“Did you fish there?” Ellen asked.
“No, not really. There are trout in the lake, but it isn’t like the rivers in Montana that people come to fish in. That really isn’t why people go to the lake.”
“Can you swim in it?” Ellen asked.
We were in the middle of North Dakota, driving west in an 1982 Saab, still 500 miles from Yellowstone Park. My daughter had asked what she would see when we arrived in Yellowstone Park, and I had mentioned the lake.
“The lake is too cold for swimming,” I said “When I worked there, it always seemed about to freeze over, even in June and July, like one cold night and you’d be able to ice skate.”
“Did it freeze, ever?”
“Not the summer I was there, but no matter where you were, you could see snow in the mountains that circled the lake like the rim on a cup, and I always thought a blizzard might blow down from there.”
“Can we go out on a boat when we’re there? Is that what people do?”
“I did once with three friends, but it felt like we were trespassing, like the lake wasn’t there to be used by us; in fact, the hotel and the marina and the campground along the lake don’t seem to belong there.”
“The lake seems kind of boring,” Elle said, and she looked out the car window at the fields of sunflowers we were passing. She was done talking about the lake but I wasn’t–not quite.
“In a way,” I said, “the lake isn’t as interesting as the animals and the geysers in the Park, but in another way the whole point of the Park is the lake because everything seems to spill into the lake sooner or later, and it holds everything as long as it can before letting it overflow into Montana. Does that make any sense?”
“I suppose,” my daugher said. “But I’d rather the water was warm enough for swimming.”