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Ode to Haserot Beach / Garret Schuelke




The final Saturday of August 2020:


In the mid-60's, dark, cloudy skies, occasional rumblings.


I pulled into the parking lot of Haserot Beach—a small, supposedly private beach on Traverse City's Old Mission Peninsula that some rich owner was kind enough to make public.

As my car engine hums, and the podcast I'm listening to continues rambling on, I look out across the bay, and scan the area—from the docks to the playground—and I mutter, “Fuck...YEAH!”


---


I used to constantly go to Oval Beach in Saugatuck.

I then came across a page on Facebook called “Saugatuck. Pure Michigan? Not Exactly”, where the creator would post pics and drone vids of crap coming out of the Kalamazoo River into Lake Michigan, spreading across the shores, even as far as Holland.

This all spooked me enough—even when it came out that the page creator is this weird, cop-loving Boomer who was eventually banned from Oval Beach for constantly harassing the high school- college staff for apparently not telling him “tHe TrUth!”—that I stopped visiting those beaches, and started taking day and weekend trips to beaches up north.

I mostly stuck around Traverse City—Clench Beach, Traverse City State Park—and they were great and worth visiting, but I yearned for something more than just your typical Michigan shoreline.


---


Through Google map searches, I discovered the Torch Lake sandbar.

It was touted as having homes along it owned by the likes of Michael Moore, Kid Rock, and Eminem, but the pictures and description bamboozled me: a couple walking on what looked like an exotic, clearly non-Michigan beach, the mention of a sandbar that nearly extended to the middle of the lake itself, and a description of the color of the water being “...often compared to the Caribbean.”


Oh boy, I couldn't get up soon enough on a Saturday morning to check it out!


---


Upon first entering Torch Lake, I was met with a common, disappointing Michigan experience: a small village so congested with visitors that one can barely drive down the main street.

I parked on an unpaved road next to a swamp, and made the trek to the sandbar.


Every inch of the water, and beach, were filled with people, as if personal space and Covid didn't exist (though this Plague Year made it very evident that it clearly did).

I'm not surprised or shocked, but bummed that my expectations came true.


There is beauty here, along with history and potential to connect on a spiritual level, but it's all blocked by the boats—all awful in their own special way, but equal in their inability to truly marvel at what they got on any other gorgeous body of water.


Because I suffer from level 100 self-awareness, I include myself on this list, despite not owning a boat.

I blame myself, intentionally and unintentionally, for the most immature reasons.


---


I find an area that's somewhat away from the crowd, and sit down.

The water doesn't even go past the bottom of my stomach.

After darting through the water for a bit—chest scraping the bottom, back and thighs baking in the sun —I just sit there and try to vibe.

I go into a full-meditation pose, and try to gather some of that Michigan summer energy.

Two women float by on tubes.

One of them is trying to open her beer (as someone with chewed-down fingernails, I feel her pain.)

She fumbles the can, and it plops into the water.

They both laugh, somehow can't find it through the crystal-clear water, and float away.


I growl, and flop backwards, attempting to float.


---


I found Haserot on my quest for desolation.

I didn't search via terms—like “quiet” or “peaceful”—nor did I waste hours reading reviews.

I constantly browsed Google Maps, all while thinking, “I must get farther away!”

Then I found Haserot Beach on the Old Mission Peninsula.

It is, as far as I can tell, the closest official, public beach to the lighthouse, on the tip of the peninsula.

It's in the same vicinity as the Old Mission Inn, an old-timey hotel you'll never see listed on Trivago, and the Old Mission General Store, which is reputed to have the best pizza in TC (not confirmed by me, a pizza appreciator, as of the writing of this poem).


---


I love driving on Old Mission.

The beautiful vineyards, and the postcard-level rural setting, have always helped me out whenever I was going through a particularly depressive or anxious episode when I lived in TC for a school year.

Despite all the time I spent in the area, I never knew this place existed until now.


I had never been more happy to have become a beach bum these past few years.


---


I noticed it right away when I got out of my car:


The beach was somewhat encircled by the surrounding land.

I don't know if you can technically call it a “cove”, but that's what it reminds me of, so I'm sticking to it.

Unlike Torch Lake, it actually looks like it could be someplace outside of Michigan—not quite the Caribbean, but someplace that has a history, someplace that was meant to be special, and someplace where you can feel like you're part of something bigger and beautiful.


Someplace you always wanted to be.


There's a boat launch, a playground, but not that many people, despite the overblown description I just gave.

I'm guessing it's because it's so far away from downtown, and doesn't have the same amenities and shine as those nearby beaches.


I've never been so grateful for annoyingly long distances.


---


There is no one here.

I've been coming here nearly every summer weekend during this Plague Year, and I've never seen it totally empty.


The waves crash into the shore without either a push by boats, or getting confronted by kids and dogs.


The wind picks up, and I can hear the nearby swing set squeak its age.


The flies near the small patch of forest are hiding, since there's no groups of tourists with recently- damp skin for them to snack on.


I make record time setting up my chair and changing into my suit.

Before I go into the water, I listen for more rumblings from the dark sky.

The clouds are menacing, but still, just like the water.

I crack my fingers, and run right in.


---


I can see them darting around before the water even reaches my knees.

I put on my goggles, and dive towards them.

My presence causes them to scatter, but the small fish I've come to love that inhabit these waters quickly regroup below me.

That's another reason I love this beach, besides how remote and otherworldly it is—and the fact that it's not as busy as the other beaches—the fish that hang out around here.

I really don't have an overtly expressive, poetic way to describe why, but I just like swimming with them, and it just seems right.


---


Someone else did come along—a large, special needs man, and an elderly woman I assumed was his mother.

They didn't stick around long—the man took a dip while his mother sat on the swing.

I ignored them, and did my usual swim activities: floating on my back with my eyes closed, diving with the fish, checking out the area with a long patch of seaweed, examining any trash I find—lots of fireworks—partially buried on the floor, going out to the very edge of the recommended swim area until it gets so deep and dark that I get scared off, and just hanging around, admiring the scenery, acting like I'm in a 2000's Dreamcast/ Nintendo 64/ Playstation One or Two game.


---


The mother-son duo leave, meaning I can finally do what I wanted since I saw how empty the beach was:


Swim naked.


I swam nude for the first time at Toronto's Hanlan's Point Beach in 2018, and again in 2019 at the Brighton Naturist Beach in Brighton, England.

Both were very fun, very sensual experiences that I was hoping to once again do in 2020...


Then the plague hit, instantly annihilating that, and every other worthwhile plan and goals I had that year, including visiting a nude beach.


---


I needed to be naked in a body of water more than ever.


I took off my shorts, put my arm through one of the legs until it was up to my shoulder, put my goggles back down, and dived.

I was immediately greeted not just with the usual school of fish, but the biggest one I've seen yet in these waters.

I'm guessing it was the same species, but it was even bigger than my hand.

It didn't scatter like the others when I got close—it faced me, only its mouth moving, perfect serenity.


Perfect chill.


I waved at it.

It stared for a few more moments, and turned around, heading towards the seaweed.

I was bummed out, but then I thought about it, and concluded that I definitely would have done the same thing if I was a fish, and an obnoxious, Big Beautiful Man was trying to commune with me.


---


I rocked that lake like I was Justin Grimbol skinny dipping in a nearby creek.

The sky rumbled louder than ever, and I decided it was time to go.

I put my shorts back on, ran out of the water, changed, packed up my beach gear, and drove out of there without a second look or thought.


It was the end of summer, and I knew that if I didn't speed off, the memories and feelings I just made would be spoiled by sadness and longing.


And I have had enough of that during this Plague Year.


---


New Years Weekend 2020:


I returned to Traverse City because everything in Grand Rapids, Chicago, and every other place I would want to be at on NYE is shut right down.

So I came back to TC—the rates on the resort hotel I'm staying at is dirt cheap, even by off season standards—and there's plenty of nature trails to hike on.

On the Eve itself, I drive through Old Mission Peninsula, feeling all nostalgic and reflective.

Of course, I stop at my great love, Haserot Beach.

Like at the end of summer, I'm the only one there.

The outhouse is still unlocked, which surprised me.

Despite the other bodies of water in the city and countryside being frozen, Haserot remains magnificently unaffected:


The sand, while hard, has no snow on it.


The waves gently run into the shore like the last time I visited.


Not a cloud in the sky, but the atmosphere still feels serene and ominous.


---


In around half a year, I'll be in this water again.

I'll see those fish again, I'll sink my feet in this sand again, and I'll feel like I'm someplace that's distant and matters again.


I can't wait to feel like someone again at Haserot Beach.



/



Garret Schuelke is a writer, podcaster, and musician that currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the author of the GODAN series (Bakunin Incorporated), Anamakee (Riot Forge Studios, 2016), Whup Jamboree: Stories (Elmblad Media Group, 2017), and three ebooks. He is also the host of The Garret Schuelke Podcast, The Cheeseburger Blues: An Exploration into Dad Blues Rock, and A Riot of my Own. He makes music under the moniker Neobeatglory.


To learn more, visit Garret Schuelke’s official website: garretschuelke.tumblr.com, or check him out on Twitter: @garretschuelke

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