The line. It's there. A few feet from our rental cottage.
It's the line in the road when the asphalt ends and the sand begins.
It's a road that doesn't go very far, but yet, it does. After the tarmac ends, you're never sure year after year, season after season, if the road will still be there.
It's a road the twists along a narrow band of sand that separates the unpredictable lake waves and a marsh that is home for an untold number of feathered and furry creatures. It's a road that offers up a tenuous link to a few cottages and what seems to be the end of civilization.You see, at the end of the road is a fence, and beyond that it's just sand, water and brush.
And getting there is always a journey. Sure, Google says you can walk the 2.2 km in 26 minutes from the cottage to the end of the road, but it feels like a lot longer than that. A lot depends on the direction of the wind and the time of the day. That large marsh on the right - that one full of birds, mammals is also home to many bugs - the flying, annoying and stinging biting kind. So if the wind isn’t coming from the lake and if it isn’t a strong one - it will be a long walk. If it’s the middle of the day and the sun is strong, it will be a long walk. Don’t even bother if the wind is coming from the marsh, the bugs are riding it and looking for fools to feast on.
And don’t ever consider taking a dog who likes to sniff - you might as well give up and turn back before you get past the public beach that’s right beside the cottage. That’s because of the number of reptiles and mammals that call the side of the road home. I’ve seen rabbits, snakes, frogs, fox, groundhogs plus a long slender being that could have been a weasel, lake otter or even a mink (there used to be a mink farm here 100 years ago). One early summer morning I even saw newly hatched turtles hurrying across the sandy road to get from the beach where they hatched to the security of the marsh.
Early morning; that’s my favourite time to walk the road. No one is up except for the fisher folk launching their small boats when the lake is calm. They own slivers of property - maybe 25 feet wide between the sandy road and the lake where they place a wooden picnic table and have a launch ramp for their boats. They all have some kind of barrier to keep humans away - usually a chain slumped between two posts with a “NO TRESPASSING” sign on it. One of these properties even features a 75 year old farm tractor for launching and retrieving boats.
So it’s early morning for me - usually around 7 am. The air is warming up, but it’s not hot. Cool is better for a quick paced walk. The sun isn’t strong enough yet to need sunscreen. The life sustaining breeze has already begun to pick up speed. And a few mammals are still scurrying about before the heat becomes too much.
The first place I pass is the little public beach. Unlike the more renowned multi-kilometre one to the east, It’s not much, maybe 300 feet long. But every warm summer day there is always at least one family there. I can hear them from the cottage, kids shrieking as the waves splash on them. When I go out for a swim I can always see the one adult staked out in a low slung beach chair, maybe with an umbrella, but always a cooler, a bag of beach toys and towels scattered from the kids happy to be away from the home rules of tidiness. The parent usually has a blissed out look on their faces as they keep an eye on the gaggle they are supervising. Usually it’s 3-5 kids with half digging in the sand while the other half are playing in the waves. Not sure if that is a rule or it’s just nature’s way of giving the parent some respite from total worry.
Beyond the beach there are only about 20 cottages on the entire sand road. Except for the first two just past the public beach the others are bunched up into two groups separated by a section for the road that is only a couple of feet above the lake. A section of the road that needs to be rebuilt every year.
These aren’t cottages you will see in home and garden magazines. Nor will you see celebrities arriving in their Porsche SUVs. These are those small two bedroom constructs that some probably bought as kits.
Don’t get me wrong, they are decent places to spend the summer, or even just a week (judging by the number of “for rent” signs). They just aren’t big and fancy. Usually fitted out with a deck, a BBQ, a big umbrella and a bunch of cottage stuff kicking around - you know; fishing rods, noodles and big squirt guns.
They’re squeezed between the road and the lake with bedroom windows overlooking the road so the common areas get the best view. Elevated by a few feet, on top of an old sand dune, they have a commanding view of the lake that keeps bashing away at the formidable looking armour rocks strategically placed to try and deflect the worst waves the lake throws at them.
For some reason, and I’ve never stopped to ask any of the cottage owners why, they all have land on the other side of the road. The side that borders the swamp. Boats, cars, small garden sheds populate this side of the road. Lawns are all neatly mowed, a clean cut contrast to the 15 foot high marsh grass a few feet away.
As you walk past the second batch of cottages you can see the end of the road. A turnaround circle has been carved out of the sand dune. That sand dune is at least 15 feet high and there are 20 foot trees growing in it. The dune has been around for a long time and looks like it will be there for a lot longer. A bulldozer or snow plow is sent in a few times a year to clear the road of the ever blowing sand that always wants to move from the beach to just where you have to slow down to make your turnaround in your car.
The last cottage on the road was demolished last year. Actually the lake demolished it two years before, it just took the owners that long to complete the job (no doubt with lots of wrangling with their insurance company). It was one of the cottages that looked like it could withstand the power of a winter storm. Built high up on stilts and lots of those huge armour rocks - it looked impervious, but waves, wind and high water tell a different story.
Just past the remains of this last cottage is a locked stainless steel gate, big enough for vehicles to get through. I’m not sure who has the key, but once in a while you’ll see it open and a fishing boat being launched. I am always amazed at seeing boats, and trailers past the gate.
The beach here isn’t like the other ones. Those are soft and fluffy; silky sand. Yes, the sand is still that silky smooth material that you love to walk through that goes far out into the water - but here, on the shore, there is a light covering of pebbles. You end up spending more time watching your step than looking at the horizon.
The beach narrows quickly. The lake and the sand dune start to converge. After a short walk, usually having to clamber over a tree trunk or two, the dune comes to an end; leaving marshy lands filled with sharp-edged grasses, tree roots to trip over and yes - lots of stinging, biting flying things.
In the distance you can see the land rise up again. The lake curves away leaving a vista of green and blue and highlights the cliff that starts in the near distance and goes as far as your eye can see - with the naked eye or even with binoculars. Until the cliff, the sand is just a thin strip, but only when the waves recede.
I spend a few minutes gazing into the distance wondering what it really is like farther down the lake. I’ll often take my shoes off and dip my toes in the water - not quite as dramatic as dipping your toes in the Pacific at Tofino or some isolated Atlantic stony beach in Newfoundland - but it does signify that you have reached the end of your journey. You’ve accomplished your goal and rather reluctantly you turn around and head back down the road to where the sand ends and the tarmac begins.