Monday, July 16, 2012

Fremont Lake Crossing

Last year, John Kelly shared his story about his crossing of Fremont Lake, in Wyoming.  It is a 9 mile swim in a lake that has so much personality!  It is a glacier lake and the anticipation was that this would be a perfect training swim for Dover with the lake being in the low 60's, possibly even lower.

With Austin and Jacob at scout camp this week, I had to rely on Lucy to be my paddle support.  She had only been 6 miles before in very flat water, so this was really going to test her.

A) We camped at the Fremont Lake Campground about a 1/3 up the eastern side of the lake.  Lucy and I got up at 0600 and started the journey to the north end of the lake by kayak.  Knowing that Lucy would be on her own for the entire length, I asked her to let me do all the paddling for the 5 miles to get to the starting point (C).

B) Along the way we noticed a small island about 20 yards away from the western shore.  I jokingly commented to Lucy, "I wonder if there are any ants saying "I'm going to swim the channel!",  and swim the 20 miles (in ant miles) to the other side.  The support boat would consist of several ants on a small leaf escorting the little guy to the other side.

Along the way, Lucy and I had great conversation.  She was in a good mood and the water was flat as glass.  It was overcast, but no rain, and no wind (at that point).  What a great bonding moment that 2 hour kayak ride was with her!  We saw some bald eagles off in the distance flying towards the cliffs on the north where we could hear them feeding their crying chicks.

D) On the way to the start, when we got to Moosehead Bay, there were beautiful rock cliffs going way up.  I knew this was a great place to play with an echo.  So I sang Happy Birthday to Lucy (her birthday is on the 15th) in a (very annoying) opera voice.

C) At the start, it was a small sandy beach with forest immediately after that.  There were a few mosquitos waiting for me so I had to really rush out of my dry clothes into my swim suit and get lubed up to go.  I started my stop watch at the moment my foot entered the water.  The water felt very comfortable and barely cool.  I was betting that we were well above 60°, but my watch thermometer isn't instant.  I need to wait about 15 minutes before it displays an accurate reading, and from that point on, it's right on.

The first hour was flat as glass and the thermometer on my watch said the it was 65 degrees even.  I was actually disappointed it was so warm.  I wanted it to be colder.  I wanted at least 62!  Oh well, it's slightly cooler than Bear Lake, and this is also much prettier landscape!

D) Just as I was passing Moosehead Bay during my swim, I thought I'd put a smile on Lucy's face, so I tried to reenact a scene in Disney's Brother Bear.  A couple of dumb Mountain goats are telling an echo to "Shut up!"  "No you shut up!"  So I yelled that a couple times out to my left towards the cliff walls, knowing that she'd hear me, and then the echo.  Sure enough when I breathed to the right she had a smile on her face.

E)  A little over an hour into the swim, the water went from perfectly still, to a little choppy, and by the time we got to Chambers Bay (Near B), Lucy was having a really hard time controlling the direction of the kayak.  I had to stop every couple minutes to encourage her to keep up.  It was getting more and more frustrating for both of us, and while I was encouraging "You're doing great Lucy", "You're awesome, keep it up!", I sometimes was less than polite, "C'Mon Lucy!  Keep up darling!".   I occasionally caught glimpses of her struggling and crying.  I felt bad for her, and for many times I feared that this swim would have to be cancelled, because she simply couldn't continue.  But she trudged along although slowly while fighting the head on chop and wind.

F) When we neared the boat ramp where Cathi, was located, I assured her that we'd do a trade or something.  While I was swimming I was trying to figure out the logistics of getting Cathi to take Lucy's place, but allow for proper supervision for the other kids, as well as transportation for them to the finish.  I was dreading the thought of having to pull the plug on the swim because the logistics weren't falling to place in my mind.

When we reached the boat ramp, I noticed that all the kids were there, but no Cathi.  I yelled out to Jonas, "Where's Mom?"  He said, "Back at the tent."  I was infuriated because all the kids were at the end of the dock where there was an immediate 8 foot depth of water and here's Oliver jumping up and down yelling "Go Dad!" where if he fell in, he would be dead.  I asked Cathi to call Mom on my cell phone and hand it to me.  All while I'm treading water about 10 feet from the end of the ramp.

When she answered, I had to hold the phone away from my head cause I was in a very aggravated and grumpy mood.  I had to vent.  I yelled "Cathi!  Where are you!  I need you!  These kids are unsupervised at the waterfront and they are inches from falling in and drowning!  Get your ASS down here RIGHT NOW!!!!   NOW!!!!"  I was so angry.  I have never cursed at my wife, ever!  And this was the first time.  Not a "first ever" moment that I'm proud of.

I treaded water there for a good 10 minutes waiting, and still no Cathi.  So I yelled at the kids to just start making their way back to camp (which was only about a 3 minute walk from the boat ramp).  When I saw them completely clear of the waterfront and walking up the path to our campsite, I told Lucy to continue south, and to stay right next to the shoreline with the Kayak, where the chop and ripples from the water were far less dramatic.  Plus if we did see Cathi along the shoreline on the road, we could figure something out.

We never did see the van, and the wind did start to settle just a little, but it was still rough for her.  We made it another couple miles and I was still having to wait for Lucy every few minutes to catch up.  The smashing of the John Kelly's time was just not gonna happen today.  I was still even wondering if it was going to be a successful crossing with the amount of difficulty Lucy was having.

G) "Deer Graveyard" - Since we were swimming so close to shore I could see the bottom where it varied from 8 to 20 feet deep depending on how close we were to the shoreline.  I kept seeing golf balls, and lots of bones.  I assume there were from deer, or other similarly sized creatures.  What caused all this death and destruction?  Could if be that deer swim here and keep getting hit in the head with golfers practicing their drives?

During the frequent "pause" sessions waiting for Lucy to catch up, I did surface dives to retrieve golf balls, and a really old bottle that I saw on the bottom.  This was turning into an adventure swim that included souvenirs!  I threw them in the back of the kayak and she gave me my first feeding in quite a while.  I went well over an hour without a feeding to avoid making Lucy stop and get pushed sideways with the wind.

At this point, then sun actually showed up and the wind died down even more.  However I noticed to the south some really dark clouds building up.

As we neared the finish I continued to encourage Lucy to keep up.  There was a chance I could actually break 6 hours at the finish.  I originally wanted to break 5 hours, but thanks to the wind affecting Lucy's performance, and with the long delay at the boat ramp waiting for Cathi to take full responsibility of the children, that 5 hour goal was definitely not going to happen.  At this point I was so grateful to finish.  I saw more golf balls on the lake bottom as I neared the finish, and couldn't resist retrieving them once more.  I then finished the swim to the cheers of many people on shore.  I took one final temp reading on my watch: 66 degrees even.

Along with my family on shore cheering was John Kelly's father, and Megan Rawlins, a reporter with the Pinedale Roundup paper who I contacted earlier in the week about my swim.  I got out and wrapped up in a towel and talked with them.  I was so proud of my daughter!  She was so tired and her arms were spent.  I couldn't have done this swim without her, and she definitely couldn't have done it without me!  She was a real hero.   I was so grateful that she finished, and allowed me to make the full crossing as well.  Despite the many delays, it was still a record breaker.  From 6:37 to 5:58:22.

Within minutes of loading up the kayak and heading to Pinedale for a late lunch, there was a huge downpour and it rained violently for about a half hour.  I was so glad we started on schedule and didn't hit this storm, which was forecasted to come just as it did.  What a fantastic day!

Here's the full kmz file of Lucy's GPS tracking, which can be seen in Google Earth:

Here's a pretty good video of the whole experience:


Unknown said...

Did Cathy ever show up?

Gords said...

Yeah, after we left the dock, I had Lucy call on the cellphone and she collected them all up and was heading to the beach at the finish. We had a very clear conversation about water safety that I don't think she'll soon forget.