because the damn waves kept tearing it off. 

In addition to waves, oceans have tides – something having to do with the moon and magic and all that – which means that you absolutely never know how high the water will come up onto the beach on any given day. It’s like a constant surprise party, except without cake or alcohol. On Tuesday at noon, you may be able to launch yourself off the pier and into the (dark, mysterious) sea ten feet deep. On Wednesday at noon, the water may be out so far, the pier sits – dry, in the sun – and jumping off is only appropriate if one is hoping for an ambulance ride to the ER.

On a lake, there is no such variation, and dock-jumping is always okay.laborday48
It’s especially okay when you’re playing a game of “Categories.”

Also, tides wreak havoc on carefully built sand castles. After spending hours painstakingly constructing turrets and moats decorated with the aforementioned seashells and seaweed, your beloved masterpiece will be instantly washed away by a rogue wave as the tide sneaks up on you again (surprise!!) and your daughters will dissolve into hysterical puddles upon seeing their princess castle disappear.

Ask me how I know.

Because lakes don’t have tides, there are no AWOL waves to ruin your daughters’ childhood. There are also no currents – those invisible but ridiculously strong jets of water that run along the shore, waiting to drag unsuspecting beach-goers out to sea. Even the strongest of swimmers can be torn away by rip tides and currents, which basically means that no one is safe at the ocean, ever. SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK, SUCKERS.

Lakes, by contrast, do not have life-threatining currents, so you can wade in to your heart’s content and know that you won’t be yanked off your feet. Pools, of course, are static containers of water and do not have waves, tides, or currents… which, depending on your point of view, is both absurdly banal (unlike oceans and lakes) and appealingly un-deadly (unlike oceans).

Lakes: 2
Oceans: 1
Pools: 1

Comparison #7: ACTIVITIES

There are few of us whose childhood memories don’t involve a rip-roaring afternoon spent at a pool. Games of Marco Polo, hunting for “treasure” by collecting coins that were dumped from the jar on the kitchen table into the deep end, jumping off the diving board, playing “Categories” as you launched yourself in from the side, performing handstands in the shallow end and begging your mom to “WATCH ME! WATCH ME! WATCH ME!”, learning how to do a cannonball, floating in the inflatable lounge chair with the drink holder on the side… Those were the days, and they were damn fine days.

Admittedly, it would be difficult to play some of these games in a lake or ocean (where throwing buckets of quarters into the waves is typically frowned upon), but the open expanse of these bodies of water means that even more fun can be had. You can go tubing, waterskiing, and wakeboarding. You can fish and snorkel and scuba dive. You can jump on water trampolines, play King of the Castle on anchored rafts, and jump off of wooden towers into the water below. You can kayak, canoe, boat, windsurf, sail, paddleboard, and jet ski . You can (often) build spectacular sandcastles and sculptures; you can (often) dig a hole deep enough to hide in or wrap the grains around you like a sand sleeping bag. You can board a yacht or a rowboat and have a bonfire right on the beach. Simply put, there’s way more to do in an ocean or a lake than there is in a pool.

DCIM100GOPRO
We cannot paddleboard in a pool. Not that I’ve tried. But I’m pretty sure.

With that said, the irregularity of ocean waves oftentimes make it impossible to engage in a good many activities. Can’t nobody be sailing in 30 foot swells or having a bonfire when the tide has completely covered the beach. Because lake conditions are more predictable, you can almost always dive* right into whatever tickles your fancy (*see what I did there?), so that gives lakes a small advantage in this here category.10403338_10152552138420295_7294721342386609593_n
You think a seven and nine year-old could go on a solo kayak paddle hundreds of yards away on the open ocean? THINK AGAIN. #LakePower!

Lakes: 2.5
Oceans: 2
Pools: 1

Comparison #8: VISTA

“Man, the sunset over the lake today was just spectacular” – said regularly

“Wow, watching the sunrise along the horizon of the ocean was absolutely magical” – uttered with frequency

“Jeepers, the sky as seen from the pool this afternoon was simply breathtaking” – spoken by basically no one at any time, or at least not as often as the sentiments above

summer sunset
You won’t overlook this scene from a pool. Unless it’s a lakeside or oceanside pool.

The view from lakes and oceans is magnificent.
The view from pools can be somewhat beautiful from time to time. Kind of.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 1
Pools: 0

Comparison #9: THE WATER ITSELF

It always amazes me that this is actually up for debate and doesn’t automatically push lakes right up to the top every single time, but apparently some people are insane feel differently than I do about lake water being superior to pool or ocean water. I don’t know that I can say it any more plainly than this, so I’m just going to go for it: salt and chlorine suck. Salt stings your eyes and makes your nose hurt and gets all up in your hair, but not in a cute tussled way – in a this-needs-to-be-washed-immediately way. It coats your skin and everything that comes into contact with it, even if you’re only coming close to the ocean and not actually entering it. (For example: we drove our rental car in Puerto Rico all around the island, but never directly into the water {duh} and it was still coated in a thin layer of ocean salt that was so thick, we were unable to see out the back windows. Side note: we could find absolutely no washer fluid bucket thingies at Puerto Rican gas stations, so we had to cross our fingers and hope it would rain. It finally did.) Also, saltwater tastes absolutely horrible and, ironically, makes you thirsty. Saltwater is nasty.

Chlorine has more going for it than saltwater, but only by default. Being near a pool will not cause your car to be coated in any substance that needs to be chiseled off with an ice pick, but all the rest hold true – albeit often to a lesser degree. Chlorinated water irritates the heck out of your eyes, can get all up in your nose and make you hella uncomfortable, and is absolutely horrible for your hair, turning it into a tangled, thick, smelly, green-hewed mess. It also tastes like crap. After being in the ocean or a pool, you need to shower – to get wet again – in order to clean off. HOW CRAZY IS THAT.

Lakes, on the other hand, are often so pure and lovely, you come out of them even cleaner than you were before you went in. Your hair is in good shape, your car is not covered in anything except bird poop and whatever your kids spilled from their lunch boxes, you can open your eyes underwater with absolutely no difficulty, and you don’t need to get yourself wet again after coming out of the lake for the final time that day. In fact, lakes are so clean, you can sometimes drink from them with absolutely no side effects.

Post-shampoo jump in
See? So clean, we actually bathe IN the lake.
I know, I know… putting stuff like shampoo into lakes makes them less clean… but we use only fully biodegradable products and don’t bathe too often; so far, so good.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 0
Pools: 0

Comparison #10: SAND

I have already mentioned that one of the things you can do at oceans and beaches is play with – and in – the sand. What I did not say, however, is that doing so is fun, nor did I refer to it as one of the benefits that oceans and beaches have over pools. This omission was not accidental.

I think sand is evil.

Okay, so it can be fun. It can feel delicious under your feet, sometimes spongy, sometimes rock solid, sometimes slippery. It is mesmerizing when poured gently from your fingers. It can, indeed, be used to create hours of entertainment; I have very happily built many a sand castle – without my children, even – poring over the details of the design. I have buried myself (and others) beneath the beach, marveling at how much cooler the sand is one foot below the surface. I have ridden bikes and gone running beside the water during low tide and have carved messages along the shore, watching wistfully as the waves creep in and erase my words piece by piece. Yes, sand can be fabulous – mesmerizing and addictive, even.

But, like so many mesmerizingly addictive things, there’s a downside to sand. I mean, crack is addictive, but that doesn’t make it good for you. At first, sand is like movie popcorn, all buttery and warm and heavenly and you can’t stop shoveling it toward you. But then, before you know it, that familiar feeling settles in: dread. With movie popcorn, it’s because you know you just consumed your entire day’s worth of calories and now your mouth is coated in the weird filmy nastiness and you’d really like to go to the bathroom because you kind of feel sick but you’re so damn full of popcorn, you can’t even move.

With sand, it’s because you know that there will be hell to pay for even going near it. Sand, like my nemesis, superfine glitter, gets everywhere and is nearly impossible to remove. Trying to eat a nice picnic beside the shore? I hope you don’t mind a little extra grit in your food. You brought water with you so you can refresh yourself after an hour playing in the sun? Good luck brushing off the tiny grains of sand that have adhered themselves exactly on the mouth of the bottle. And don’t even think about eating anything sticky beside the ocean; I still remember how my soul died a little death the day I dropped my Ring Pop in the sand when I was about eight. THE HUMANITY.

You can lay a towel on the beach so that you have somewhere clean to sit and declare it a no sand zone, but we all know that sand, like guerrilla fighters, infiltrates everything without you even knowing it. Long after you’ve left the shore, you will be finding sand in places that never even made it out of the house. And let’s not forget the havoc that sand wreaks upon your body. Trying to walk across it barefoot on a hot day is like stepping on lava. It gets in your eyes like tiny shrapnel. It gets in your hair and then stays on your scalp, often through several washings. You’ll still be chewing on sand three days after visiting the beach.

But it’s the sand that gets stuck in your suit that creates the biggest problems. Have you ever bathed a baby and found, like, a raisin stuck in the folds of his chin and wonder how on earth it got there but then realize with horror that it must be from when he ate raisins two days ago? That’s how it is with sand, especially the sand that is trapped in your bathing suit; it creeps into every crevice, every crack, every hidden space. And I do mean EVERY space.

Because of our anatomy, sand infiltration is even worse for girls. A girlfriend of mine told me that when her daughters were little, they were driving home from a visit to the ocean when four year old complained that her vagina was crunchy. Because that’s what happens when sand gets all up in your business. IT IS NOT PLEASANT, nor is it easy to remedy. So, yes, sand is delightful, but it is also my enemy.IMG_7699
This is what our rental car looked like as we dropped it off at the airport in Puerto Rico. That’s just the sand that I was able to shake out of the top of my bathing suit. EVIL.

With all of that said, you might – understandably – think that I would prefer pools, with their lack of sand, to lakes and oceans. It is true that pools are sand-less, so one point for pools. But, as happy fate would have it, Canandaigua Lake – the one on which we spend so much of our summers – is sand-less, too, as are many of the Finger Lakes.
lakeshale
Look, Ma – no sand!

A lake without a beach?, you say. How can that be? Well, in the case of Canandaigua, the beaches are made of shale – flat stones that have broken off of the larger shale beds surrounding the lake and, over time, have smoothed out. They make perfect skipping stones, can be “written” on (by drawing with another piece of shale), and can be pushed around to create mounds and piles and holes, much like sand… except with absolutely none of the evil properties associated with sand.

SHALE BEACH FTW.

Lakes: 2
Oceans: 1
Pools: 1

Thus, after tallying up the points above, the final standings are as follows:
LAKES: 13.5
OCEANS: 8
POOLS: 8

After this exhaustive, thorough, and completely unbiased analysis, it’s plain to see that, when all is said and done, lakes far outshine oceans and pools. This does not mean that oceans and pools are bad, nor that I’ll stop visiting them any time soon. Nothing can compare with the mystery of the ocean, and the humid, briny smell that washes over you the moment you get close is positively enchanting. Jumping into a pool on a roasting summer day is one of life’s simplest pleasures, and watching Ella and Annie play water games till they drop makes me smile every time.

It’s like milk, white, and dark chocolate – they’re all marvelous and yes, more, please… but when all is said and done, one stands out above the rest.

I’m a lake girl at heart.
And I’m particularly grateful and fortunate to be spending so much time on one.

Maybe I should have been a researcher instead of a teacher. This fact-collecting thing is really fun.

summer vista

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Ten Reasons Why Lakes Are Better Than Everything Else

  1. Pingback: In Kind | All Together in a Scattered Sort of Way

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