Ryan Trares: Lake’n it easy

The frigid waves lapped up the sandy shore in mesmerizing rhythm.

Plopped down on the beach, I was transfixed by the serenity of the moment — the hum of boats passing by, the cry of gulls overhead, the ambient background noise of kids playing volleyball behind me.

But best of all were the explosions of giggles coming from the 8-year-boy right in front of me.

Last week, our family returned to what has become our favorite area vacation spot: Grand Haven, Michigan. Readers of this column have heard me describe our trips before, as well as the special meaning the place has for us. Not to rehash the whole story, but I’ll just reiterate that we’ve been coming to this spot on Lake Michigan’s coast every summer for the past eight years.

We love the picturesque lighthouse, the quaint downtown with restaurants, shops and breweries, and the laid-back feel that comes with a coastal community.

But increasing for Anthony, the key draw is the beach. Grand Haven State Park is an unspoiled swath of sand on Lake Michigan, a 10-minute walk from along the Grand River from the fun downtown.

Normally, we rent a house somewhere closer to the restaurants and shops of downtown; that’s where we focused most of our time in the past. But as Anthony has become more enamored with the water, we tried something new this time. Our rental was right across the street from the beach — in a matter of minutes, we could be stretched out in the sand.

Anthony made it known that was his priority.

When he woke up in the morning, he wanted to know when we could go to the beach. When we went to bed, he asked what time we’d be carving out sandcastle sessions the next day. When we were looking for souvenirs or eating lunch or relaxing on the patio of our favorite brewery, he rued that we were wasting “beach time.”

I get it. At his age, all I wanted to do was play in the water and frolic in the sand. Even as an adult, my ideal vacation is sitting in a beach chair reading a book on the shore.

So I tried to fit in as much time on the beach as we could. We picked up a cheap sand bucket set and went to work building a sandcastle complex complete with driftwood drawbridges and shells for windows.

Anthony found a toy boat, so we tried to make a canal leading down to the water. He did his best to elude the waves, waiting for the crashing whitecaps before flinging himself backward into the sand, tumbling in a ball of flailing limbs and uncontrollable laughs.

The Lake Michigan water is too cold in early June for proper swimming, but we waded out as far as we could before our feet turned numb and we staggered back to the shore.

Our trip was filled with activities, meals and experiences that gave a cleansing reset vacations are supposed to provide.

Still, I think simply sitting on shores of the lake, staring out at the expansive body of water and watching my son have the time of his life may have done more for my soul than anything else. Until the next time, Lake Michigan.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].