Polar Bear Plunge!

For those following already – I did join in the Polar Bear Plunge.  For those reading this news for the first time – basically it’s an amazing adventure in volunteering, where one jumps in a freezing river to help raise money, in this case plunging into the Potomac River in Washington, DC, in the 10th annual Keep-Winter-Cold Polar Bear Plunge organized by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).

It was very tough for me to do this, as like most people, I much prefer a tropical beach over jumping in a cold river, but it seems like I am different from many, in that I get very miserable when it gets below 68 degrees, and think I pretty much have no ability to thermoregulate in the cold.  So I whined about doing this more.

But I was going with some great people and it was for very good cause, raising money for environmental awareness. I am a member of a local organization called Green Neighbors (GN) DC, that spans several neighborhoods in DC and helps run energy workshops, mans booths at farmer’s markets to share green tips, etc…  It’s a really good group of people with whom I am enjoying becoming friends.  Having had a good time last year doing the plunge, GN folks were gungho again.  I joined at the last minute, waffling about the potential misery. But I did it – mostly because I wanted to start my year of volunteer efforts off strong.

The river wasn’t frozen over this year, but the air was low 40s with a brisk wind. There was a great crowd, speakers, monks, t-shirts, some goodies, coffee, and hot chocolate, which though weak, was still hot and was still chocolate.

Oh – you noted the word monks?  The Franciscan Action Network was well represented.  Here are some photos of the pre-plunge festivities.

After the talks, we went to tents to change, which helped block the wind, but not the cold.  Then down to the water! Ironically, there was an extremely high tide (the Potomac River connects to the Chesapeake Bay close by), a portent of the sea level rise to come, so there was no beach from which we could all run into the water at once.  We had to go in small groups from this one area.

Our group wound up going in near the last, and though I myself didn’t get some good photos of us wading in, dipping, gasping, and then wading out again (as fast as one can run/walk through cold water with no feeling left in your legs), one of our gang had gone in earlier, Rob, and he took a couple photos. The combination of laughter and pain on my face is evident!

Exiting - hair still dry, but I went in to about my shoulders.  I survived.

Exiting. I survived.

And man, was the water cold!  The first five steps were fine, and then the nerves in my legs started firing painfully.  By the time I exited the water, they were completely numb.  But a quick change, blanket, and toe-warmers soon helped.  And I want to thank my friend Melanie for helping me recuperate with some time in her basement sauna.  That was the best antidote ever!

So that’s the volunteer adventure for the month… Thanks for tuning in!

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