Thursday, June 28, 2012

Swimming on the John Muir Trail

Last year, on two separate occasions, I really wished I knew how to swim. The first was at Kibbie Lake in Yosemite. Kibbie Lake is a beautiful, warm lake perfect for swimming. But I hung around near the shore while my friends lapped the lake and raved about the views on the other side.

Stunning Kibbie Lake
The second instance was during my 5 day trip from Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney. The group swam at Kearsarge Lakes and at Guitar Lake, while I just took photos. 

My friends taking a dip in frigid Guitar Lake
This year however, I want to swim whenever I camp at a lake or when I take a lunch break near one. And I will have ample opportunity to do so as this section of the Sierra Nevada mountains is riddled with stunning lakes. 

So many opportunities to swim
Helping me achieve this goal is my cousin, who has graciously volunteered her time to teach me to swim. It's slow going because a) the last time I swam to the deep end of a pool I was 14 years old; and b) because I seriously lack coordination; and c) yoga. 

You see, I've been practicing yoga for a little over 1 1/2 years now. Breath work and breathing techniques are essential to the practice - especially breathing through my nose. I have learned this skill very well. 

Unfortunately, when swimming, I have to forget this practice and breathe ONLY through my mouth! It's the hardest lesson for me to grasp thus far. I'm drinking gallons of water through my nose every time I'm in that pool. 

Practicing breathing through my mouth only.

As with any other skill, I'm confident that with more practice, I will learn this technique and be able to switch from breathing through my nose to breathing only through my mouth at will. 

I have less than 40 days to become completely comfortable in the water. Since time is of the essence, I've decided to do less yoga and hike less in order to focus more on swimming - which is also great exercise in itself. 

I'm confident my coordination and breathing will improve with every lesson.

Stay tuned...
P.S. On a very sad note (and all the more reason I want to become very comfortable in the water) - a man attempting a thru-hike of the Application Trail drowned in a pond just two weeks ago! It truly is very sad and my heartfelt condolences go out to his loved ones, but it goes to show that extracurricular activities (such as swimming after a long day of hiking and off trail scrambles to bag peaks) account for many injuries - and worse - sustained in the backcountry. 

It was not my intention to end this post on a low note; however, I share this story to hold myself accountable to all of you.

Bottom line - if I don't feel I'm ready to swim in a lake by the time I step foot on the John Muir Trail, I simply won't. 

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