You thought Barton Springs was cold?
I jumped into an Oregon lake last week with water more than 30 degrees colder than the Austin swimming hole. My feet ached, my lips turned blue and I couldn’t stop shivering. (That’s me on the right, in the video taken by Ann Baumann.)
The average temperature of Tamolitch, also known as “Blue Pool,” is 37 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Barton Springs hovers at a comparatively balmy 70 to 72 degrees. (No it’s not really 68, year-round.)
And I only stayed in the water about 15 seconds.
I made the dip during a “run-cation” in Oregon with Rogue Expeditions. Over a five-day period, we ran trails up mountains, through forests, alongside rivers and next to waterfalls. One of those days took us along the McKenzie River Trail, past a cliff-rimmed, blue marble of a lake called Tamolitch.
The lake forms where the McKenzie River resurfaces from a lava tube below Carmen Reservoir. Native Americans named it Tamolitch, which means “bucket.” They should have named it something that meant “freaking cold water.”
To jump in the lake (which I had to do, considering I’ve declared 2017 my Year of Adventure), we had to scramble down a steep embankment to the pool’s edge. Then we had to wade out onto a ledge covered with about 4 inches of water. The pool dropped from the ledge into deep blue water.
Three of us decided we’d take the plunge together, but we knew we had to do it quickly. Cindy, Becky and I took off our shoes and socks, grabbed hands and waded forth. My ankles hurt from the cold, and I hadn’t even submerged myself yet. At the count of three, we stepped in.
The cold took my breath away. My skin felt like I’d been locked in a Yeti cooler overnight. I wheeled around, grabbed the rocky ledge and hoisted myself partly out of the water, like a walrus at the seashore.
I’ve never experienced water this cold, and I’m a lifelong swimmer. I’ve dunked myself in 48-degree water in Lake Michigan. I’ve dumped a bucket of ice water over my head.
This is different. It’s shocking. It jolts you awake, it burns your skin. It reminds you, in a very loud voice, that you’re alive (!!).
I should note here that water this cold can cause hypothermia in less than 10 minutes. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
Instead, I hauled myself out of the gin-clear lake, squeezed the water out of my hair and laughed with my running buddies. Then we laced up our shoes and continued our run.
(Video by Anne Baumann)