Around this time of year, an inevitable feeling starts to set in. July is winding down, August is right around the corner, and that means school will be starting up again. It also means cold weather isn’t far off. Okay, okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but anyone from Wisconsin will tell you that summer has to be made the most of because around here it doesn’t last long. To be honest, by mid-July I can’t help feeling that it’s almost over, and I have to start mentally preparing myself for the frozen beast that is winter in the far North. On the one hand, while the impending approach of winter does mean the start of the small game season, two golden weeks of deer hunting and all the ice fishing you could ever ask for, I’m not eager to see summer go just yet. Then again, no one is forcing me to live here, and as crazy as it sounds, I do enjoy Wisconsin winters with their below-zero temperatures, heaps upon heaps of snow, road salt that practically dissolves my car as I’m driving down the road – well, you get the picture. I like it for about the first six months anyway…
Before I get too carried away, though, allow me to take a glance out the window and realize that it’s still a beautiful day out there! Say what you will about Wisconsin’s infamous winters; the perfectly mild summers we enjoy here in the Midwest make it well worth it. With only one solid month left of this dreamlike climate, I’d like to talk about making the most of it. There’s lots to do out there, especially with the hottest days of summer likely before us. Some of my own personal plans for the remaining season involve the annual camping trip that my brothers and I will be embarking upon in mid-August. In addition to hours spent laughing and telling old childhood stories around the campfire, our activities include manly excursions into the woods, canoeing and kayaking down some obscure Wisconsin waterway and feats of brawn displayed through the throwing of tomahawks or some similarly useful hunting weapon.
While camping is one of my favorites, I’m not sure it should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list just yet. As I said, we’re just now entering the dog days of summer, and these are especially uncomfortable when you try to enjoy them from inside a tent. If you want my advice, take this final month to get the boat out once or twice more. There’s nothing like heading out to the lake with a cooler packed with ice-cold beverages for a full day of tubing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. You may be getting sick of it by now (too much of a good thing so to speak), but believe me, we’ll all be daydreaming about it by January. Hitching up the pontoon boat and relaxing on the water for the day is a great family activity to celebrate the close of the summer and get the last of that energy out before the school year starts. Now might also be a good time to get out there and try something new, something you’ve been planning to try this summer but keep putting off. We all know how fast our weekends fill up, and towing the jet skis to that uncharted lake up north or test riding that new boogie board are activities best not put off for tomorrow.
This weekend I’ll be taking my own advice and going out sailing with two of my brothers. One of my favorite memories from boyhood was spending the day on the water. Growing up, we lived right on the shore of Lake Winnebago, and my brothers and I took the water for granted. We spent our summers swimming, fishing, kayaking and boating. The old sailboat we had was a ten-foot dinghy we got from our neighbor, a boat that could practically be towed by a moped if you could find a hitch and trailer for it. We could fit two or maybe three of us in the back, depending on how much water we wanted to be sitting in, and would spend hours tacking back and forth between our dock and the northern shore a few miles away. We learned a lot of valuable lessons during those adventures (for example, don’t turn the boat away from the wind unless you want to tip over!). Our boat was actually so small that we needed one guy to lean over the windward edge while the other handled the rudder. For a couple boys coming of age, there was nothing more thrilling than leaning almost horizontally over the side of the boat, gliding across the waves, knowing that if you leaned forward at all, the whole rig would capsize. To keep him from falling overboard, there was a nylon strap harnessed to the floor of the boat where the guy leaning could keep his feet anchored. It happened one time that my little brother (the designated “leaner”) discovered it was possible for that nylon strap to break, and in one swift motion, he went flipping over the edge of the boat. Don’t worry; the story doesn’t end in tragedy. After the initial shock, we loosened the sail and got him back into the boat, laughing our heads off the entire time.
Suffice it to say, if you have one at your disposal or can get your hands on a little sailboat before the end of summer, I would highly recommend investing the time. It’s a great skill to learn and makes an excellent summer pastime. It’s been a few years now since I was out on that old sailboat, and I’m sure my sailing skills have become a little rusty. After a few hiccups, though, with the wind in my face and the waves crashing over the bow, I don’t doubt it will all come back to me. How will you spend the end of summer: sitting in an easy chair, in an air-conditioned room or braving the outdoors?