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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

« We're Number One - or Number Two | Why me? »

Taking the Plunge

I stand on the beach, wet sand scrunched between my toes, and gaze out on the waters of Lake George. The Lac du Saint Sacrement cruising in the distance barely disturbs the lake’s glassy surface.  Even the air is still. Although the temperature is warmer than usual, I’m thankful there’s no cooling breeze today. That’s because today is January 1st, and I’m about to take part in the annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge.

            There’s plenty of time to evaluate the situation as I stand on my little patch of sand waiting for the signal to plunge. On the plus side: ice has yet to form on the lake; and the air temperature is a balmy 46˚. On the minus side: I hate being cold; I despise wearing a bathing suit in public even in July; and I’ve never been in Lake George earlier than Memorial Day weekend. Of course, that was years ago – before the area of my brain that controls judgment was fully developed and my sister and I would dare each other to stand, shivering, in waist deep water until we could no longer tolerate what we called “the toothache in our legs.”

            The beach is so crowded it’s hard to get a good sense of everyone there, but it seems I’m on the wrong end of both the age and sobriety spectrum. So what’s my excuse? Dreaming up the idea of doing this two days earlier – also when I was sober – it seemed like a good way to get a firsthand experience of the Adirondacks. But seeing all the fully clothed spectators standing a safe distance from shore, I realize their idea of an Adirondack experience seems more rational than mine.

            I try not to think of the family I’d encountered on my way to the beach. Surprised at the difficulty in finding parking in the village, they asked me what was going on this weekend. I told them and then went on my way, wearing my robe and carrying a bag full of towels. One of the kids whispered, “Mom, is she crazy?” She shushed him and I didn’t have to turn around to know the mom was nodding “Yes.” And then there was my son’s face when my family wished me luck before taking their place among the spectators. I hoped his concerned look was because he was worried about my safety and not because he feared he got his intelligence from me instead of from his dad.

            Suddenly the crowd on the beach begins yelling and fist pumping. The yells turn to screams as the crowd moves toward the water. I shed my robe and, like a lemming, follow them, picking my way through the chunks of snow on the beach.

            I reach the water just as the first to go in are running back to shore – the look of shock literally frozen to their faces. I push on, going as quickly as possible without losing my footing on the pebbly bottom. It doesn’t seem so bad until a person on their return trip delivers a big splash of icy water to my face. I’d expected a quicker drop-off but it’s still very shallow and the water’s only up to my knees. Discarded flip-flops float around me like bodies drifting to shore after a maritime disaster. I continue wading, trying to reach a respectable depth so I can turn around. Finally the water reaches my hips. Decision time: far enough or keep going and ride home in a soaking wet bathing suit? Comfortable ride home wins out and I stop, turn, raise my arms in the air, let out a victory yell, and then race to shore.

            My nerve endings kick in at this point. Forget toothache. It feels like full-on root canal without the benefit of anesthesia. Things only get worse when I hit the beach and the cold sand sticks to my feet. Weaving quickly through the crowd to get to my belongings, I stand on my towel and throw my robe around me. A girl next to me yells, “I can’t feel my legs.”

            “Really?” I wonder, because my legs are all I can feel. There’s an odd sensation that at first I mistake to be heat, but then realize is extreme cold. My own personal freezer burn. Even after putting on pants, socks and shoes, my legs feel tingly and exposed as every nerve ending crackles from the jolt of their New Year’s jumpstart.

            Later, a man standing in the entrance to his restaurant smiles and nods at me as I walk down Canada Street, wearing my robe over my clothes and heading back to our car. I smile back, thinking to myself, “Yeah, I’m one of the crazies.” And I realize there’s a little swagger in my step.


 Is it a look of shock or of relief? Well, at least I didn't get my hair wet!
Duffy's Tavern in Lake George Village where the brave (or foolhardy) sign up for the Polar Plunge. The line to register winds around the bar, which does a brisk business. Coincidence?


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Reader Comments (2)

We hope to Heavens you did not tell anyone who your parents are or have been.
Your photo was very impressive - you have victory covering a lovely smile - must have been the orthodontic work.
We sincerely hope Duncan and Sophie were not negetively effectived by your experience (or behavior?).
You did not tell us of your plans to take the polar plundge. We could have given you sound advice (as we have for most of your life) which would have suggested rather strongly that in all likehood Lake George is going to be cold in January.
None the less, we are proud of your performance and your movement toward getting "found" in the Adeiondacks. Love, Mom & Dad

January 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBunny & Bill Bitner

Tom and I always wondered who the "crazies" are that do the polar bear plunge (and why). Now we have bragging rights that one is a friend of ours! Just wondering if you are also competing in the outhouse race in the Village to add to your Adirondack experience.

February 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMissy Babcock

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