From Manhattan to Muscle Shoals: A Story of Self-Quarantining at the Lake

Like anyone who grew up in the American South, I’ve sung along to the classic “Wagon Wheel” countless times– in my kitchen alone, at a bar where a cover band is playing, and at karaoke with friends attempting to harmonize to the chorus. But if you’d told me that I’d be listening to this song in a rental car journeying from New York City to Alabama in one day, absorbed in the strange truth that the line “made it down the coast in seventeen hours” was real for me, I wouldn’t have believed you. Nevertheless, this was where I found myself on March 21st– on a 7 am to 12 am road trip from my current home to my hometown to escape the epicenter of COVID-19.

The Best Way to Social Distance

As we’re all well aware by now, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted all public life in the U.S. We’re in a state of collective grief over the loss of jobs, loved ones, and at the very least, face-to-face connections. In my New York apartment, my three roommates and I were cramped in a small space. Outside, the virus is rampant, and it has hit working-class neighborhoods in the city disproportionately hard. As the situation persists, it isn’t lost on me how fortunate I am to be able to escape to a lakeside retreat. Here on Wilson Lake in Muscle Shoals Alabama, there’s no shortage of natural attractions and open space — ideal for both social distancing and for reducing stress. If you’re a lake homeowner, you know that a lake house is an ideal getaway from the pressures of everyday life. And in times like these, when “everyday life” is continuously changing, a lake home provides a much-needed sense of peace and consistency.

Trying New Things

In my opinion, the best part about quarantining by a lake is the myriad of opportunities that city life doesn’t allow. One advantage of a small-town, nature-filled environment like Muscle Shoals is the proximity to hiking trails. In The Shoals specifically, a well-known hiking hotspot is the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) trails. Winding around Wilson Lake, these interconnected trails include scenic river views, fields of wildflowers, and long bike paths. Since I was quarantining with two of my best friends, the three of us decided to hit the trails together on a Saturday afternoon. We may have gotten sunburned, but we had a lot of fun.

Since living together, the three of us have also taken advantage of the spare time by cooking. Luckily, my two friends both have subscriptions to New York Times Cooking, and we chose a new recipe for every night of the week so that we’d have something exciting to look forward to after a day of work. Many of these recipes were more adventurous than meals I’d make by myself — I was pleasantly surprised by the anchovies in the pasta pictured above — but the enthusiasm we shared for trying new dishes, as well as our collaboration in the kitchen, made them worth trying. Additionally, having dinner on a screened porch in the cool nighttime air while listening to crickets sing made the dining experience even more pleasant.

Magnificent Views

While working from home in my New York apartment, the view out my first-floor window featured a trash bin, a recycling bin, and an occasional tuxedo cat looking for its next meal. At the lake, my breath is consistently taken away whenever I glance up from my laptop. At around 7:30 pm, the lack of buildings in the distance allows the sunset to take center stage in the sky. Every time, it’s simply gorgeous.

Aside from the lakefront itself, there’s plenty of stunning views just outside the back door, such as the nearby Robert Trent Jones Golf Course. Though I’m not a golfer myself, it’s a perfect location for playing sports and complying with social distancing as long as you keep one person per golf cart. For me, the course is perfect for daily jogs and games of frisbee with my two friends — while watching out for any incoming golf balls, of course.

Closing Thoughts

In addition to staying physically healthy, it’s especially important during these times to take care of your mental health. Everyone responds differently to stressful situations, and I’ve certainly had down days since quarantine began. However, being at the lake in Muscle Shoals has allowed more opportunities for stress-reducing activities such as spending time in nature, regularly exercising, and simply relaxing. Amid the anxiety, I’m constantly feeling lucky to be here. If you’re considering purchasing a lake home, remember that it’s more than investing in brick and mortar– it’s investing in a space dedicated to unplugging from stress and engaging with nature. That’s a lifestyle that will always stay relevant, even once quarantine ends.

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