By Bob Spiwak

I go several times each summer to Lake Bonaparte, off Highway 20 short of Republic. There is a large campground, with most camping spaces well separated. Bonaparte is a large lake where one can hear the loons and grebes from shore or, even better, parked in a canoe surrounded by reeds and other water plants.

There is a very rustic motel, plus a small store for necessary foodstuffs and some camping equipment. It’s a far cry from the Mazama Store, if that is your point of reference. Think of the latter as Neiman Marcus and then backtrack. At the rear of this small complex is a dock, and the fishing is usually good.

I like it best for the paddling. I have only gone once without a canoe on the car, that being a day trip when my friend wiped the pine straw with me in three matches of Scrabble.

If Bonaparte Lake gets boring, there are surrounding lesser, not-as-pretty water features in the area within U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. They each have their own personality — all are cosmetically more desirable than Fish Lake, out of Conconully, but none compare overall to Bonaparte.

We Bonaparted last year — the day that Sara Palin made no news in what I believe was an address to the Tonasket High graduating class. That town is on the way to Bonaparte. Our group included Curtis, Sheela, Gloria, the dog and me. It was an overnighter and my first-ever camping trip with a gourmet cook, Chef Edwards.

It’s 110 miles to Bonaparte from our driveway. Gasoline prices are still way up and income is not. That was my primary reasoning for thinking about a retreat from the annual visit to Bonaparte.

But more things entered my mind. I was sitting on our convex deck over the pond, which is barely large enough in which to turn a 17-foot canoe, but big enough to hold a pair of wood ducks swimming and grooming in the water, oblivious of two old kayaks floating nearby, their cockpits resplendent with petunias. Sipping on a beverage, my primary thought was that this was pretty nice, not merely being in the Methow but also a few steps from creature comforts like a bed. I thought about the local lakes that are all around us — it’s mere miles to Patterson (easily deserving top-billing), Pearrygin, Davis and lesser ones. All are canoe friendly.

Our back property line is national forest all the way to Canada. Among the nearest neighbors are over 100 acres of field and forest, with wildlife from birds to bears, and we have the freedom to venture around all of it — plus land bought a decade ago by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. And through any of these properties, it is a mere quarter-mile stroll to the Methow River.

What it all adds up to is that this is a very fine place to live, with the same conveniences and entertainments as found many miles away. The climate is predictable and if the weather turns wet, home is a lot more comfortable than the many rainy nights in a tent in the rain.

The aches and strains that come with any kind of outdoor activity have always been rewards for keeping in shape and getting away from it all. To me, right now, “all” is here, right out the window. I need only to open the door and walk. I hope to get back to Bonaparte sometime, but for now I am smitten by what used to be called “Methow Magic.”

It still is.