Nine Lake Swim on Cortes

posted in: Blog, Front Page | 9

(from Tideline:)
For the love of the lakes!
Support our Team!


To raise money for the stewardship of Hague & Gunflint Lakes, a team of 4 swimmers is going to attempt, for the first time ever, the feat of swimming all nine of Cortes Island’s freshwater lakes in one day! It is roughly 10 km of swimming and could take about 14 hours of long swims, difficult hikes, boat, and car rides.

Support our precious lakes by SPONSORING THE SWIMMERS!

The swim will take place on SUNDAY, AUGUST 24th so stay tuned for more information about greeting the swimmers at the sandy beach that evening!


The fabulous Nine Lake Swim team is: Carrie Saxifrage, Andrew Smyth, Mark Braaten, and Bianka Satoria.

How Will the Funds Be Used?
50% of the funds raised will go toward testing and lab analysis costs, and 50% will go toward solutions: bio-remediation supplies, education, and support for watershed users to decrease the flow of nutrients into the lakes. We hope to significantly decrease these inputs by the spring of 2015 to prevent further blooms from happening.

Sponsorship Levels:
$2 per lake = $18
$5 per lake = $45
$10 per lake = $90
$15 per lake = $135
$20 per lake = $180
$50 per lake = $450

Tax receipts will be issued for all online donations and for cheque donations of $90 or more.

9 Responses

  1. cortesisland

    By Carrie and Bianka:

    Over these few weeks, I’m asking the Nine Lake swimmers what inspired them to undertake this arduous endeavor. I asked Bianka Satoria about her swimming experience. She told me that she joined a swim team because she was frightened of the water. Once she got over her fear, she found that she loved swimming. In her travels, she swims in every lake, creek and ocean. She wrote the following paragraphs in response to my question of why she wants to swim the Nine Lakes in one day.
    Lakes, rivers and streams are the veins of Earth. As many of us, these water ways have profound jobs to perform and their health, function and abilities affect all. Swim through these, follow their outflow and inflow and soon one realizes the interconnectedness of it all.
    My inspiration to swim the nine lakes stems from the Cortes Island community which strives to understand and improve the impacts on the lakes. I am inspired by my team members who strive to bring awareness, fundraise and engage the community in providing the means to improve our watershed(s). I am inspired by all those who aim to learn from and change.
    My love for the lakes, watersheds and all Earth veins, is derived from the awe at how beautiful these constant flowing and pristine water bodies are. The privilege we have as humans to play, swim, and enjoy a medium in which we are not entirely designed to live in astounds me. I know the peace I feel when I swim, when I tune into the rhythm of the lake as my body slices through the water. I know how healing it is. I would like to do a little part in helping maintain these privileges for others.
    Please support this endeavour and thank you for the love this community has for its Earth veins

  2. cortesisland

    By Carrie and Andrew:
    I am interviewing my team mates for the Nine Lake Swim, asking what inspired them to participate in this event and why they love the lakes. Here I put together what Andrew Smyth said in response to these questions.

    We are so fortunate to have the lakes right in the heart of the community at the southern end of the island where we so many of us live. We see them as we drive around the road. When you go to Mansons, you see Hague Lake and the island and it always looks beautiful at whatever the time of year.
    In the summer when you go down to the sandy beach you see so many people in the lake and enjoying the sand. When my daughter Lily was little we’d take her down there and she was always happy sitting in the sand, playing in it and dipping her toes in the water.
    There must be hundreds if not thousands of children and visitors who’ve learned to swim at the sandy beach on Hague Lake, the children that grew up on the island and the children of visitors in the summer. It’s hard to imagine a safer, more beautiful place for children to learn to swim than in the warm waters there at the sandy beach of Hague Lake.
    In the summer I love to see all the different people doing whatever it is that they’re doing: the babies in the sand, the kids building sand castles, the young kids in their life jackets, the kids learning to swim, the little flotillas of children making their way out to the island with floaties and a boat, groups of adults swimming back and forth, the teens. There are so many different ages of people and everyone is loving the experience of being at the beach or at the bathing rocks and enjoying being out on the lake.
    It would be a very, very sad thing if the lakes could no longer be used for swimming. We would lose the experiences at the lake and it would also hurt the economy. I think a lot of people who come to Cortes come in part because of those lakes and the beach and the swim rocks. It would be a big loss of tourist revenue if the lakes were to become unusable.
    I think we’re incredibly fortunate that we have a group of concerned and capable residents on Cortes who are organising the scientific research into what the cause is of the algae blooms. If the science can help to pinpoint what the causes of the algae bloom are, then we stand a much better chance of being able to deal with the situation and stop the lakes from going into a decline.
    I feel that this is an incredibly important effort and one that I’m really happy to support by doing this sponsored swim. I’ve never swum anything like this kind of distance before so for me it is quite an adventure. I’m really enjoying the training and all the time out there swimming in the lakes and building myself for the big day of the nine lake swim. I’m looking forward to it.

    The Nine Lake Swim Team hopes lots of people will sponsor their efforts.

  3. cortesisland

    The Nine Lake Swim: Route and Logistics
    Carrie Saxifrage
    People have asked me about what nine lakes we will swim and how we will do it in one day. So here is the rough plan as it now stands.

    The swimmers will meet at Mansons Lagoon dock at 5am on August 24 and Jason Andrews will take us up to Robertson Lake. Madhurima will be on board to help with the boat. It‚s a five minute walk from the ocean to Robertson Lake. Once there, we will make our way across the log jam to jump in. We hope to be swimming by 6am. At the end of Robertson Lake, we will clamor through the swampy connection to Wiley. There are submerged dead trees so we will have to be careful not to injure our feet on branch stubs. It is a very slimy, muddy passage. Then we will swim Wiley. Robertson and Wiley Lakes combined are roughly a 2.7 km swim, the second longest of the day. Madhurima will meet us at the old log raft at the far end of Wiley with our shoes. We will hike out to Von Donop (1-2km) where Jason will be waiting with the boat.

    Jason will take us to the outflow of Cork Lake into Sutil Channel. There used to be a decent trail to Cork Lake from Von Donop but when I scouted it this summer, I couldn‚t find it. It took me two hours to hike to Cork by way of the outflow into Von Donop and two hours back by a different route, also a bushwhack. It was extremely difficult, even by my standards. By comparison the outflow to Sutil seemed much better but it is still about an hour of bushwhacking. The other swimmers went up on Mark‚s boat a few weeks ago to check it out. This was a big relief for me. Some people think I overemphasize the fun parts of adventures and underemphasize the difficulties. Now everyone on the team has seen it for themselves and knows what we are in for. And they are still into it. Yay, team! It will take close to an hour to hike in. We might swim Cork Lake together and in silence because it is such a wild, beautiful place. We will swim across to the floating peat swamp. It‚s about 1.5 km round trip and could take close to an hour if we breast stroke as we plan. (The rest of the swims will be mostly crawl). Then we will hike an hour back to the boat.

    From there Jason will zoom us down to Carrington Lagoon where Christine Robinson will be waiting. She has been a part of all of the big ocean swims that Chloe, Noel and I have done. She will guide us to Blue Jay Lake (2.7 km unless there are new trails, I haven‚t scouted this and am relying on Christine). There was some talk of biking this portion but we have decided to walk it. Christine will carry our shoes as we swim Blue Jay (.7 km) and then guide us to Delight Lake, aka Little Barretts, a 1 km hike and less than a .5 km swim. Then she will guide us up to Nutshell, about 1.5 km of walking and a very short but very lovely swim.

    Deva or Mira will take us in the Braaten‚s van back to Mansons Lagoon where Mark‚s canoe will be waiting. We will paddle to the cove from which you can walk into Anvil Lake. We will swim all the way across Anvil and back (.5 km hike, less than a .7 km swim). Then we will paddle back and be driven to the public boat ramp on Gunflint for our longest and last swim of the day, about 3.5 km to the Sandy Beach.

    My time estimate, which I hope and think is generous, is 14 hours. So we may arrive at the Sandy Beach at about 8 pm. We will let Leah know of our progress when we reach cell range on our way to and from Anvil Lake so if people are tracking us, they will have some idea of when we will arrive.

    I think our challenge will be to fully enjoy all the amazing places where we will be swimming and not rush through them because we feel worried about whether we can complete the swims or not. I think swimming all nine lakes in one day will be epic and memorable and we will be entirely exhausted. But it is quite doable and we will be inspired how much we love the lakes and by the honor of creating a rallying point for people to give money for the good of the lakes.

    You can make a donation at

    I also want to mention that Leah Seltzer is a huge part of the team, helping get the word out, managing the donation part of it and generally uplifting our efforts with her hard work and good spirits. At the same time, she is doing everything necessary to get the lake sampling started which is not an easy task given that the samples have to be delivered on ice to a lab on Vancouver Island within a very short time after sampling. Yay, Leah!!!

  4. cortesisland


    We’ll greet the swimmers at the SANDY BEACH and then proceed to the Co-op Café for a celebration, pizza, refreshments, live music, and a lake themed puppet show

    BEACH PARTY at 6:30pm ~ CAFÉ at 8pm

    We’ll start off with performances by local musicians and then open the stage so bring your instruments or poetry to share! And let’s gather to celebrate the feat of these amazing community members who are inspiring us to become better stewards of our lakes.

    Just pick up a form at any local store or go to:

    Every little bit makes a difference.

    50% of the funds raised will go toward lab analysis costs, and 50% will go toward solutions: bio-remediation supplies & support for watershed users to decrease the flow of nutrients into the lakes. We hope to decrease these inputs by the spring of 2015 to prevent further algae blooms from happening.

    Help us reach our goal of raising $12,000!

    In our first week of fundraising, your donations have already totaled $7,000 This is an amazing accomplishment and with another $5,000 we can cover the costs for an entire year of testing ($6,000) and put $6,000 in a fund for restoration projects. Please spread the word and share the website link with everyone you know who loves these lakes!

    Thank you for your generous support and we look forward to seeing you at the Swimmer’s Celebration on August 24th!

  5. cortesisland

    By Carrie and Mark:
    Mark Braaten was a competitive swimmer for eleven years. His practice is trying to swim in every lake, ocean and creek he comes across, at every time of year and every time of day.
    I asked him what inspired him to participate in the Nine Lake swim. Here are his words:
    I was very inspired by the idea once I got over the shock that Carrie was actually serious about it! I had been deeply concerned to see the algae blooms in the lakes this spring, and so relieved to see them clear up again this summer. I am happy to make this small contribution.
    It has inspired me to train for the event, which has got me into the water almost every day. What a gift!
    Hague Lake is amazing, so warm in the summer, surrounded by those beautiful rocky cliffs. I have always been amazed by the crystal clear water. Boaters have always enjoyed the hike up to Hague and Gunflint lakes from Manson’s Lagoon because they are so close and almost connected to the sea.
    I’ve swum these lakes in the moonlight and in the early morning when the beauty has brought tears to my eyes. I consider myself so fortunate to experience swimming in the pristine lakes of Cortes Island.
    Water is life itself! Immersing in this pure water is deeply enlightening, revitalizing, healing, purifying and grounding on all levels. I think that this is why it is held sacred by all peoples. Native Americans have a saying that I have often contemplated; “there is only One Water”. It’s a wonder that the individual molecules in every drop of water have probably travelled all the world’s oceans many times over.
    I feel that the way that our community cares for the water here can have a subtle effect on all the waters of the Earth. Swimming is a perfect way for me to express gratitude with every cell of my body.

  6. cortesisland

    For the love of lakes: Carrie Saxifrage
    Carrie Saxifrage

    My first swim in Hague Lake passed with little notice and only in retrospect do I see its full significance. In 1991 a friend shanghaied me to Hollyhock (we were supposed to go camping in Tofino) where the flirtatious naturalist pretty much insisted that we find the nice lake and swim in it. So we walked forever on the road that appeared to be a tunnel of trees until we found the sandy beach. We swam to the island and looked for a place to get out, something that resembled the swimming pool edges or ocean beaches from our California childhoods. But there wasn’t anything like that so we kept swimming the whole way around and back. Tired out, I lay on the soft, warm, sand and thought the naturalist had good reason to be proud of such a lake. But I had no inkling that I’d ever see it again or that something big in my life had just begun.

    A few years later as a Linnaea garden student I swam in Gunflint every day after work in the production garden. A great blue heron often sat on a log on the far side of the lake. Loons called. One rainy day, a nighthawk dipped down for a drink right next to me. In the slanted afternoon light, swallows zipped and swooped. I’d never been in water that felt so effervescently alive.

    Now I’ve swum those two lakes every summer for twenty years. This number startles me. If I averaged 60 swims each year, that’s 1,200 swims, many of them well over a mile. Every time, I’ve emerged feeling like a better person: cooler, more collected, happier. Over time, the lakes seduced me with pure pleasure into a stronger body and more endurance. They trained me for all those epic island-to-island ocean swims with Chloe and Noel: Sarah Point, Hernando, Quadra, Read, Rendezvous (only Noel made it to Raza), Mittlenatch, Marina, Twin and West Redonda.

    Some of my lake swims are singularly memorable, like when I literally bumped into a dog who seemed as devoted to swimming as I am, out by the island. Or when I wore the “Nemo” swim cap my sister gave me and was intercepted by a flotilla of kids. But mostly the swims blur into one very long moment: the clear greenish water shafted with light, my rhythmic breathe amplified by the water, the trail of bubbles from my fingertips, the water’s gentle hold.

    The lakes are my transportation link as well, an enjoyable paddle to friends’ houses across Gunflint that avoids that difficult round-about bike ride. For years, I commuted to work and meetings at Linnaea in my kayak. I’ve swum home from late night parties across the lake.

    I also see how the lakes support the local economy: the visiting boaters, the seasonal renters and the value of land. Pristine lakes at the heart of the community are a rarity and many people are attracted by that. They spend their money in Mansons and rent vacation houses here.

    This year, when I came to put in the garden in May, Hague Lake had red-brown water, like a red tide. When I returned in July, there was a weird blob of white about a meter down that looked like cirrus clouds. I ignored it for two weeks until I heard Nicola say with real concern, “There’s a white blob in the lake.” Then I couldn’t ignore it any more. I learned a lot from Rex and Christian and started feeling how much I love the lakes and how much I want them to remain sweet and clear.

    It seems our best strategy as a community is to work through FOCI to learn about causes so we can determine what the lake needs. And FOCI needs money to do this. So I came up with the Nine Lake Swim idea as a fundraiser, which attracted an amazing team of community-minded swimmers. The event will provide funds for FOCI to test the water and promote solutions.

    This fundraiser has already raised $8,500! Thank you so much for your support. Our goal is $12,000 so if you haven’t donated yet, please do. The Nine Lake Swimmers want our efforts to provide $6,000 for the year’s testing and $6,000 for solutions. A donation of two dollars per lake is only $18 and, added into other such donations, will be a real contribution. Knowing that everyone who loves the lakes contributed and that our swim will provide enough funds for what the lakes need will inspire us on the long, arduous day of August 24.

    I see this algae situation like a volume mixer with lots of knobs. The weather knob is getting louder over time which means that springs are more likely to be warm at the time of year when the algae blooms. It blooms every spring, but under certain conditions it can really take off and those conditions are increasingly likely to occur. We don’t control the weather knob directly although hopefully we are ever more inspired to act on climate change as we see it writ small upon our island.

    But we do control enough of the other knobs (phosphates and nitrates) to keep the volume down and avoid massive blooms. Useful measures include: abstaining from using soap or shampoo in the lake; keeping dog poo well away from the water; protecting gardens from hard winter rains with cardboard and straw; not using fertilizers at the lakeside; minimizing manure and compost in areas flooded by winter rains; protecting native lakeside vegetation; getting out of the water to pee while swimming; pumping out septic tanks and budgeting to install effective systems; cleaning with vinegar and natural cleaners instead of sending harsh chemicals and phosphates down the drain; and planting native species like cattails, sweet gale and sedges on the shore where nutrients can enter the lake directly or by way of streams, places such as lawns, logging sites and agricultural fields.

    Hopefully we are all changing our ways based on our new understanding of the lakes’ vulnerability. I think every single act of protection for the lakes matters. New habits become a way of life that will allow the lake to flourish over time.

    And FOCI’s lake sampling will help us identify what matters most, so please sponsor the “for the love of the lakes” swimmers if you haven’t already. The swim is this Sunday, so now is the time! There are forms in the stores, Leah will be at the Friday market and it is easy to do on-line at

    And we can share this video on Facebook:

    Thank you so much! May you swim in beauty! May the algae lack the nutrients needed for enormous blooms! Long live the lakes!

  7. cortesisland

    For the love of the lakes! The Nine Lake Swim
    by Carrie Saxifrage

    From the swimmers perspective, we had a truly amazing and grand day that we will remember for our entire lives and that is a gift you and the lakes have given us. Of course, the whole event wasn’t really about us. We served as catalysts to turn the community’s love for the lakes into action to prevent future algae blooms. And as a whole community, we did that. We raised over $13,000 for FOCI to use for the benefit of the lakes! And we all got to express our love for the lakes. That expression of love is a good foundation for our present and future efforts to decrease the lake nutrients.

    Thank you so much!

    If you would like to know about our entire amazing day, read on!

    In the early morning darkness, the boat wouldn’t plane. We didn’t notice it at first because at 5am the darkness made speed dangerous. Mark stood next to Jason searching the water for drift logs as we plowed out of Mansons Lagoon. We were all secretly relieved the boat started, because two days earlier it had not, and Jason had spent most of the last two days working on it as well making 143 sandwiches for the swimmers between times. And cake. He’s the biggest hero of this story.

    We tried to get up on a plane as the sky lightened and decided we were too heavy: 6 adults, lots of water and swim supplies and all those sandwiches. It meant that we would reach Robertson Lake at 7 instead of 6, setting us an hour behind schedule for our first swim.

    But what a beautiful morning: the pink and blue sky reflected in the water’s undulating diamonds; the knowledge that good adventures have variables and there’s no use worrying about them unless there is no way forward; the anticipation of the nine beautiful lakes.

    As we approached Von Donop, the boat went slower and slower. “The engine is overheating,” Jason explained. A shrill engine alarm went off and he slowed the boat further. At that speed, it would take another half an hour to get to Robertson. But we were just offshore of the Cork Lake outflow into Sutil Channel. So we headed in: we would swim Cork first and give the engine a chance to rest.

    At the outset, Cork Lake had been my biggest concern. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because no one ever goes there. But we’d explored it on two different trips and had a pretty good idea of the best way in. Our familiarity paid off: the hike that was supposed to take an hour each way only took half an hour, the hour we had lost in getting there.
    Cork Lake is about a kilometer long and half a kilometer across. There’s a small island in the middle with one tree on it that adds to the lake’s magical quality. As we laid our packs down on a low, mossy rock at the shore, an osprey wheeled away. We swam quietly toward the rising sun and the peat bog at the far shore. We climbed out into the soft, water logged moss dotted with sundews and sat quietly as the sun rose higher in sky. Two turkey vultures circled low enough for us to see them turning their heads this way and that. For the first time it occurred to me that vultures aren’t always hoping that I am dead. They seemed curious and even frolicsome, just like other creatures. As we swam back to our packs, the resident loon family visited, calling to us and paddling our direction, sometimes heads in the water, sometimes up, entirely unafraid. One came up 3 meters from Andrew. We all stopped and watched them watch us. The adults spread their wings to lift their chests and sing their song of ululation.

    As we left that lake, Mark called it one of the most beautiful times of his life. Bianka declared it her favorite lake in the world. Andrew thought it an excellent setting for a children’s book. I held it as a sun-soaked perfection.

    The boat engine had cooled and we made it easily to Robertson Lake. Madhurima joined us on the mossy path from sea shore to the lake. We walked the floating logs of the log jam to the lake’s edge and jumped in. I swam on my back for a bit, looking up at the island’s northern spine: Cliff Peak and the three humps to the north. Andrew and I had swum it a couple of summers previous but perhaps without so much training because the 2 km seemed to have shrunk. We stopped to greet the resident loons and before we knew it, we were at the little mossy trail up the bluff between lakes, very good timing for Mark who had come ashore with leg cramps. The trail was another fairy tale place, mossy to the bare foot.

    At Wiley, we slipped back into the water. I had decided to turn three backward summer salts in each lake for the whirling view of lake bottom and sky. Here, the lake bottom seemed quite close so I dove 4 feet down to touch it. It was a layer of soft green that gave way beneath my hands. I told Mark and he descended feet first, up to his thighs in soft algae. We never did find the real bottom.

    Madhurima met us on the trail up from Von Donop and we motored down to the log jam at Carrington Lagoon, slowly making our way through the sandwiches and the home made halvah I brought and laughing as Madhurima changed clothes in the engine well with grace and aplomb. We guzzled the coconut water that the co-op generously donated, along with organic almond butter for the sandwiches and other truly good goodies. We arrived at the log jam 15 minutes earlier than our wild estimate of 12:30 and Christine was just arriving, with chai tea, a gift of support from Lovena Harvey. We stopped for tea and Jason’s cake.

    Christine had scouted out the trails between lakes and we gladly followed her on the long hike to Blue Jay. I had a twinge of tiredness, my first sense that this day would call upon my endurance as well as my capacity for joy.

    Henry had warned us of leeches so we gingerly entered Blue Jay Lake on logs and began our swim. Andrew took the long way around, perhaps because he needed the exercise. Lovena and her friends greeted us at the rope swing with two big thermoses of chai tea, one made with rooibos and the other with black tea. She accepted our wet hugs and poured us each a big, warm cup. We all opted for black tea because our alarms had gone off at 4am, 10 hours earlier. Henry and Elijah showed up to wish us well. Georgina Silby and Kevin Pearcy joined us for Nutshell and Delight. We walked through Blue Jay Lake farm’s beauty, the wild surroundings and Henry’s fields rich with produce.

    It’s a steep hike up to Nutshell Lake, which is small and bubbly. Christine swam across with us. Everyone wanted to breast stroke, which I have difficulty doing. I’m a one speed swimmer, a slow, steady crawl. Bianka liked to call our team the Aqua Tigers. I’m more of an Aqua Clydesdale. But I did my best.

    We found my husband Barry at Salamander Flats and Christine lead the eight of us to Delight Lake along a cryptic trail over a stony bluff which clinched our certainty that we could not have done this without her. Delight is maybe a half kilometer long and half that across, a bright little water body surrounded by swamp grass and one of Henry’s hay fields A raft of sirens floated in the middle, laughing and waving (Shantima and Mira Braaten and Justine, Bianka’s sister).

    The swimmers, including Christine, gingerly entered through leech-ville and swam to the far side and back. A big fat leech followed Mark out of the water lay on the rocks. Christine emerged with one on her arm. I have spent my whole life dreading leeches but these were the first I had ever seen. I shrieked with fear as I snatched the leech off Christine’s arm and flung it on the rocks. Then I did the spooky, shivering dance I do when startled or frightened, which is an animal thing beyond my conscious control, while everyone laughed.

    Barry, Kevin and Georgina peeled off. We were now in the hands of Mira, Justine and Shantima as we rode in the Braaten’s van from Blue Jay back to Mansons Lagoon. They plied us with Lovena’s tea, energy balls, sandwiches and other goodies. Justine DJed the tunes and they all sang along.

    The Braatens had left their canoe at Mansons, and there was a row boat for Christine as well. Gary Block was selling fish from the dock and the Blocks and the fish buyers whooped and cheered as we paddled past. “You’re so cute!” Andrea yelled.
    We paddled over to Rick Ingrasi’s in the friendly company of Tom in his row boat. A greeting party awaited us at Rick’s. Victoria Watson took our line, Jill Purce waited on the dock ramp with her burning question: what are the other three lakes? We established that Cork, Delight and Nutshell were missing from her count. A comfy deck full of more guests and several white dogs got ready to join us for the Anvil Lake swim. Rick was proud of Anvil. “We’ve tested it many times,” he said. “It’s always clean and we drink right out of it.” It’s a small lake in a cliffy bowl and the team wanted to breast stroke to fully enjoy it. I did the front crawl and got my 360 degree lake view by doing backward somersaults.

    Bianka and I were concerned that we might get high centered with the convivial Ingrasi group. Gin and tonics had been mentioned, as well as champagne, and I could feel their tug. But we still had our biggest swim to complete and, surprisingly, we were pretty much on schedule. Bianka marched me past the sociable little table littered with glasses, Andrew hurried along and we waited for Mark who, I was learning throughout the day, is a very sociable guy. And we waited. We had just decided to abandon him to his fate when he appeared in the distance. (Not really).

    We paddled back to Mansons where Samuel Braaten greeted us in his kayak. Madhurima and Jason had arrived back from the northern lakes. They had solved all the boat problems and it had planed the whole way home. We exchanged another round of hollers and waves with the Blocks and the salmon buyers. Leah passed by with a salmon that the Blocks had just donated for our dinner, in search of a barbeque to cook it on. Leah, along with Jason, is a real hero on our team for all the the signs, the radio ads, the organizing of donations and the good cheer throughout. We got back in the Braatan’s van for more energy balls, chai tea, sandwiches and tunes and rode to the Gunflint public access.

    We passed Barry peddling hard on his bike with kayak paddles and then Amy Robertson. At the public access, Tzeporah Berman, Chris Hatch, Forrest and Karen Mahon joined us. Amy and Barry arrived and Amy took to the water to herald our arrival at the Sandy Beach. She is one fast swimmer. As I took to the water for our final two lakes, I felt strong but lazy, like I wanted to stroll my way home. But Andrew, Bianka and Mark were off and swimming hard so I tried to catch up.

    Barry came along side me, which put me in mind of all those ocean swims in which I’d entirely depending on him to guide me. As always, I felt so lucky to have his company and his support. I’d done the Gunflint-Hague swim many, many times, even the cut between the lakes. I negotiate the slimy shallows on my back so I don’t stir up the muck. When I bump into the myrica gale, I get a burst of its sweet pungent smell, my favorite in the world.

    On the far side of the cut is a part of Hague Lake that compares with any lake to the north: steep cliffs, a wild cove, the sense of being a visitor in a place with a life very much its own.

    The swimmers met up at the island so we could swim in together. I arrived last and they had decided on the breast stroke. I found that a head-up crawl sufficed and we began our swim to the sandy beach.

    Just like the morning, we were swimming toward the sun. It was too bright to see anyone on the beach. Perhaps I heard a drum. The time felt slow, as it sometimes does while swimming, doing one small thing over and over until it adds up. Once in the shade, I could see people in a line along the beach. Then I could see the people and hear the drums. Mark’s daughters were swimming off to our left.

    Everything fused into a long, perfect moment: the love for the lakes, the strength of our team, the support of our community, the joy of swimming.

    We received a warm, beautiful welcome when we came ashore at 6:30pm, the exact time we had so wildly estimated and 14 and a half hours after we left the dock at Mansons. At the café, we feasted on salmon donated by the Blocks, soup and pizza made by Kirsten Vidulich and Mary Lavelle and drank rhubarb champagne made with rhubarb straight out of Jude Marentette’s garden. Hannu Huuskonen played music as we ate and then we went outside for an amazing puppet show about the lake that children had spent the day putting together, organized by Diane Brussell. I laughed and cried with the tenderness of it.

    I especially enjoyed hearing about how much different people love to swim, felt inspired to swim more and wondered if the Nine Lake Swim was something they could do. Cork Lake might get a few more visitors now.

    People were amazed at how strong and bright we seemed after such an arduous day. Knowing that the lakes would benefit gave us a sense of purpose. Each lake and every kindness had made us feel stronger and happier. The community’s appreciation made us feel great.

    We’re grateful for such an incredible day.

    Long live the lakes!

  8. cortesisland

    Making A Splash: Swimmers Raise $13,000 for Cortes Lakes
    by Leah (Friends of Cortes)

    Over the past three weeks, we have watched the buzz and excitement grow as four community members embarked on a journey to swim across all nine lakes on Cortes Island in one day! With almost 10km of swimming and several hikes, boat, and car rides en route, the shear logistics of this venture is something to be amazed about. Working behind the scenes, I also watched how Carrie, Mark, Bianca, and Andrew put many hours into training and scouting in order to access the more remote lakes on their journey.

    With all of your support and encouragement, these swimmers have succeeded in achieving their goal! After their 14-hour day, all four swimmers emerged at the Sandy Beach at 6:30pm, gleaming with smiles and an almost indescribable glow. They were glistening with that vital shine that always remains after swimming in these pristine waters. A large crowd drummed and cheered them in to shore and there was a strong sense of celebration in the air. With incredible grace, gratitude, and a vast amount of joy, these swimmers have succeeded in raising over $13,000 towards the stewardship of Hague & Gunflint Lakes.

    These funds are going to make a significant difference in our ability to carry out necessary testing and to develop solutions for sustaining the health and vitality of these freshwater ecosystems. The first round of tests taking place in August and February is going to cost upwards of $5,500. With the high price of lab analysis, all of your contributions are incredibly important and are an investment in the future well-being of these lakes and the entire Cortes community.

    Thank you to Carrie, Mark, Bianca, and Andrew for your inspired commitment, and to the long list of supporters who helped make this event a success.

    Please stay tuned throughout the week for the swimmers’ accounts of their journey!

    We will keep the donation platform open so if you missed the Nine Lake sponsorship window, you can still make a donation directly into the Lake Stewardship Fund by going to:

    Or you can mail a cheque to:
    Friends of Cortes Island Society
    PO Box 278, Manson’s Landing, BC, V0P1K0
    Memo: Lake Stewardship Fund

    Thank you to everyone for your contributions and to our list of swim supporters:
    ~ The whole Braaten family for shuttling, guiding, and feeding the swimmers
    ~ Jason Andrews for preparing 143 sandwiches and cake!
    ~ Justine Sawicz for providing kayak and en route support
    ~ Christine Robinson for guiding the swimmers to Delight and Nutshell
    ~ Georgina Silby and Kevin Peacey for en route support and photo documentation
    ~ Henry, Elijah and Bluejay Lake Farm for warmly welcoming the swimmers
    ~ Lovena Harvey for showing up with tea for the swimmers at BlueJay Lake
    ~ Rick Ingrasi, Victoria Watson Jill Purce, Tom and the Anvil Lake welcome crew
    ~ The Block family for the fresh Sockeye Salmon
    ~ Kirsten Vidulich for preparing an amazing meal for the swimmers
    ~ Hannu Huuskonen for serenading us
    ~ Mary Lavalle for helping coordinate the reception and clean-up
    ~ Deanne and Andrew for helping organize the fantastic children’s puppet show!
    ~ Cortes Natural Food Co-op for donations of coconut water, snacks, and a venue
    ~ Cortes Island Business and Tourism Association for hosting the Nine Lake Swim page on
    ~ Cortes Tideline for featuring the event page and articles
    ~ CKTZ Cortes Community Radio for helping us promote the event
    ~ And all of the other behind-the-scenes supporters who helped keep the swimmers happy and inspired!

    Long live the lakes!

  9. cortesisland

    By Mark Braaten – Thanks Carrie and Leah for your beautiful and detailed reports of the Nine Lake Swim event. Thanks to everyone who contributed with donations, support of all kinds, and good wishes for the Lakes! You are the real heroes of this effort!

    It is not too late to donate.
    Please make your donations here ! –

    Here is one story from our journey that is difficult to simply convey in words. In the spirit of storytelling, I will do my best to share the wonder of this experience:

    Spirit of the Lake++++

    The light of dawn bathed the treetops with gold as we approached the bluff summit. The carpet of bright moss and lichen under our feet showed no sign of tracks. We stepped with care from stone to stone until the lake shone in the brilliant sunrise below. Carrie had suggested that we swim Cork Lake in silence. She must have sensed that we would have a special experience there! No one spoke except to quietly gasp with wonder. A deep stillness pervaded.
    With a flash of light on water, 3 birds rose off the far southern bay of Cork Lake, and flew up above the trees circling the lake wide. Their white undersides appeared against the forest behind and they almost disappeared in the bright sky. I recognised their speed, short wings and outstretched neck circled with a white feather band. It was the “Spirit of the Lake”. It was not the first time I had seen them.
    My childhood summers had been spent canoeing in Northern Ontario, all the lakes had loons, and they always watched us paddle by from a distance. The Loon was considered by the local first nations to be “the Spirit of the Lake”. To my young mind this was so obviously true it was beyond question. My father had given me a paddle when I was 12, into which I burned the image of a Loon. I loved to draw them. Since then I have been always overjoyed to see them. In this setting it was pure magic.
    We had visited Cork Lake the week before on a scouting expedition in preparation for the Nine Lake Swim, and seen these same loons. We had sat spellbound on the round rock in the center of the lake, covered with moss and guarded by one old Douglas Fir bonsai tree. We had discovered miniature bay on one side of the mysterious island was covered with a bed of empty fresh water clam shells and there was a full skeleton of white deer bones in the moss. The stillness had been broken by the loud mating calls and splashing of wings as these loons danced across the water with their white breasts puffed out towards each other. An entrancing serenade.
    The loons had sensed our presence immediately as we reached the bluff summit and taken flight to investigate. They called to each other as they settled again in the Southern Bay. We sprang lightly from rock to rock down to the lake shore, stripped off our clothes and quietly slipped in the water. That was when we saw the fine silhouette of an osprey circling silently over the center of the lake to spiral out of view into the Eastern light.
    The loons took flight again and for the first time ever, I saw them actually hovering, seeming to almost stall in the air directly above as we swam below gazing upward. The loons wings flapped downwards with webbed feet stretched forward. I had the distinct sensation of being curiously observed! “Who were these unusual swimmers?” They returned again to the Southern Bay singing. I was not the only one smiling from ear to ear and quietly laughing with joy. The joy rippled out and settled into an even deeper peace.
    We were swimming towards the bright green estuary in the Northeast Bay spotted from the bluff. Nearing the edge of the floating vegetation we were caressed by banks of water lilies. Bianka started to sing a water lily song as she drifted through. When I placed my hands on the edge of the bright green bank it moved – I felt around with my feet for the bottom and there was none, my legs swung underneath the floating vegetation. I found that I could haul myself out on my belly without sinking the living bed of plants. I couldn’t stand so I kneeled on this living prayer mat took in the surroundings. The spongy turf was intricately woven with many species I didn’t recognise. Sundews dotted the surface, their sweet droplets and bright red fronds almost touching each other. I was aware that all 4 of us had spontaneously fallen into a deep and silent meditation.
    2 black vultures circled very close overhead and broke our stillness. When they saw me move, they backed off a bit and landed on a nearby snag to inspect. One by one we flopped back into the water and began to swim back across to where we had taken off our clothes, still enchanted by the scene.
    I was practicing a style of breast stroke that reminded of how beavers cross a lake. Head still, with only the slightest ripple of a wake, a constant movement through the water, silent breathing. I felt that we passed almost imperceptibly.
    I was suddenly sized by a burst of energy and a desire to swim to “one tree island” by myself. I would get there fast and wait for the others. I took off with a splash and a burst of speed noticing the break in silence. When I next raised my eyes to see the island, I was amazed at what I saw.
    A Loon loomed directly ahead on the water surface, seeming huge from that vantage. His dark red eye gazed at me. Time stood still in the wonder of that intimate connection and something in my consciousness was confirmed. He slipped under the water and was gone. I was stunned.
    I looked around and noticed 2 more loons swimming towards us on the water surface from the Southeast. Bianka called my name and pointed. The Loon was now beside Andrew – he must have swum under our little human pod! As we watched, he circled round us while the other two loons approached, until the three of them sat still and near to the 4 of us, all calmly treading water.
    There was in those moments, a certainty of relationship, communication and awareness – much deeper than the rational mind will usually allow. It felt like the Spirit of the Lake had welcomed us, and was giving us a message of support for the entire Cortes Community, and our efforts. Through the Loons presence, an even greater presence – all surrounding – of which the Loons and we are a part, was giving its blessing. It was all, and more than my most mystical imaginings of what this experience could represent. In that moment I knew…
    These pristine places speak to us, as do our relations in the Plant, Animal and other kingdoms. They speak to us sensually and inwardly and they teach us. Ancient people derived understanding of life and the universe through direct experience with nature. It is a component of intelligent awareness that is becoming more and more rare in modern times. Seeing this we understand that to be stewards of the Earth we preserve not only “other” living things, but ourselves, our own holistic awareness, the circle of life. It adds a depth to our gratitude and reverence that is difficult for most of us to remember all the time. Here, on this island, on this tiny planet in the backyard of the Milky Way, we can all still immerse ourselves this essence and be reminded. How fortunate we are to be in a position to take care of even this small part.
    We slowly and reluctantly continued to swim towards shore – still 8 lakes to go! Could we bring this experience with us? 5 Kingfishers circled and around our heads laughing as if to say, “no, you can’t bring it with you, but this experience will continue, just stay awake!”

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