(By Brandon Hansen/Editor of the Chewelah Independent)
Brown’s Lake, the long-time destination spot for people in Chewelah looking to cool down during the summer, is open for the season.
… and right in line with the rest of 2017, it opened with a cleaning day by volunteers that saw a deluge of rain greet them. But with temperatures picking back up and this weird glowy object called the sun beginning to make an appearance, it’s once again time to “go to the lake.”
Having grown up less than a half mile from Brown’s Lake, I know a thing or two about the landmark. It once was part of the big magnesite plant operation that defined this town for decades. It has since become a quiet recreation spot for all types to swim and camp.
So let me point out some of the great features of Brown’s Lake, which while members-only seems to be one of those clubs that everybody is a member.
It has a gigantic killer clam
Remember in the 1980s when Crystal Lake’s Jason Vorhese from the “Friday the 13th” series was the quintessential horror movie slasher? Well Brown’s Lake had its own legendary monster in the form of a clam. Yep a clam. This is why everybody thinks the Northwest is weird, our monsters are clams and big dudes in gorilla suits. Anyways thanks to stories while sitting around campfires next to Brown’s Lake, I was informed that the lake does have a gigantic clam that will gobble up bad kids. Mind you, it may have been a story to get us to shut up and go to bed, but whatever, I’m taking this as empirical evidence that the lake does indeed have a large, monstrous clam (nevermind clams are in the ocean). Haven’t heard a name for him so let’s just call him Chuck. Chuck the Clam. Be very afraid.
Browns Lake is a snipe sanctuary, featuring many of the little red-eyed varmints that pop out only at night in the dark. If anyone suggests snipe hunting, please keep in mind that they’re harder to catch than a leprechaun and if you do actually grab one of these beasts (they’re crawling around Brown’s Lake) please bring it by the newspaper office and we will post a photo of you with it. Keep in mind that all my years at Brown’s Lake I could never catch a snipe. But I couldn’t catch a fly ball to save my life trying out for the baseball team either, so I mean, that’s probably why.
I remember hearing that there were outhouses at the lake as a kid. This was shocking for a kid such as myself that grew up on the conveniences of indoor plumbing. Not sure if they’re all still intact but these old shacks were on both sides of the lake and smelled worse than Tacoma. It was an old treat to find these old buildings hidden up in the trees, until you actually had to go inside. There should be some kind of millennial challenge where everybody under the age of 35 takes their selfie next to the Brown’s Lake outhouses.
School of hard knocks for swimming
As a kid, you had to learn how to swim as soon as possible because that meant you would graduate to these privileges.
1. Being able to swim out to the end of the swimming area dock.
2. Being able to swim around the entire swimming area dock.
3. Being able to swim out to the …. Gasp… diving board dock.
Now, as a kid we learned of several pioneers and explorers such as Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart. Nothing seemed as epic or as far from home as swimming out to the diving board dock. Swimming the English Channel doesn’t seem as daunting as taking on the distance between the main dock and the diving board. It felt like you had to pack supplies, wish a fond farewell to family and cast off like you were Magellan or something.
Once you got to the dock, it was a blast jumping off the diving board until you realized that you had to swim back. At that point you felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway and began talking to volleyballs.
The back lake
Have you been to the back lake? It’s like the skuzzy, stinky cousin of Brown’s Lake that isn’t as successful. It’s also a favorite for anglers who know what lurks back there.
I seriously couldn’t tell you what lurks back there because it’s terrifying. There is seaweed everywhere. You’re debating if that’s a beaver swimming towards you or Jaws, and the fish my dad used to pull out of there looked like they would feed us for months.
My favorite part of fishing in the back lake was you had to get your canoe up to ramming speed and crash over a beaver’s dam like you were the Titanic hitting an iceberg, get out and pull it over and do the same to get back into the main lake.
(After further thought, this never happened WDFW. I am making stuff up, yep)
Chewelah’s very own Ghost town
Do you see all the old buildings up there? There’s even a big pipeline that goes into the lake in the back lake. While the buildings have seen better days, it’s crazy to think that a long time ago a fair amount of people lived up there. Apparently there was even a golf course up there. But don’t tell anyone that… it’s all pristine wilderness!
That being said, Chewelah should really embrace one of its outdoor gems. It’s rare to have a quiet lake without gas motor boats but enough access to make it a short drive from town. You might see a ginger wearing a captain’s hat, rowing a canoe and ramming beaver dams. (Seriously, I’m kidding, WDFW!)