Before I relocated from Oregon to Colorado four seasons ago to edit this magazine, I lived in a relatively big city where rowing was my primary outdoors activity. Practically every morning, year-round, I woke before dawn, drove to the boathouse, carried my shell down to the riverbank, and launched. Then, for two glorious hours, I glided over the water for miles, stroke after stroke after stroke, a metronome in my mind saying, “catch-send, catch-send, catch-send.” Early and late in the summer season, I rowed in darkness, navigating by moonlight or the glow of the Milky Way, the prow of my shell heard but unseen, cleaving water beneath a blanket of shoulders-high mist. Every row, every morning, was different, special in its own way. Rowing didn’t just start my day; it defined it.
As it still does (albeit now only in summer) here in my adopted high-country home. Thanks to Dillon Reservoir (a.k.a. Lake Dillon), one of the highest (at 9,017 feet above sea level), and arguably most scenic, of rowing venues in North America and maybe even the entire planet. It’s my favorite of the dozen high-alpine lakes, reservoirs, and tarns (yes, tarns) featured in this issue’s cover story (“Land of Lakes,” p. 26). Most mornings before dawn, again in the dark, I sign the log at Frisco Rowing Center’s tent at Frisco Bay Marina, shoulder my shell, and carry it out to the end of the dock, feeling a rush the moment hull kisses water. Even in midsummer, Lake Dillon seems to hover a few degrees away from the snow and ice it once was and will be again, a reminder that even on the hottest day, seasons will change—and for many long months, my lake will slumber, as will my boat, which spends its winters in storage.
After tying in and pushing off, again I’m gliding over water as black as India ink, reflecting a star-stained sky. With my back toward Dillon, I’ll steer off Tenmile Peak aglow in soft white moonlight, the only sounds the thunk of my oars, the creak of the sliding seat, the swish of the bow slicing through water asleep beneath a cloak of fog. Sometimes the fog rolls in from the shore like an apparition, so thick that by the middle of the lake I’ll have to stop, bobbing atop the equivalent of 123,000 swimming pools, waiting for the sun to crest Ptarmigan Peak and shoo it all away. Then I’ll spin and steer off Ptarmigan, burning red and orange in the rising sun, a glowing compass needle pointing to Frisco, where strong coffee at Abbey’s or a huevos breakfast at Butterhorn awaits. Now Dillon’s the lake that begins my day and transports me to my special summer place. I hope, with this issue, you’ll find yours.