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by Pam Himstreet

October 1, 2003

Imagination brings motivation

When I signed on to do one of the first swims in the USMS Fitness Committee’s Virtual Swim Series, I had no idea where it would lead me. Being from Oregon, I had to do Crater Lake right after Lake Pontchartrain. The Crawfish Masters of Baton Rouge, La. offered a shirt if you did their swim in January so I had to get that one done first. Then I decided to bring my swimming home to Oregon. I sort of participated in the writing of the Crater Lake swim when I corrected a statement that you could not swim in Crater Lake.

Yes, you can actually swim in the lake. I learned this from a Park Ranger atop Mt. Scott, the highest point on the Crater rim. She said if you get in, you must stay by the boat dock at Cleetwood Cove. And yes, it is darn cold. The very top few inches reach 61 degrees but it is much colder below the surface. The few brave souls that get in do so to cool off quickly on hot days, not to actually swim. So I swam it virtually instead. I swam around it, and across it.

When I was a Nationals this summer in New Jersey, I was given a copy of the Florida Mavericks’ newsletter. It was to show me that those Floridians are swimming all over Crater Lake, even to the bottom and back. A swimmer named Dakota wrote about her experiences:

Crater Lake, by Dakota Eliason

Last summer, while traveling in the west, we passed Crater Lake in Oregon. I didn’t actually see the lake, but could see the ragged edge of the crater, where a pre-historic eruption took place. Later, the Mavericks decided to have a virtual swim of the lake and I decided to do it. I chose to swim to the bottom and back and around the periphery: 34 miles. At the side of the pool one day, I told Margie that I swam to the bottom of Crater Lake and back to the surface. A lifeguard standing nearby said,

“How far is it?”

“ A mile down and a mile back,” I said.

“You can’t hold your breath that long!” she said, disbelief in her voice. Margie and I laughed and then explained to her about the virtual swim.

So I felt really good being able to share our one National Park with Dakota and her teammates. I felt so good that I decided to let the lake know this. Now, going to Crater Lake is no big journey for me. It’s a two-hour, easy drive. We usually venture down there every year, after the tourists are gone and autumn settles in. This means get there in September or bring your skis. Last month we hiked the steep trail down to the boat dock and boarded one of the lake tour boats that circle the lake, only four times a day. The plan was to hike to the top of Wizard Island but they would not stop the boat because thunderstorms were in the forecast. I gazed down at the water as we pulled away. It is much more varied in color at close range. The colors range from a deep, navy blue to a royal blue, to teal and finally to light and dark greens. It is awesome. I imagined Dakota and I were swimming around the Phantom Ship or Phantom Island, as it is really called. Here the colors change quickly and we could see the many species of trees on the island. We could not go ashore so we kept going round and round. I mailed her a Crater Lake mug to commemorate our swim. Dakota went on to swim to Key West and I continued on to the Erie Canal. I wanted to sing the song while I chalked up the laps.

What swims have you done? Even one is an accomplishment. The 2003 series ends Dec. 31. has all 10 swims.

by Dakota Eliason

I’ve always been a swimmer, starting as a kid, when I rode the streetcar downtown to the Denver, Colorado YWCA. I’d come out of the Y, sometimes in the dark on winter nights, wet hair plastered against my head, but satisfied with my effort in the indoor pool.

Now, at 72, I live in Florida and ride my bike a few blocks to a luxurious 50 meter outdoor pool on Tampa Bay.

One day, Margie Hutinger, of my Florida Mavericks team, told me about the Virtual Swim to Key West. As a fitness swimmer, doing a mile three or four days a week, I sometimes get bored and loose count of how many laps I’ve done. A destination would make it more fun. So I started out for Key West!

First, out of Tampa Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico and on south to Sarasota. Long blonde beaches were full of vacationers, but not me. I’m a swimmer, not a beach lizard. On past Venice and then as I passed Captiva Island and the Caloosahatchee River, I thought about the Spanish arriving and sailing up the river, looking for gold. The Indians weren’t stupid. They told them the gold was farther north. Got rid of the Spanish, didn’t they? Finally, after 200 miles and more than a year of swimming, I finally sighted Key West! Shades of Hemingway and his cats! Time for a reward! How about a glass of wine at a beach front café?

What next? I’m thinking of Lake Como, a nudist resort near Tampa. The lake is small, maybe just a couple miles. And there are alligators there. But I might give it a Virtual try anyway.

Author Pam Himstreet thanks Dakota Eliason of the Florida Mavericks for her contributions to this article.