I’m pretty stoked with today. I managed to instigate a swim with 14 swimmers, 4 paddlers, and even a handful of beach spectators up at Lopez Lake. I swam a 6k out there last year on Black Friday and pitched the idea to my friends and ended up with a bunch of takers… but not for a 6k. 90% of everyone was more interested in a swim closer to 3k so I adjusted fire, got my one other 6k aspirant to step down to 3k with me, and figured I’ll do my 6k on a different weekend when some of my guys interested in going long are back in town.

I planned the swim for 9am to give people time to get out to the lake without having to wake up super early and more importantly to get in and out before the boaters woke up… and started drinking. The course I had in mind was all within the no wake zone, but after you’ve seen people do high speed donuts inside the no wake zone a few times the perception of safety sort of wears off. Around 8:00am I was up and loading the kayak on the truck with Allison and packing all of our gear. By 8:30 we were in the Mallard Cove parking lot and a few folks were already out… awesome! Stepping out of the truck I was greeted by an extremely nice day. Warm, sunny, no wind and flat 58 degree water… perfect.

 

The water level in Lopez is down towards 76% right now and that means way more exposed beach than usual and a bit of a portage for our boats and gear. Allison and I hauled everything down to the water’s edge and started to get ready for the swim. She was going to be my lead kayaker and navigator for the crew. Lopez is pretty but everything looks the same. It’s extremely difficult to distinguish one hill with trees on it from another, especially with your face in the water. On top of the cell phone she had in a waterproof case around her neck I set her up with a whistle and an inflated Safe Swimmer Buoy that she could toss to a swimmer if someone was having a hard time and need to float on something.

By about 9:15 everyone was actually present and I gave a quick this-is-what’s-going-on talk and we got underway. The first part of our adventure was getting in the water. The shallows in Mallard Cove are very mucky and muddy. You would sink about 6 inches with each step. It’s sort of a gross feeling… I prefer sand between my toes :) Once we got everyone in and about waist deep swimmers started taking off and chasing Allison who I had sent ahead to act as our first buoy. Jason (a state beach lifeguard) and I stayed behind and made sure everyone actually got in and we didn’t have anyone bailout right away. Part way out the group started separating out by speed as expected. Sylvia and Yvonne were on pace with each other but behind the rest of the crowd enough that I felt it best to get them a dedicated paddler. I called out to our other kayaker (we had two in kayaks and two on SUPs) and asked him to hang back and help them out. Once he took over Jason and I made moves for the main group.

We were a good ways behind so after regrouping at the midpoint of the first leg the swimmers in front of us started swimming towards the turn before we got there so no one would freeze out. We caught up by the time it was time to turn and swim the long leg north. Everyone was looking good and having fun so I was pleased with that. One swimmer who brought her son to SUP for her was going to swim just a little bit further and then swim it in. We’d lose a paddler while she swam back to the cove, but he was going to come back and help out once mom was safe on the beach.

I tried to give a little directional guidance but frankly it’s sort of impossible because the landscape blends together out there. You really just have to swim the lake until you learn it. I set Allison as the beacon again and let everyone start taking off. I hung in the back and was the sweeper. For the moment the main group was down to two paddlers – Allison out front and Danilu roving – so I felt best watching the slower half of this group while the girls navigated and corralled swimmers getting off course.

This leg was our long one, roughly 1000m, and things seemed to go pretty smoothly. Early on one more swimmer made the decision to turn in (as she told me she planned to do before we got in) and turned back towards the cove. At about the same time Sylvia and Yvonne were done as well so the 3 of them made for the beach. This freed up a kayaker and he joined the back of the pack where I was swimming with Ed, Ruta and Adrian. The fast half of the pack had put some distance on us and were busy waiting for us to catch up. I sent the kayaker ahead to tell them to swim back to the middle of Mallard Cove and then back in without us. The fast half swam through the slower half and met our kayaker down at the turn. He paddled us back from there. At some point the kid on the SUP rejoined the swim and helped keep everyone on track. At the mouth of the cove all the paddlers grouped up to wait for the last of us to enter the safety of the cove and trail us to the beach.

Back at the beach we had all swimmers accounted for. Everyone was happy and alive which is a victory in my book! Some hung out for a while, and others had to hit the road. I opted to stay pretty much all day. Allison had to go to work so she caught a ride back into town with Jason. I switched from goggles to my trail shoes.

I was thinking about trying out the Duna Vista Loop which is a 7 mile round trip that takes you over to the peninsula in between the two arms of the lake. Danilu (an ultra trail runner) made the I’m-not-sure-that’s-a-good-idea face and suggested a couple other routes in the park that start from the main entrance. She planted enough of a seed of doubt that I went with her plan… sort of. I drove back to the main entrance and went in search of the Turkey Ridge trail. I was too dumb to find it. I think the trail may have been covered in dead leaves making it hard for me to figure out where it started. Instead I hopped on the Cougar Trail that rolls for a mile and a half behind the various camp sites. At the end of the trail I was feeling pretty good and I was near the start of the Duna Vista trail I meant to go exploring so I figured I may as well see what it’s all about. I hiked out to the Boy Scout Camp and then up into the peninsula. The views are pretty awesome out there. I made it out to Miller’s Cove and took a break at a lone picnic table. I decided this would be my turn around point for today because I was on track for an 8 mile hike at this point. Next time I go to the lake I’ll have to start from the actual trailhead for that hike and do the whole thing. I guess you can see all the way to the ocean from the top of it which sounds pretty cool to me.

I forgot to turn on my tracker for the first mile, but you get the idea

All told I had about 2800m of swimming and 8 miles of hiking… I think I’ve officially burned off my Thanksgiving dinner :)

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