As we pulled through the entry gate of the nearly deserted Nebraska campground, I peered out the car window at the lake— Lake Minatare. It was by far the spookiest-looking lake I’d ever seen. As the fiery sun dipped low and disappeared beneath the water, the surface of the lake darkened, reflecting the black slanted trunks of the trees, which were standing right in the water. Down the bumpy asphalt road, Dad backed our pop-up trailer into the campsite, and we piled out of the car. With a stick, I scraped duck droppings off the pavement while Dad raised the roof of our temporary home. Then Mom heated some canned soup on our little propane stove for dinner. While we slurped up chicken and vegetables, the first raindrops of a storm began to fall, pattering softly on our roof.
â–º honorable mention 2012 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
As we scurried off to the bathroom to brush our teeth, the rain fell faster. From the small radio in the corner of the bathroom came the booming voice of a weather announcer. “Major flood warnings in Scott’s Bluff county! Expect heavy rain, thunderstorms and extreme lightning!” My sister and I exchanged a glance. A thunderstorm? In June? Even in Nebraska, summer storms rarely produce more than a few drops of rain — much less a flood.
Back inside our camper, we unrolled our sleeping bags. On the roof above us, the rain pattered like popcorn kernels, the sound growing louder and more frequent by the minute. Suddenly, the darkness was illuminated by an electric-purple flash of lightning. One one-thousand, two one-thousand… eight one-thousand. A bang of thunder crashed through the sky. Eight seconds divided by five is about one and a half; the lightning was only a mile and a half away, yet here we were, in a flimsy camper, a few paces from the shore of a lake filled with tall trees! As if reminding us of this frightening fact, again the lightning flashed. Next to me, my sister stared blankly through a gap between the curtains covering the trailer’s small window, her eyes wide. I, too, looked out at the lake, just as lightning split through the sky. The black water seemed to strangle the dark trunks of the trees, which strained upward into the sky.
Again the thunder rumbled, but this time, the glowing beam of someone’s headlamp flicked on. I turned to Mom, who pulled out a deck of cards. “What are you doing?” I asked. Beside me, my sister rustled in her sleeping bag, then switched on her own light. Before long, the whole camper was aglow with the light of four headlamps. Mom dealt out the cards, and Dad materialized with some trail mix. Between turns, I looked across the table at my sister, who was pondering which card to play. Her glinting, shiny plastic headlamp looked strange next to her ratty camp sweatshirt; frankly, she looked like a miner with bed head. In fact, all of us looked pretty strange at this time of night. As I looked around the table at my family, I started to laugh.
Before long, the waters of Lake Minatare were glittering in the morning sunshine. The shadows of the trees’ lush green leaves danced across the cool water. The storm had passed, and at the gentle lapping shoreline stood a stout female duck, leading a line of chubby ducklings. I smiled. Although my first impressions of this lake were unpleasant, I knew that when it came time to pack up and leave, it would be hard to say goodbye.
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