Polar Plunge at Gothic Basin

Today, I had to pass up the opportunity to take a “Polar Plunge.” Seeing the post-plunge video of friends jumping into a body of water during winter reminded me of a sublime day a few years back.

“Gothic Basin” might be the coolest moniker for a hiking destination! The moment I saw photos of the place off the Mountain Loop Highway (another great name, by the way), I knew I would have to make it there sometime soon.gothic2 A friend (previously and henceforth known as Schweppe) who lived in Seattle at the time called up one day wanting to head into the mountains. This trail was roughly halfway between Bellingham and the big city so we agreed to meet.gothic5Schweppe had recently spent a couple months hiking much of the Pacific Crest Trail. He told me it though incredibly inspiring and rewarding, it truly felt like a full time job. A job where your task is to walk 20-30+ miles per day over rough terrain, exposed to the elements carrying everything you need on your back and/or cached at the next town – several days away.gothic1Once we ascended to the basin itself and made it past the main lake, we spotted a lovely little tucked away tarn. A tarn, by my definition, is fed by snowmelt and does not have an outflow, unlike a lake. Many completely dry up by fall leaving a sandy depression ringed by heather and granite. They are also the best for swimming! 

The “polar plunge” is a Finnish tradition of winter swimming and is touted to have these benefits:

1)  Shocking the circulatory system can produce a warm afterglow and a transcendental state that one literally needs to experience to fully understand.

2)  It is a spiritually uplifting ritual which can surpass any normal level of comprehension.

3)  It can reduce wrinkles. Drastic temperature changes and shivering skin actually exercise shallow sub-cutaneous muscles that firm the skin.

4)  It helps mentally by shortening the winter season and lifts bouts of depression.    gothic3Consumed by the desire to awaken every pore and exercise some sub-cutaneous muscles, I suggested we glissade into the frozen pool. Schweppe, who surely never got a chance to do this sort of thing whilst “punching the clock” from Mexico to Portland, OR agreed. And not once, but twice! It wasn’t necessarily winter swimming, but it sure wasn’t warm either!

Here is the slideshow/movie Gwen deftly put together:

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