There is something so peaceful about being on the water. The slow lapping of the small waves on the lake shore combined with the blue water can lower your blood pressure and wash away your worries. When I first began to go alone up to Lake Ouachita, a Corp. of Engineers lake surrounded mostly by the Ouachita National Forest, there were many thoughts of hesitation in my head. “I will be so lonely,” “I will be so bored,” “I will be kidnapped and killed.”
Then a hot and sticky afternoon came, as Southern summers can be, and I really wanted to go swimming but all my friends were busy. If I wanted to go, I had to go alone. The fear of loneliness was not much of an issue, because my roommate was gone, so I would be sitting at home alone anyway. The fear of boredom was still a slight presence, but I had my book if I got tired of floating around the water. The fear of being a female alone in the woods, to this day still kind of bothers me (and my parents), but if I want to enjoy life without being dependent on other people, I had to move on from it. I chose a spot where I could be on my own, but across the bay from a popular spot. That way if trouble were to arise, I could be scene and my screams could be heard. I also travel with my protective dog, Caddie, and I always tell people where I am going and when to expect me back. If I am not going to physically see anyone on my return to civilization, I’ll call or text to say that I made it home OK.
I don’t always go alone, I am fortunate to have many family and friends who love Lake Ouachita also. I’m even fortunate enough to have a friend who owns a boat! One thing I love about Lake Ouachita is that it is big, 62.5 square miles, with 690 miles of shoreline, and on my friend’s boat we can explore many coves and islands. I love being in the boat in the middle of the water or jumping off and swimming, far from land. I love to dangle me legs in the water hundreds of feet above the bottom. In a sense it is kind of like flying, but held up by the water.
I have never successfully gotten up on a wakeboard, and the tubbing makes me too sore, but I do love riding around on the boat and watching others do it, especially my 13-year-old nephew Noah.
I love swimming in the lake. Among my friends, I am famous for how long I can tread water. While everyone else floats around on their fun noodles, life jackets or other personal flotation devises, I just tread water. I try to stay moving so I can say I’m being “active,” but there is something about being in the water, surrounded water, cradled by the water that I love. I love the feel of it on my skin. I love the way it holds me, head just above the surface, but body in it’s warmth, and I love the challenge of overcoming it. A body of water always looks so inviting, but can be very deadly.
One of my ex-boyfriends and I walked around part of the lake shore once and he gave me his “concerns” about our relationship. We didn’t break up that day, but that was the moment I knew we would not make it to marriage. Two years later my friends and I went back to that cove on a boat. I swam the all the way across the bay. It was an accomplishment, I wasn’t sure I could do, but I also knew my friends with the boat were right there if I got tired. When I reached the other side, the same spot from that bad memory, it no longer belonged to that thought. It was the spot where I tested myself and swam the bay.
I would not have attempted that swim if I were alone.
The first night I spent alone in the woods was on the shores of Lake Ouachita. I had planned a camping trip with two of my friends. The first one told me he wouldn’t be able to make it the night before, but I still had one other person to go with. Then as the sun was setting, he had an emergency and had to leave. It was too dark for me to backpack out, so I embraced the time to myself.
My favorite place is about a quarter of a mile from the highway. I enjoy the short hike to get to it. When the lake is low I can walk along the lake shore. However one winter afternoon before I became intimate with the place, I started out on the path that leads to the lakeshore, fishing pole in hand to discover that the lake was so high the shore came all the way up to the base of a small cliff cut by the creak that flows into it.
There was no way I was walking that way, I am not experienced in rock climbing, nor have the desire for it. I took in the landscape and followed the top of the ridge down to where it was even with the creek. No bones about it, I was going to have to wade through that cold creek water. The mountain stream was only as high as my mid-calf and it wasn’t very wide. After crossing I found a game trail that led me up to the top of the ridge.
This is where I had the “I am woman hear me roar!” moment. Here, all by myself, I was able to spot the game trail for easy hiking to my new favorite spot.
I also like coming to this spot because I can bring Caddie and she can run, chase squirrels, swim and simply be a dog. I love to see the joy on her face and she runs through the woods. She has no problem finding the game trail. I don’t know if she finds it because it is a clearing in the woods, or by scent.
I hold this small piece of Lake Ouachita dear. I know it is public land and anyone who wants to can come, but to me it is a place I can go and just be with myself, and of course Caddie.