Grand TetonsJackson Lake

The magnificent Grand Tetons faced us on the road and I faced them right back, unwilling to look away.

As we crossed into the national park, a moose balefully stared at the crowds huddling along the banks of the river, in whose cold water the moose was sheltered. I looked around balefully too, shying away from the hot dog toting crowds. I wanted to get out and camp in the mountains’ shadow, not sit under the eaves of a park convenience store. Feeling mildly claustrophobic, we drove past the already-full tent-only campsite, aiming for another at the far north of the park.

A more serene scene greeted us: a spot on the edge of the campground, bordered by a lake and hedged in by flowers. We set up camp and then I wanted to swim.

What’s as refreshing as jumping into frigid water? I may be crazy, but I haven’t found an adequate alternative. From the Finnish sauna to the Russian banya to Lake Baikal to glacier lake swims here in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been shocked and refreshed by plunges into bone cold water. I, who don’t particularly like swimming, am lured into the icy-under-your-skin embrace of these cool bodies. I go to them: they’re indifferent to me.

After some partner convincing, we walked down to the beach, bathing suits in hand. We changed, hiding behind a rack of canoes though we were the only ones on the shore. Then I haltingly charged into the water, as it was, so close to the chaos that is what we’ve made, but really so removed. We were the only ones in sight.

The clenching freeze abated and I was able to jollily flop around in the water for a handful of minutes. And then I emerged, skin red and prickling, feeling great. I wasn’t cold anymore.

Lizard Creek FlowersLizard Creek CampsiteJackson Lake in the Morning