Wool Saved My Life: Part I
It was a morning like any other.
Just your typical Upstate New York polar vortex bringing the air temperature somewhere well below zero. It was however, a gorgeous day with blue skies and green pines and there was fresh snow on the ground. I decided to go for a jaunt on cross country skis through our family’s backwoods out to the lake for some crisp air and exercise. Because it was so cold, I layered up. I put on some Wool Knee Socks with long underwear and topped with a wool sweater, jacket and cap to keep me cozy as I began to traverse the woodland trail.
The property I grew up on in Northern New York extends into the Adirondack Park, which is 6 million acres of public and private land. The public portion is entirely open for recreation by the people. I made my way through the frozen swamp that leads to the brook where I could really get moving on the skis. I passed by old fallen evergreens and immense beaver dams until I made it to the frozen brook.
Lucky for me there were snowmobile tracks making a groomed trail to making classic skiing a breeze. When I made it to the mouth of the winding estuary, I was feeling toasty from the work out and took a moment to enjoy the vista of the expansive mountain lake before me. Summer homes, long abandoned since the coming of the cold, dotted the shores of the Dunham’s Bay as I entered Lake George.
I was 100 feet from shore when I heard a noise, look down and saw black water where white ice once was holding me. I immediately knew that I was going in. I was able to catch myself just below arm level and keep my head from going under water. The undercurrents of Lake George had prevented the ice from freezing as thick as it had in the estuary and it could not support my weight. Every time I tried to pull myself from the freezing waters, the ice broke beneath my body.
Ok, Breathe, Focus, What do you do?
I knew I had to lose my skis and poles so I slid them far away from me across the ice. By the time I had one pole, two poles, and my left ski off, my fingers had lost all dexterity and it was looking like my last ski would be staying on. This meant that no matter how I distributed my weight on the ice, it would be nearly impossible to pull myself out without getting to shore.
I spotted the nearest dock, and in what felt like an eternity did a series of pushups out of the water to break a path to shore. Each time pulling myself from the water, feeling my muscles become more fatigued and useless, and each time breaking through submerging and becoming colder. But I had to breathe, I had to keep it together. Lose it and you’re dead.
By the time I made it to the dock, the right side of my body was almost completely numb. The left side retained a bit of energy because I had a free leg to kick and tread water. Using the last (and I’m talking last) bit of strength in my body, I slung my deadened right arm around the dock post and leveraged my left upwards and somehow managed to pull most of my body out of the water. It took some calm maneuvering to free my right leg, still bound to the ski, out of the hole from which I came. And I ripped the whole boot off my foot as soon as I did.