I had a birthday this weekend. You just can’t stop them from happening every year. I’m fortunate in that mid-September is often still warm enough for lake swimming in BC, and this weekend was no exception.
I have always enjoyed canoeing and camping on Slocan Lake. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, with gorgeous beaches, clean water, and plenty of variety in terms of campsites, canoe routes, whitewater rafting, and places to explore. I’d never swam across it before though, and the occasion of turning 44 seemed to be the perfect opportunity with the water holding a balmy and refreshing 15 degrees C and the rain holding off (because of my special birthday rights). The lake is approximately 2.7 km across from Silverton to Sandpoint Beach.
I was also very keen to try night swimming. And it did not disappoint.
I set off from the boat launch in Silverton around 7 pm, wearing my thickest, warmest wetsuit – a Blue Seventy Sprint – 2 swim caps, and positive thoughts of warm fleece, hot tub time machines, steaming mugs of Earl Grey tea, and Swedish saunas. Scarlet had both dogs and all of our camping gear in my big old blue canoe, as well as a bright light to guide her crossing. She’s an experienced, skilled, and capable paddler, and I had no concerns with her ability to guide me safely. The sun set quickly while I was in the water, and soon I was making my way across in darkness next to the canoe. One word sums up this experience – exhilarating! The combination of the cold, the eerie play of the light on the surface of the water, and the feeling of swimming weightlessly into navy blue nothingness was just awesome. I definitely want to do it again. And again!
We arrived at Sandpoint Beach on the south shore of the lake around 9 pm. This scenic site has camping pads, a fire pit, an outhouse and a bear cache for storing food. And we had it all to ourselves. Any bears in the area were not invited to the party. After stripping out of my wetsuit and changing into the cuddliest, warmest clothes possible (thank you, Uniqlo sweat pants), we set up camp in the dark. The thrill of the swim sent me off into the best sleep it’s possible to sleep in a tent with 2 wet, smelly, farting dogs. Yes, I’m blaming the dogs.
The next morning I was recovered and ready to swim back. We loaded up the canoe and I slipped back into my still very wet wetsuit – not the most pleasant experience ever, but it gets better as soon as you’re back in the water. Threatening clouds held off, and there was minimal wind and mostly smooth sailing and swimming.
It was like swimming in a totally different lake in the daytime. Fueled by birthday cupcakes and camping coffee (and very cold water!), my paddlers paddled swiftly and I swam back across quickly. I saved 100 meters of butterfly for the grand finish back into the boat launch.
I can’t think of anything I’d rather do on my birthday. And I really hope to fit more night swimming escapades into my swims next year.
The birthday celebrations continued into the night with a block party and a fundraising event in Trail with dueling pianos and some of my very best mates.
44 is not so bad. I’m excited to swim into this next year with more adventures, new experiences, and less Voldemort. I’ve joked to friends that it feels like I’m halfway “there”, but I really feel like I’m at the start of my open water journey. There are so many more lakes to cross, races to race, and meditative lengths to enjoy in the pool. Swimming is helping me work out complex situations, and I’m grateful for this sport and all it brings in terms of health, happiness, and accomplishment.
I’m off to London tomorrow for a week of exploring lidos leading up to the Swim Serpentine event next Saturday. Stay tuned for a highly refined recount of my adventures across the pond.