Bear (Bare) Lake, Emigrant Wilderness (Day 157)

I woke this morning to brilliant blue skies. We’d arrived at Bear Lake not long after our magical swim yesterday and though it was too late and cold for another swim by the time we’d set up our tents, I was awe-struck by the clear deep lake that awaited us.

We began eyeing the water longingly soon after we finished our lounging breakfasts and coffees. Kevin scoped out a good spot to get in—Bear lake is surrounded by granite boulders and not easily accessible everywhere—and we scrambled down the rocks and beheld the sparkling water.

Angie and Sheila plunge in. Lulu stands guard.

Sheila and Angie practically dove right in and were nearly to the little rock island in the lake’s center by the time Arwen and I were ready to brave the cold. It was very cold. Wrist-aching cold; shooting into my bones cold. The kind of cold I haven’t experienced in a while.

It felt glorious.

My body tingled, my head cleared, I felt shot through with energy.

The lifeguards: Kevin, Lulu, Johnny, Hazel and Fionn

We stayed in for just over ten minutes—too much more didn’t seem possible or safe at those temperatures. Afterward, I buzzed with well-being and vigor; positively radiating.

Then the cold drop set in and I snuggled up in my sleeping bag in the sunshine.

We went for a second swim in the late afternoon and this time we left our suits behind. We hadn’t seen another living soul since we set up camp the night before and this morning it had felt like a shame to be wearing swimming clothes after our lovely skinny dip the day before. But as we unpeeled our clothes, we noticed a hiker down at the water’s edge the next bay over. We paused for a moment and then decided we didn’t care, finished undressing, and floating in. Later we noticed he stripped off and did the same. 

A day of sunshine had warmed the water and we swam further and longer than earlier. Swimming in a lake is remarkably different from the sea: the water so clear it’s almost not there and the lack of buoyancy means you have to work harder to stay afloat. The depth was also striking; beams of light seemed to radiate up from the unseen depths. All around us were granite rocks and majestic pines; endless mountains in the distance. I felt simultaneously small and as large as the wilderness around me.

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