By Danny, driving in the car from Steamboat Rock State Park in Electric, Washington on the way to Port Townsend, Washington – with my hair still wet from our morning swim – 8/12/16
Some wise elders once told us, “You should try to find water every day. Everyone will be happier if the kids get to get wet.” These were friends who had spent significant time road tripping with their children when they were younger and we were in the midst of discussing our impending year of discovery.
Well, we took their advice to heart. In the 52 days since we left Washington, DC, we have found enough water to dunk ourselves in 50 times. We have swum in 11 states, 7 pools, 1 pond, 1 reservoir, 1 sound (is that an actual thing? If not, include it in the ocean category), 1 ocean, 4 rivers, and 9 lakes. And, we indeed have been happier, healthier, and in addition, cleaner because of all of this water (thanks, Doctor Bronner!)
Last night we went to bed for the 2nd night in a row in our tent on a beach alongside the Coulee Lake in the Steamboat Rock State Park. Rock cliffs and outcroppings surrounded us and we had the beach all to ourselves. We woke up this morning to the sun rising over the cliffs to the east and after some quiet time and a bit of exercise on the beach, we decided to swim across the lake and jump off the rocks as we had done the day before. It was a beautiful swim with not a boat on the water and it felt all the better knowing that it was day 50 in the water! When we got back to our beach, we cleaned up with Dr. Bronners and continued on with our morning.
Day #1 in the water was following our 13-hour drive on June 22 from Washington, DC to Dunwoody, Georgia. Alys and Oscar drove down in the van and Nico and I drove a U-Haul full of our things and towed the Prius behind. Needless to say, it was a long and stressful journey. We got to my parents’ house in Dunwoody around 9:30pm and within a few minutes, the boys and I stripped to our underwear and went for a swim in the pool. The water felt cold, but oh, so refreshing after such a long day. Turns out that this water would be some of the warmest we would swim in so far.
Following that first night swim, we found water 38 days in a row. Our streak was broken for the two days we were in the Badlands in South Dakota. There is no water in the Badlands. There’s only mud, spectacular cliffs, canyons, extensive prairies, and lots of wildlife. We opted to end our water streak to experience the beauty and peace that is the Badlands.
After swimming in a few pools in the Atlanta suburbs, we spent the next 9 days regularly submersed in the warm waters of Lake Burton in North Georgia. After an amazing week at Meeting Place on Burton, we had a 12-hour drive to get to Avalon, New Jersey to spend a week at the beach with Alys’ family. The water streak was extended when we stopped at PG Pool just outside of DC to meet up with some friends for a brief dip in the pool and some pizza before getting back in the car for the last 3 hours of the drive. As always, the dip in the pool was refreshing and brought smiles and joy.
We then spent the next 5 days swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at the beach in Avalon. This would be the coldest water yet, like somewhere around 60 degrees. If you were keeping count, we departed Avalon with 17 days of consecutive swimming. Water was clearly becoming an important part of our daily routine.
If you read the blog, you’ll remember that we left Avalon and headed for New York City to visit with our friend Mahalet. No swimming there, but we left NYC in the evening and drove to Hammonassett State Park in Southeastern Connecticut. Of course one of the first things we did there was take a dip in the Long Island Sound. We swam there for the next couple of days before heading to New Haven and then on to Voluntown, Connecticut. Our next swim would happen with our friends the MacBrides in Beach Pond; one of my favorite swimming holes from my days at the Voluntown Peace Trust.
By then, we had learned of Grandma Lear’s passing and the next day we drove about 8 hours to Goat Island, just south of Niagara Falls. Our campground had a pool and so we spent sunset swimming, and again we were refreshed after a long day’s drive.
The next day we met up with my family just outside of Detroit at the Wyndham Hotel. Lucky for us, the Wyndham had a water park! So in between the various organized activities to honor, remember and celebrate Grandma Lear, we of course swam at the Water Park. We then moved to a hotel in Brighton, Michigan near Uncle Al and Aunt Cynthia’s house and we swam there for a few days before heading north to Sleeping Bear Dunes and then to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
These two spots in the Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula of Michigan continue to be some of our favorite spots yet. Our water hole in the LP was Lake Michigan with an average temperature of around 50 degrees. We also tubed down the Platte River there, which was the first river we swam in so far.
Then, at Pictured Rocks, we stayed at our favorite campsite overlooking the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior. We swam there several times a day in the crystal clear waters and wondered why we didn’t see any plants or fish. It turns out the water was in the low 40s. Felt like pins and needles to me, but Nico couldn’t seem to get enough. I remember watching the sunset one night, which didn’t actually set there till after 9pm. As we watched it from our campsite, Nico frolicked in the water below until well after the sun had set. The kid loves the water, no matter how cold.
After Pictured Rocks we headed to Green Bay and stayed in the first of 2 hotels that we have stayed in this past month. Swam in the pool there and then started west again. Luckily we swam the day we left because we didn’t find any swimmable water at our campsite that night outside of Minneapolis. The next day we continued to Chamberlain, South Dakota and stayed at a campground right on the Missouri River. We swam and bathed in the Missouri that evening and the next morning. Again, for those keeping track, this was day 37 and day 38 of consecutive days in the water.
We then headed to the Badlands, and hiked through lots of mud, but no water, and man did we feel the loss. We were thirsty for some cool water to drink, some cold water to swim in and any kind of water to bathe in. (For the record, Alys says we should count one of the days there, since we were doused in a sudden thunderstorm, but the boys contend that only full submersion in water counts.) After 2 memorable nights there, we headed west again to a beautiful campsite in the Bighorn National Forest. Beauty yes, water no. So we continued on to meet our friends Maj, Sean and Aiden in Yellowstone National Park. Upon arrival, after Sean handed me a beer (what a saintly man that Sean is!), we headed to Yellowstone Lake, just a 2-minute walk from our campsite, and we took a chilly dip. I estimate the temperature of Yellowstone Lake to be in the low 50’s and again, we felt refreshed and cleansed! Oh how we missed the water for those 2 days we were without. So, that was day (or night) 39. In Yellowstone, we focused our swimming to a few days in Yellowstone Lake and an afternoon of swimming in the Snake River. The next day we continued west and made it to Missoula where we stayed 2 nights at a Hotel along the Clark Fork River. While we did dip our feet in the Clark Fork, most of our swimming was done in the chilly outdoor pool at the hotel.
This past Saturday we woke up in Missoula and headed north alongside the Flathead Lake toward Glacier National Park. We found a campsite alongside Hungry Horse Reservoir just outside the park and then headed toward West Glacier to prepare for a scenic float down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The rapids were small on this section of the Flathead River, but the water was oh so sweet. Our guide told us it was about 44 degrees that day, after we had all already plunged into the water. We floated in that glacier-cold river for maybe a minute and then hopped back in to the raft. I’d call it refreshing or breathtaking. Nothing but bull trout and cut throat trout are surviving in that river.
We swam some more in the Hungry Horse Reservoir that night and the next day we headed to the north shore trailhead of Two Medicine Lake in Glacier NP to begin a 5-mile hike in to Upper Two Medicine Lake. Was quite a hike, but this blog is about water, so when we arrived at Upper Two Medicine Lake, we set up camp and then headed for water. Guess what – the glacial water felt freezing so some of us waded in further than others – I’ll let you guess who’s who on that one. The next day we hiked back to Two Medicine Lake and found a campsite in the campground there. Then, you guessed it, we walked down to the lake, did a bit of yoga and swam. Two Medicine Lake was not as cold as we thought it would be – maybe 55 degrees or so. Cold enough for a skin-tingling Dr. Bronner’s bath.
The next day we drove over Going to the Sun Road and headed to the northwest corner of the park and found a campsite just 15 miles south of Canada alongside Bowman Lake. After setting up camp and hiking a ways along the lake, we found a downed tree that stretched into the water, and we decided we had found our swimming hole. We plunged, jumped, eased (depended on which of us we are talking about) into the 50-degree water and enjoyed the beauty and serenity of Bowman Lake.
As expected, a rainstorm rolled into Bowman Lake that night and it wasn’t supposed to stop for a day or two, so we packed camp in the rain (more water!) the next morning and decided to seek out sunnier pastures on the way toward Port Townsend. We were blessed with our 2nd favorite campsite on the beach at Steamboat Rock State Park for days 48, 49 and 50.
And now, we are headed to Port Townsend, WA, where, if all goes well, we can dip our feet in the Pacific Ocean!