Flying Solo: Nice Retreat

The Lake Is Just Lovely, Isn’t It?

Kayaking along Chautauqua Lake with my friend Sonya. Photo by Melinda Centi

My last trip out of town was spent reuniting with my college roommate and her adorable family in Greensboro, N.C. We try to make a point of seeing each other as often as our schedules allow. For me, getting away down south is always a nice retreat with the bonus of my dear friend’s company.

Julie and her husband always try to do something special when I visit and this time around they took me to their favorite outdoor escape at Camp Lake James. It is located just 45 minutes east of Asheville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Surrounded by lush greenery and layers of picturesque mountains painted in the distance, it is obvious why this place attracts nature lovers year round.

We kayaked with the kids around the lake and had such a relaxing morning on the water. That is, until I attempted paddle boarding, which I failed at miserably and was quickly reminded of my clumsiness. A friend once said that “paddle boarding restores your balance and calms your spirit.” She clearly doesn’t have the awkwardness I’ve grown to embrace when seeking balance.

PS. I never found my balance, physically or spiritually. I didn’t stand a chance between that board and the chilling water waiting to catch my fall.

Paddle boarding fail aside, the area was beautiful and it reminded me how lucky I am to have such gorgeous scenery just like Lake James in my own backyard at home. Many of us take for granted the fact that we have Chautauqua Lake just minutes away to escape to at a moment’s notice. I love walking around Lakewood Village with my friend Sonya when she takes her dog, Frankie for a walk. Every time we pass the Yacht Club and Lakewood Beach, I take in the fresh lake air and the serene view along the water and tell myself, “Someday, this vision will be outside my own window.”

Lake James in Nebo, N.C. Photo by Melinda Centi

Chautauqua Institution is great for an afternoon stroll through the quaint neighborhoods and a walk down to the beach after attending a performance at the amphitheater. A summer tradition I’ve grown to enjoy is spending the evening in Bemus, sitting on the rockers with friends and a cocktail at the Hotel Lenhart, while watching the radiant hues of the sunset disappear along the water. I have many fond memories at Camp Mission Meadows in Dewittville, sliding down the massive Slip ‘N Slide into the lake-with the battle scars to prove it. If I try hard enough, I can even smell the burning of the bonfire and hear the camp songs playing over my cabin counselor’s guitar.

I remember being so excited to take a fieldtrip to Midway State Park and ride the Dragon rollercoaster and race my friends in Go Karts. A bagged lunch with my favorite goodies packed by mom would be enjoyed with my class under the pavilion next to the water where we’d feed the ducks with the crust from our sandwiches.

Mayville is a fun place to kayak and spend the day along the water, while working up an appetite to later indulge in a slice of Neapolitan pizza from Andriaccio’s for dinner. I love 4th of July holidays spent cruising around in my friend’s boat and ending the evening with panoramic displays of fireworks that fill up the sky from every angle.

I’m so grateful I live in such a special place that I sometimes take for granted. Sure, I may curse the winters and cold weather Western New York may receive, but the summers make it all fade away like the sun when it sets over the Chautauqua Belle.

Many of us focus on the bad and forget all the good that surrounds us. We are so fortunate to have such a charming place to call home and should enjoy that beauty with those who matter most. As Confucius once said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

Sunset in Bemus Point. Photo by Melinda Centi


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