Three women sit in a loose circle on the shore of Lake Johanna in Arden Hills. Only their sandy bottoms touch the water, as if they had been sitting on the small beach and the lake decided to join them. A couple of toddlers bounce in the shallow water between them, safe within the mothers' reach.
Swimmers splash in the small roped-off swimming area and water-skiers glide across the smooth surface, but not all of the shoreline of this unassuming lake is open to the public. More than 100 waterfront homes dot the perimeter of Lake Johanna, whose shape on a map resembles two arms engaging a small peninsula in a motherly embrace.
To those residents, the 214-acre body of water acts as "the neighborhood," where private beaches maintained by a lake association limit outside interruptions, and decades-old speed restrictions keep the lake quiet, day and night.
Those who live on Lake Johanna take care to keep the water clean, paying to control the spread of Eurasian milfoil. Just tiptoe into the water, and you can see their success: Audacious bass swim alongside schools of minnows just inches from the shore.
Greg Larson, president of the Lake Johanna Improvement Society, said residents willingly accept their role as keepers of the lake, which attracted Arden Hills' first settler, Charles Perry, who planted potatoes next to the lake in 1850.
But when Johanna's year-round residents turn in, and the summertime visitors leave, she's not alone.
Little Lake Johanna tags along to the south, connected by an umbilical river. And Lake Josephine, on the opposite side of Snelling Avenue, also is nearby. A trail network beginning in Tony Schmidt Regional Park on the north shore of Lake Johanna connects the lake to other neighborhoods.
Even with her little lakes in tow, Johanna isn't a show-stealer. Her lapping waters are gentle, humble. She's a lake that doesn't demand your attention.
So if you wiggle your beach chair into the sand along her shores, don't be surprised if the water creeps up under your toes.
Johanna sneaks up on you that way.