I know of two definitions for legend tripping, one used by folklorists and another used by Jeff Belanger. The first is a practice done by adolescents in a culture whereby they venture to dangerous or allegedly haunted places to test their courage as a rite of passage. The second is the act of chasing stories, or going to some key location in an urban legend to see for yourself and maybe have an experience.
I’ve just done both. Monday Jan. 17 was my first venture out onto the lake, which currently has around five to six inches of ice on it. You can see by how deep the bubbles are.
And at first, it was kind of terrifying. I realized during my early, misguided ventures that if the ice broke under me, no one knew I was there and I suspected I would never be found.
This isn’t entirely unfounded either. I grew up hearing stories about boats capsizing and people dying in the lake whose bodies were never recovered. (I also heard the lake was about a mile deep. This is an exaggeration. The lake is roughly 600 feet deep. It is, though, twelve miles long and a mile wide.)
I heard there was an airplane to be seen at the far end of the lake (from the older dude whose party I ended up following around for peace of mind. He also showed me the bubble trick). The trouble with getting to the other end of the lake any way other than across the lake itself is, the road looks like this.
My other plan was to try and walk across the lake to where it could be found, and then come back. However the sheer length of the lake made this impractical. It would require me to commit four hours, at least, one way, presuming I don’t hit a thin patch and fall into the lake and become the next body at the bottom.
On the afternoon of Jan. 19, I did my (attempt at) daily divination with a new playing card deck I received over the yuletide season. Sometimes I struggle to understand what the deck is saying to me, but today I pulled the Seven of Diamonds, and I thought about my plan to go to the lake at night, see what it was like under the stars and the moonlight (I don’t have any hope of being able to find any airplanes under the water, even though these are perfect conditions for something like that as an amateur).
I drove up to the lake after sunset, and parked in front of the beach, and as soon as I got out of my car I could hear the wind howling, a kind of high-pitched sound through the trees and the tall bushes. Where my car was parked, the wind was, at best, a nice breeze. But, when I got onto the beach, I had crossed some kind of threshold and was mixed up in whatever the wind was doing all of a sudden. Not a good sign. I pressed on, looking for the path that would take me past the above pretty but unstable ice and onto the clear stuff, and I paused at the fork, staring at the trees, listening to the wind.
The Seven of Diamonds appears to be a card about choices. On one side, you have ruin and despair, and on the other, some offer or exchange or, depending on the system, wishful thinking, or a chance to start again. Or a reevaluation of something. I saw it as dual-natured, and it could easily be read as “do you want to take the risk?” I ultimately decided that I would not take the risk. I know the lore about the wind and the spirits, I would not be surprised a lake as old and as deep and as full of bodies and wreckage as ours turns out to be hella haunted. And I knew on a mundane level that being on ice in windy conditions was probably not a good idea. And so I left.
And I noticed something as I was driving back: Lots of houses and buildings up that road had their exterior lights on that evening. I could see the lights of the lodge from the beach. There was even one house that still had some Christmas lights up.
The more I think about it the more I think I just dodged a bullet.