When the weather gets hot, water is a lifesaver – and lots of fun, too! Growing up, the nearest and dearest source of cool natural resources ran right through my back yard: Canaseraga Creek. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’re probably picking up on the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time in this particular creek.
For most of my life, my family was spread out around the whole state of New York. I usually saw them all at some point around the holidays, but I could also always count on seeing them again at some point over the summer for various Creek Days (some planned and some completely impromptu and weather-dependent).
A Creek Day, in essence, is exactly what it sounds like: everyone loads their lawn chairs, grills, coolers and water shoes into the wagon on the four-wheeler and hauls it all down to the rocky shore of the creek. For years, I knew when the warm weather was here to stay, simply because I’d see my grandpa bringing the picnic table down the driveway with his tractor.
Once the table was down at the shore, family and friends would come flocking whenever the weather was toasty and fill it with various summer dishes to pass. Creek cookouts tended to bring out grapes and watermelons, which better survived the lack of refrigeration.
Adults would waddle and wade right into the creek with their foldable lawn chairs in order to stay cool with their feet in the water. Someone inevitably got a wet butt from chairs shifting in the rocky creek bottom – the older kids would make bets as they swam and made little stone dams further downstream. The little kids tended to be corralled upstream in order to increase the likelihood of someone being able to catch float-away shoes or toys.
One thing that always made me feel incredibly lucky was that I was privy to private Creek Days, too. As much as I loved getting to see my family and friends, the creek became my personal playground when less people were around. With quieter water, I could hunt for crayfish or convince myself that I saw a snapping turtle (usually large rocks) or water snake (usually sticks).
I even imagined a magic fairy kingdom where the tiny run-off creek emptied out into the larger stream. When it rained, this little kingdom flooded and I could look for mermaids – though usually I found tadpoles instead. We could always tell when it had rained over night because the risen creek could be seen from the house and we could hear it rushing over the dips and divots in the rocks.
Sometimes the older kids were brave and would wait for the perfect creek speed (not too fast!) to hop on some inflated, black rubber tubes to ride a few miles downstream on our very own water slide. I burned the back of my delicate fair-skinned legs on the sun-heated matte rubber a few too many times to be interested in that particular race myself – I preferred the lazy river style floating.
Laughter could always be heard echoing off the water when people were tubing. Occasionally, I would catch the shout of someone seeing a tall rock up ahead and preparing to shift themselves on the tube, “Butt up! BUTT UP!”
Sometimes when I’m caught off guard and in a state of similar panic, I catch myself hearing this very mantra in the back of my mind.