Another day, another lake: Open-water swimming in Lake Desolation

The invitation came at the end of a swim workout at the YMCA, from a random guy I’d been sharing a lane with. I told him I swim at Moreau Lake with the Saratoga Triathlon Club on Thursday nights. He said he swims with a group at Lake Desolation every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. Did I want to join them?

I gave him my email address. Because when a man you don’t know invites you to a place called Lake Desolation, the right thing to do is accept. (Right?)

I was added to a distribution list of a couple dozen other swimmers, and on Saturday morning, I hopped in my car and drove to a lake house down a long dirt road for the swim.

I was relieved to arrive right after the woman who owns the lake house (I KNOW—women can be mass murderers, too). I felt even better when a gal I know from the ski patrol arrived shortly after. With my safety taken care of, I started thinking about warmth, and pulled my wetsuit out of its mesh storage bag. I asked the lake-house owner if she thought it was wetsuit weather.

“It’s whatever you’re comfortable with,” she said. “You’ll probably catch some flak for wearing one, but then, everyone will be jealous.”

Water temperature: 70 degrees. Air temperature: 50 degrees. How bad could this be? I put my wetsuit back in my bag, determined to fit in with the cool kids.

This action didn’t make me a cool kid so much as a freezing-cold kid. Note to self: The air temperature really is as important as the water temperature. I shivered my way through the first hundred yards or so, trying to will my muscles not to seize up. Making it bearable was the fact that this was one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Photo of Lake Desolation taken just before my morning swim.

Photo of Lake Desolation taken just before my morning swim.

I didn’t really warm up at any point; I also didn’t think much about the cold after the initial shock wore off. I think this is the purest definition of meditation: Being fully aware of your current reality; accepting that reality; and finding your bliss right then, right there.

And bliss it was: I could have stayed in for hours, swimming from dock to dock in that gorgeous, clear water. I got out with the rest of the group, and enjoyed coffee with them on a deck overlooking the lake. I joked about the cold (“I can’t feel my toes—but they’ll grow back, right?”). They joked about the sketchy way I found out about the group (“Honey, we need to have a conversation about stranger danger,” said one woman whose feet I followed throughout the swim). I told them I’d come back again and again, with a huge grin on my face.

“It never gets old, does it?” one guy said.

Nope. Never.




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3 responses to “Another day, another lake: Open-water swimming in Lake Desolation

  1. It never gets old. No matter how long you do this stuff, it never gets old…at least for me…Perhaps that is a key to staying young: do something that for you, never gets old.

  2. Loved reading this and especially struck by the veracity of your definition of meditation: “Being fully aware of your current reality; accepting that reality; and finding your bliss right then, right there.”
    I am so glad you found another great group! Saturday morning swims sound divine, and by divine I mean in the way running trails for hours and stubbing your toe on rocks is appealing. It’s all about the shared adventure and the conversation afterward.

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