Lake? Beach? Um, toilet?

A place called Spring Lake Beach makes you think of a refreshing respite from this miserable heat we’ve experienced lately here in Rhode Island. There are canoe and paddle boat rentals, children’s slides, a swim dock – everything that contributes to a day of family fun. Right?

Well, on this past Fourth of July, more than 90 people were affected by a gastrointestinal illness after swimming in the lake. Here in the Ocean State, the waters are tested regularly for safe swimming. Sometimes certain beaches, especially those without a regular turnover of water (no waves), or due to rain or sewer runoff, are closed for a few days until levels are back to normal. In this case, the Rhode Island Health Department Director announced that a human pathogen known as Shigella was probably spread throughout the lake from the feces of maybe just one swimmer. News reports indicated it was likely a parent bringing a diapered infant into the water.

Spring Lake Beach is in the northwestern corner of the state, and fed by a spring, not the Atlantic Ocean. The more popular beaches lie along the southern shore of the state all the way down to the Connecticut border, and on Aquidneck Island. These beaches have good surf, and when you swim, you’re swimming in the ocean.

A few days ago, during this heat wave, my husband and I headed south in the afternoon. Because we’re the smallest state, nothing is ever that far away. For us, it’s about a 40-minute drive to Narragansett and the beaches. I packed sandwiches and soft drinks, loaded a couple of chairs and towels into the car, and off we went.

Ahhh! At least ten degrees cooler at 4:00 pm. There were still plenty of people on the beach, and who could blame them? Driving back north to Providence or elsewhere in the state was something no one looked forward to doing.

As I cracked open one of the three novels I’m reading, my husband padded through grainy sand to the water’s edge. He kept his feet wet and cool, and walked almost the entire length of the beach, but when he returned, he told me that he didn’t think the water was very clean and “it was pretty stinky.”

Oh man, I thought, I’m not going anywhere near it. The outbreak at Spring Lake caused a total of 92 people to get sick. Sixteen of them, all kids, were hospitalized due to fever, cramping, and bloody diarrhea. Is this what we have to fear when we go swimming?

So my question is – who in their right mind would tote a not-yet-toilet-trained baby into the water? Who wouldn’t insist on everyone using the facilities before going into the water? I’m really trying to lose the pictures that have crept into my mind.

I actually feel sorry for the folks who run Spring Lake. This is the first time they’ve ever had a problem, but it’s hard to erase that knowledge. They don’t even allow gas-powered boats on the lake, to keep it clean. I’ve never been, but I bet it’s a really nice place.

And as much as I love the ocean, I think I’d rather swim in a pool these days. Maybe one of those salt-water pools.

Photo(s) Friday

Music Monday. New Word Wednesday. And now, Photo(s) Friday.

I took these pictures years ago at Ballard’s Beach on Block Island. Just in case you didn’t know, Block Island does belong to Rhode Island! It’s in the Atlantic Ocean about 13 miles south of RI’s southern shoreline, and about 14 miles east of Montauk Point on Long Island (NY).  As of the 2010 census, there were 1,051 living on the island, an area of 9.734 square miles.

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Is it summer where you are? If so, enjoy! Make a splash!


From the Ocean, White with Foam….to the Mountains

As a child, I couldn’t wait to run into the ocean, and I mean run – full speed ahead, who cares if it’s cold, run and fall right into that salty water. Catch a wave, ride it to shore. My father would join me occasionally, my mother never, my sisters to a point, but I would stay there forever if I could. As a teenager, my enthusiasm had diminished, but not much, although seaweed, especially the red algae that floated in millions of tiny pieces, kept me away, as did the threat of jellyfish in the warmer waters of late August.

The beach has lost some of its allure for me, unfortunately. I attribute it to various causes: now I’m very aware of the fact that the ocean is not all that clean (seriously, how is it that the Department of Environmental Management advises us to not swim at Scarborough one day and then the next day it’s fine?); the beach itself, and the general areas – bathhouses, restrooms, parking lots – are littered with cans, bottles, pizza boxes, dirty diapers; my sister saw a sanitary napkin float by her while she was swimming in the ocean last week; I’m less tolerant of the sun and heat and need to reapply SPF50 constantly for fear of melanoma, while it was a rite of passage to get a blistering sunburn at the start of every summer, soothed by Mom rubbing Noxzema all over my shoulders and back.

But the mountains! Ever since I spent that year in Switzerland (and perhaps before that, with summer vacations to New Hampshire), I’ve been in love with the mountains.  Majestic, towering, some topped with snow year-round. My husband feels the same way, telling me he feels protected when he’s surrounded by mountains. He owes it to his mother, who was born, raised and lived in Salzburg, Austria, until her head was turned by a cocky Army sergeant who convinced her to join him in America. We seem happiest when we’re cradled by the peaks around us.

So next month we’ll head south to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. While we’re there, we’ll look around to see if this is a place for us to live out the rest of our lives. Who knows? We won’t, not until we see what’s there. And in the meantime, we’ll head up north to walk the beaches in Maine, where the water never warms up!