Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Works in progress, in more ways than one

At least one swim friend and I hope to make Lake Natoma our year-round pool.

For as long as we can stand it, Jim Morrill and I are trading in the rectangular, crystal clear, chlorinated, usually (too) warm, lane-lined pools of our recent past, for the wide open glassy water of Natoma, with its sycamore-choked shorelines.

If we manage to swim at Natoma into next February, we will have gone a full year in its green, cool water. That's a lot of progressively cold water between now and then, but I think we can make it.

Sometimes, of course, we'll concede a battle here and there, and succumb to the confines of a concrete swimming hole. Jim lives far from Natoma, and life will intervene, as it must, on his plans to swim the lake as frequently as he'd like. I know I have to cure myself of "terminal mediocrity" and will use the pool on occasion to practice swimming faster.

And come January, when the Natomas water temperature drops to 48 degrees or so, I might not be able to stay in for the usual 1.4 to 3 miles without a wetsuit; I'll swim until sanity lures me out, and go to the pool to finish the distance. We'll lose some battles but win the crusade, hitting the lake three or four times a week.

We want to commemorate our craziness by creating a "club," including a logo, the development of which you see here above.

We usually swim at the southwest end of the lake, known as Nimbus Flat, named after the dam that creates a lake of Natoma; hence the title of the logo at the top, Nimbus Flat Earth Society. You can tell by the other rough logo variations (right) that Natoma isn't really a natural lake at all, but the upper trunk of the American River, downstream from where the three forks of that river meet at what is now Folsom Lake. It's dammed above and below.

The uniformly calm water as a result makes it ideal for competitive rowing, and the lake plays host to collegiate crewing championships.

(You can also tell that this snaky lake doesn't fit conveniently into a logo.)

Natoma draws water off the bottom of Folsom, so it's cold most of the year, and swimmers and kayakers, particularly on the northern stretch of the lake, can feel a current, maybe 2 miles an hour tops.

Occasionally, we'll swim elsewhere on the lake, so maybe we want to identify with the entire lake, not just Nimbus Flat. Thus, Lake Natoma Knotheads or Nitwits.

Jim has swum from Nimbus to a place nearly midway at Willow Creek, a four mile round trip. I get in occasionally at the north east end of the lake at Negro Bar (named for African American gold seekers who built a settlement on the banks of the American River near Folsom), where the water is five to 10 degrees cooler than at Nimbus Flat, and swim under the new Folsom Bridge for about 1.3 miles.

We both have swum almost its entire length, 4.8 miles from Nimbus Flat to Rainbow Bridge. I've done it once, July 4 (video proof here); Jim and some of my swimming friends have done so several times.

When the year began I didn't think any of this possible. I thought I'd be lucky to get a few open water swims to get used to my Alcatraz swim in June, and spend the rest of the time in a pool. But as time went on, the reverse has happened. I was last in a pool in late June, about a week before the Alcatraz Sharkfest.

I welcome your suggestions for a good name for our lunatic group, something that will inspire me to create a logo, and I'll post them here. 

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