Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baker Lake.

This weekend was the annual Kavana camping trip. We went to Rasar State Park near Concrete, WA. The park is on the Skagit river. My first thought was to do my weekend swim in the river. So I went to check it out. The water was swift but not unreasonable. The river was wide, and cold. I had a chat with the ranger, who discouraged me from swimming here. He seemed to think it was too swift.

I had two friends who were interested in swimming, and together we decided that still water was a better choice. So we set off to find somewhere else to swim. The obvious choice was Baker Lake. Just about 15 miles from the camp ground, this glacier fed lake is huge, still, and sparklingly clean.

So we grabbed a few extra friends and headed out to find a good swim beach. The views of Mt. Baker were spectacular. And we easily found a great rocky beach to swim from.

I donned my wetsuit, and DF and KP decided to swim with me. We planed a swim across the lake, and started out from our little cove. They warmed up quickly from swimming. We set a few safety ground rules. Any one of the three of us could call off the swim and we'd turn around immediately. I showed them a few hand signals in case we got separated, though we agreed to stick fairly close together. The boat traffic was minimal and the water was flat. It looked perfect.

We swam out of the cove and into the open lake. Immediately, the boat traffic seemed to pick up. I was feeling really responsible for my friends' saftey. I'd swum with KP a week before and knew she was strong, but hadn't swum with DF before (except a little dunk, not a workout, off Doe Bay on Orcas Island the year before). He can bike 100 miles without too much difficulty, but swimming is different. And if you are in open water, there is no easy way to bail from a swim. No sag wagon, like on a long bike ride. Although they are adults and knew they were swimming at their own risk, I didn't want to lead them into a dangerous situation because I'm more comfortable in the water than the average person. Second guessing our decision to cross the open water, we turned north and set out for a spit there instead, staying closer to shore.

Then the boat traffic died down, and DF pointed out that the distance across the lake looked shorter than the distance to the spit. So we changed our minds again, and decided to cross. It was a great decision. There wasn't much boat traffic, and the ones that came through stayed well away from us.

The water was choppy in the channel. Wind kicking up waves, and the narrow crossing point increasing the energy. I stuck mostly to breast stroke, as I wanted to keep my head up and see the boats. DF, thin and muscular from all the cycling he's been doing, has a breast stroke that has him go completely under water every stroke. There was one point that I scanned the water line for him and didn't see him. A moment of panic. Then he re-surfaced. I started allowing more time in each scan, before worrying about his whereabouts.

We got to the other side, and rested for a moment. The beach was a steep cliff, so we couldn't climb out. KP and DF got cold pretty quickly. So we started back, with a more direct trajectory to our original beach. The trip back was hard. Strong chop on my preferred breathing side. Some white caps. I took a lot of waves in the face, with water going straight up my nose. (note to self: work on bi-lateral breathing)

We finished the swim and met our three other friends. A snack of pistachios and peanut M&Ms restored us. We returned to the cars and set out for the campgrounds. On the way, there was a much celebrated stop at the Birdseye Brewing Company for a beer, snack, and excellent conversation.

Back in Seattle I mapped the swim. My estimated .75 to 1 miles was right on target. MapMyRun showed it at .84 miles.

The best part of this swim, along with the sense of accomplishment, was the comradere. The three of us watching out for each other. My friends trusting me that I've got a hobby worth participating in. Having them follow my lead into an adventure, and seeing them love the satisfaction of completion. I'm not one to proselytize my religion, but I've often proselytized my workouts. It is wonderful to see them have the satisfaction of the workout. To see a glimmer of my passion reflected back through their experiences.

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