High Water In A Shallow Lake

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.  This spring, however, the constant rains have raised the level of the Lake by almost three feet.  In some places, like Sandusky, the water levels are the highest that have ever been recorded.

nqgkc7isfve23fnjclhlsjjowmThe high water levels are doing some real damage, too.  Some docks and parts of shorelines have become submerged, and increased erosion caused by the high waters is eating away the Lake Erie coastline.  From the North Coast communities of Mentor to Vermilion to Sandusky, officials are dealing with the impact of high water taking down trees, rendering docks inaccessible, and leaving low-lying areas underwater, and homeowners along the lake also are dealing with flooding issues.   The water levels in Sandusky are so high that the normal outfalls from Sandusky Bay to Lake Erie have been reversed, and water from the lake is now raising the water levels in the bay — causing officials to take drastic actions to try to pump the excess water out.  And the impact of the rain and high water has been compounded by a persistent wind from the north that is pushing the Lake Erie waters against the Ohio coast of the lake, increasing the damage.

The conditions pose special peril for boaters, in ways you might not expect.  The high waters will affect bridge clearances over lagoons and access rivers and is submerging some break walls that would otherwise be visible.  And, with increased erosion and trees collapsing into the lake, there is increased risk of debris messing with motors and propellers — all of which means that boaters had better watch it when they are close to shore.  And any experienced Lake Erie boater will tell you that the lake is legendary for its sudden storms that can appear in the blink of an eye, whip the water into a frenzy, and, in some instances, put boaters at risk of losing their boat — and their life.  The high waters won’t help in that category, either.

One lesson that you learn from reading about the impact of high water levels — there’s not much human beings can do about it, short term.  What the communities around Lake Erie need right now is a break in the constant rains and a period of sunshine and warm temperatures to allow evaporation to play its intended role and reduce lake levels back to normal.  In short, we need Mother Nature to show us a little mercy.

Vermilion’s Moment In The Sun

Kish hails from Vermilion, Ohio.  It’s a town located right on Lake Erie, about halfway between Cleveland and Toledo.  By virtue of its location, it’s got strong ties to water and boating — there’s a yacht club, the local water tower has an anchor painted on it, and the high school team name is the Sailors, for example — but I’ve always thought of it just as Kish’s home town, and not as a coastal tourist destination.

vermilion35Recently, Vermilion got some nice national recognition.  It’s been named one of the 10 best coastal small towns in America by the USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards.

Vermilion placed fourth after evaluation by experts — which makes me wonder how you become an “expert” on cool coastal towns, and how I can sign up for that gig — and readers.  The text on Vermilion says: “Vermilion, located on the south shore of Lake Erie, feels more like a New England seaport, complete with a historic lighthouse and rich nautical heritage. Popular in the warm summer months, Vermilion’s walkable streets feature small boutique shops, art galleries, ice cream parlors and local restaurants, and summer evenings often involve concerts on the green.”

I’ve been visiting Vermilion since the ’70s, and I’ve always thought it was a nice place.  But, like most of the laid-back, reserved Midwest, Vermilion doesn’t really blow its own horn.  It’s got that nice “boats on the waterfront” feel, but without the alcohol-fueled craziness that you find in Put-in-Bay and other waterfront locations.  The downtown area. which is a short walk from the Lake Erie shoreline, has a vintage Americana vibe, and there are good places to eat, too.

Kish still has family in Vermilion, and I know from our recent visits that the people up there are working hard to make their nice little town even better.  I’m glad to see that their efforts have been rewarded.  If you’re in the Midwest and want to check out a cool coastal town, Vermilion is worth a visit.

In Linwood Park

On our one-day visit to Vermilion for the VHS Class of ’75 reunion, we spent the night in rooms in Linwood Park.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Linwood Park, or even heard of it, and I’ve been going to Vermilion for about 40 years.

Linwood Park describes itself as a “family park,” but it really reminds you of an old-fashioned American summer colony.  Located right on the shores of Lake Erie, it is a quiet enclave of white wooden cottages with lots of kids playing outside on the wide, shaded lawns, a nice beach, a small store, a candy store/grill/ice cream shop, and a tabernacle.  We stayed in rooms above the ice cream shop and treated ourselves to the beach before and after the reunion.

Visiting Linwood Park is like taking a throwback journey to an earlier, more relaxed, pre-cell phone and social media America, when riding bikes and playing on a playground and treating yourself to some penny candy was all a kid wanted on a fine summer’s day.  It’s hard to believe it’s still here — but it is, just like it’s been for more than 100 years.  It’s worth a visit.

Stone Story

IMG_2520We were walking around Vermilion Saturday morning.  When we got down to the Main Street beach and were looking for a place to sit, I noticed a bunch of brightly painted stones with inspirational messages on one of the benches.  I groaned and thought that some vendor had decided to use a public seating area as a display table.  Pretty bogus!

But I was wrong.  In fact, the stones weren’t for sale.  They were free to whoever wanted to take one.  There was a laminated sign that explained the back story, and a battered notebook where people who took a stone could leave a note of their own.

The sign, signed “Me” with a heart symbol, said:

“Been thinking of someone lately??  of course you have!  and don’t forget #1

YOU!!

please take a rock (or two . . . or three) they are free!!

use them to brighten your day or someone else’s!

Please Remember:

Be Kind

Love Freely

Pay It Forward”

A number of people who had taken stones and appreciated the gesture had written messages in the battered notebook; I assume that “Me” came by at night to gather the notebook and the stones and came back early in the morning to set them out again.

I didn’t take a stone because I didn’t think I needed one.  Why not leave them for people who really need a boost in their lives, and need an affirmation that a complete stranger is willing to take the time to find and paint rocks that just might brighten their day?  For all of the negativity in the world right now, there is still some simple goodness out there, too.  It’s nice to see tangible evidence of it now and then.

Farmers’ Fantasy


It’s high season for farmers’ markets in Ohio.  At the Vermilion market, a Mennonite family was offering loads of tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, peppers, sweet corn, jelly, and just about anything else that comes out of the ground with a little hard work.

Oh, and a wheelbarrow full of watermelons and cantaloupes, too.

I don’t eat most of the offerings, but I like the colors and the smells.