But first, some background. Lake George is a family tradition. We've been doing Oktoberfest at Canoe Island Lodge for about fifteen years. Before that, we stayed at CIL in 1988 and 1993 for a whole week in the summer. Lake George was a family tradition mostly perpetuated by my dad, who loved to go there because of the beauty, the boating, the fabulous food, and the fact that it never changed. He knew exactly what to expect, and he was never caught by surprise. It was one of those rare vacations where he would actually relax and enjoy himself. I remember that he would try to leave Buffalo early on the Friday morning of the weekend so that he could go sailing on the lake before dinner!
It was also a perfect excuse to get the family together. No matter where Laurie and I were, Dad would find a way to bring us all there. While I was in college, he would drive an hour from Lake George to Albany to pick me up at the airport. He performed similar gymnastics to get Laurie to come in from wherever she was. While we were in college, Jim would drive down from Potsdam for the weekend. He was always welcome there, even when we'd only been dating a few months.
Dad died on a Sunday, on what should have been our Oktoberfest weekend of 2007. I don't think it's a coincidence that he died that weekend. It was the time that we were happiest and we were all together. Soon after he died, we thought about how at Lake George they would be right in the middle of the champagne party that they always have on the Sunday of Oktoberfest. Maybe Dad was somewhere, far away, toasting us all with champagne right then. I hope he was.
This year was the first year we went back to Lake George since Dad died. We didn't know how it was going to be. I was excited to introduce Annie to it, but I was very much missing Dad too.
We left Boston on Friday morning. We went the long way, through Vermont, and stopped at a little country store in Brattleboro, Vermont, where we always get lunch on the way to Lake George. After that, we did a quick stop at the Henry Bridge, a covered bridge where we got engaged 11 years ago. We had to introduce Annie to this beautiful place! The fall colors were incredible.
The next day, we brought Annie down to the lake. The fall colors were at peak and were incredible.
And here's a photo of me, Laurie and Annie:
The rest of the weekend was dedicated to eating amazing food and enjoying Lake George. Jim, Mom and I went sailing one afternoon. The wind was pretty crazy so they didn't let us stay out very long. Instead, they took us out on a pontoon boat to Canoe Island (CIL owns this island and gets its name from it). They also drove us around the lake a little.
Here's a photo we took before we left, right outside the lodge. We have a similar photo taken of all of us with Dad from 2005 that is one of my favorite photos.
All in all, it was a good time and it was also a big learning experience. It was challenging to coordinate Annie's feeding and nap times with things going on at the lodge. It would've been even harder if my mom and Laurie hadn't been there to help us look after Annie.
And, not unexpectedly, the whole experience felt empty now that my dad is gone. Canoe Island Lodge and this weekend in general was his big thing. I missed seeing him enjoy himself so much. But we were lucky to be there and I'm glad we went.