Lake Washington swim, June 11, 2002

On Tuesday, June 11th Ashley Streig, Jeff Schroeder and I swam across Lake Washington, east of Seattle. The route of our swim is shown on the map above. We started on the east side of the lake on the right of the map. The straight green line is the route we intended to take and the red line is approximately the route that we did take, based on GPS date recorded on the boat that went along with us. It took us a little more than an hour and a quarter to complete the swim, with some breaks in the middle to figure out what landmarks we should be aiming for to end up at the right beach on the west side of the lake.

There is not much to see in the lake once you put your head in the water and start swimming -- just a murky green soup with 5 or 10 feet of visibility. Ashley and Jeff both think they may have seen a fish once. I can't even claim that. When we stopped briefly in the middle of the lake, though, view of the lake shorelines and Mercer Island to the south was great. It was a sunny day with little wind, so the surface of the lake was really glassy.

Ashley and Jeff are graduate students finishing up masters degrees in the Geology Department at Central Washington University. Ashley wanted to do this swim before finishing her studies at CWU and made the effort to work out the details of planning the swim. She asked me and Jeff if we would be interested in swimming it with her.

All of us have done some competitive swimming in the past, so the idea of trying the swim wasn't too crazy. Ashley played water polo and swam at Occidental College as an undergraduate. She had also done some previous open water swimming, including the La Jolla Roughwater Swim. Jeff has done a number of triathlons up to and including the Great Floridian Triathlon last fall, an Iron Man length event (with a 2.4 mile swim). I swam competitively as a kid through high school and tried a season in college. I got back into lap swimming a year ago during recovery from a running injury.

I told Ashley I was willing as long as it was legal and I wouldn't get mowed down by a boat. I had some vague idea that there might be areas of the lake that were reserved as boat lanes and we could get picked up by county sheriffs. The worry seems a little goofy now, but Ashley obligingly called various authorities. After talking with them she reserved a boat that was big enough to hold all of us and could putter along next to us. Jeff suggested doing the swim on a weekday to avoid heavy weekend lake traffic. This turned out to be a very good idea. There was very little traffic on the lake during the swim but Ashley saw the lake on the preceding Sunday and it was a zoo then.

Another geology grad student, Rusty Adrion, and Ashley's sister Courtney piloted the boat along beside us as the three of us swam. It's nice that it was a sunny day in Seattle (never a given). We didn't have to find out whether they would be willing to idle along at 2 miles per hour in a drizzle.

Of course, no day in Seattle is complete without catching a Mariners game and waving an Ichiro sign (as seen on TV).