Living the lively lake life

by Chris Blakemore

It’s 6:33 a.m. I awake to a morning woodpecker. The bird, not the … never mind. I think I hear a squirrel clamoring across the top of my tent, or maybe it’s just the sound of someone’s labrador marking its territory all over my ice chest. I don’t know. I’m tired. Five hours of sleep on an under-inflated air mattress tends to make a person cranky in the morning. I unzip the front flap of my tent and breathe in the fresh morning air. That aroma of salvation is abruptly interrupted by the sound of my brother-in-law opening a beer to mark the rise of the morning sun. Yep, I’m at the lake.

Every year for the past few decades, my father-in-law and his friends gather like the swallows of Capistrano to engage in a camping ritual that would put the Oregon Trail pioneers to shame. For a few weeks every summer, a flat piece of land on the shores of Lake Nacimiento becomes a spider web of tents, boats and motorhomes so big the military would call them excessive—seriously. One guy has an RV that wouldn’t fit inside a Costco. These men and their guts have been claiming this patch of land as their own personal summer oasis since the days of Uriah Heep (look it up, kids).

The routine stands pretty firm for each year’s gathering: park your motorhome, drink a beer, launch your boat, drink a beer, forget where you parked your motorhome, wonder why that baby isn’t wearing a diaper, drink someone else’s beer, pass out by the campfire, repeat. This summer saga is simple, but effective.

I was welcomed into the realm of this campfire coalition back in 2007. My romantic ties with a certain daughter of one of these outdoor enthusiasts led to a weekend invitation to partake in the festivities. The highlight of that first excursion had to be the unbridled praise I received from one unnamed Coors Light-loving individual who proclaimed me the finest guitar player since Moses wore short pants. To be fair, he was rather inebriated. Twenty-eight beers in a 12-hour period tend to cloud one’s judgment.

Since that first trip, I’ve only grown closer to these freshwater folk. The daughter who I was romantically tied with is now my wife. In fact, it was at this very lake where I proposed to her in 2009. Most people pick a romantic spot like the top of a mountain or a waterfall, but my innate method of doing things the hillbilly way commanded that I propose in the dark on a gravely road with the hoots and hollers of several drunk middle-aged men echoing in the background. That’s just how I roll, y’all.

The lake, as it’s referred to in the shorthand, has since delivered a plethora of summer memories. From the multitude of freshwater enemas that flooded my backside as I learned how to waterski, to the half-dozen middle-aged men who laughed hysterically as they forced a mouse to jump out of a trash can and into a bath of fire, Nacimiento has delivered on all fronts. I’m sure these original men who started this camping tradition have forgotten more good times than I’ll ever experience, partly due to the sheer amount of memories one’s brain has to sort through, but mostly due to old age and alcoholism. Regardless, the lake and all the happiness it gives to others is something to cherish.

Whether it’s fishing for that elusive giant catfish, spending the afternoon in an inner tube trying to escape the heat, or watching in disbelief and shame as my brother-in-law gets naked and jumps in the lake, a summer weekend at Nacimiento is a great way to get some rest and relaxation.

Until you hear someone open a beer at sunrise.