Monday, October 17, 2011

Back To Balmain Baths

After an atrocious day on Saturday, it was a relief to wake up early on Sunday and find that it was a glorious morning. I headed off to Balmain Baths (a.k.a. Dawn Fraser Baths) as soon as I could. The pool re-opened for the summer season last weekend while I was still in San Francisco. The sun was warm and the skies were bright blue as I arrived.

I was the only swimmer in the pool for the first 17 of my 20 lengths. The water was a beautiful 19°C. Afterwards, I sat with a hot cup of tea, looking out across the bay and listening to the birdsong from the tall trees in Elkington Park above the pool.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Rainy Day At Bondi Beach

I had to go over to Bondi Beach on Saturday for work. I was looking forward to getting there early, and going for a swim. I'd already had a swim at Coogee since getting back from San Francisco, so I knew that the water was lovely and clear. The weather had been sunny and dry, if a bit cool, so I imagined a glorious morning of swimming.

But when I woke up on Saturday, it was cold and drizzling. By the time I got off the bus at the beach, it was a dreadful day. It was raining heavily, and there were banks of black clouds hanging over the ocean.

I really didn't fancy swimming from the beach, and leaving my clothes on the wet sand in the rain, so I headed for Bondi Baths. There were a few swimmers already there, but plenty of room to swim plenty of laps in the 50 metre pool. The water is currently nineteen degrees.

Bondi Baths (also known as Bondi Icebergs after its famous winter swimming club) has a concrete saltwater  pool, hot showers and a sauna. There is a clubhouse and a restaurant, both of which were rebuilt almost ten years ago. It's a great place for a swim, but I rarely go there, preferring Wylies with its rocky bottom and sea life. I've only been there twice in the last couple of years, and, before that, not since the 1980s. Still, Saturday's swim was pretty wonderful.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Last Swim In San Francisco

It was with quite a bit of sadness that I travelled to Aquatic Park for the very last time this holiday. I really enjoy swimming in San Francisco Bay with its views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. I also love going to the swimming clubs here. Members of the clubs are friendly and helpful, and make visitors feel welcome. For my last swimming day, it was the Dolphins Club that was open to the public. That makes five swims from this club now, and only one from the South End Club.

The half mile swim was really good fun. The day was warm and sunny, and, if anything, the water seemed warmer than last week. I wore my swimming cap, but probably didn't really need it.

Later, after a quick, hot shower, I enjoyed lounging in one of the club's comfortable rooms. The large windows showed the amazing views of San Francisco Bay. 

Then it was time to leave to catch the plane back to Sydney. I've really enjoyed San Francisco and the swimming both this year and last year, and I'd love to come back again one day. Meanwhile it's home to begin swimming at Balmain Baths, which opened last weekend for the summer season.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Swimming In The Russian River, Sonoma County

The Russian River in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, was the warmest swim I had in California. I swam from one of the river beaches in Monte Rio late in the evening. Earlier there had been canoes and kayaks on the water.  The far bank of the river had hill slopes thickly forested with redwoods. The water was shallow until mid-stream, and, even then, it only got to about chest height.
It was clean and clear all the way across the river.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tenaya Lake In The Sierra Nevada Mountains

Tenaya Lake is in Yosemite National Park, but it is not in the Yosemite Valley. The lake is up in the ranges at an elevation of 2,484 metres (8,150ft) (Wikipedia). It is one of the few lakes in the national park that is accessible by car (but only from June to November when the Tioga Pass road is open).

The waters of the lake are very clear, but are also very cold. I had a beautiful swim, but I only stayed in for about fifteen minutes. I slowly swam half way across the breadth, into deep but clear water, then hurriedly swam back to shore as the cold began to bite.

There was a keen wind blowing down from the peaks and gathering speed across the lake. By the time I was dry, I was probably as cold as I have ever been after a swim. 'Twas well worth it, though.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Swimming In Yosemite National Park

After a week of swims in the saltwater of San Francisco Bay, I got the chance to do some swimming in the fresh water of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. 

It was quite incredible, hiking through the Yosemite Valley in the hot sun, looking up at the sheer, high, granite cliffs and the steep wooded slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There were many swimming holes in the river that were close enough to the trails to take the plunge.

So, of course, that's exactly what I did - twice. The first two photos were taken at a spot were there was a sandy beach on one bank, and a deep, rocky swimming hole below the other bank.

This first swimming hole was deep enough and clear enough to duck dive down to the bottom, then surface and float along gazing up at the spectacular scenery.

At the second swimming spot, shallow rapids gradually gave way to deeper water. I had to walk over the slippery rocks to find water deep enough to swim in, and, even then, had a few bumps on the knees.

The water was so clear, but very cold. Luckily, the day was so hot that it took little time to warm up again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Swim From The South End Club

The two swimming clubs situated at Aquatic Park on San Francisco Bay are The Dolphin Club ( ) and The South End Club ( ). Both date back to the 1870s, and were formed as both rowing and swimming clubs. Members swim in the Bay all year round

The clubs are open to the public on alternate days, excluding Sundays and Mondays. Previously, both last year and this year too, I'd been for a swim on days when it was the Dolphin Club that was open for public swimming. I was lucky enough on my fifth swim in San Francisco Bay to swim from the South End Club. 

The swimming course at Aquatic Park

A swimmer returns to the South End Club pier

Thursday, October 6, 2011

San Francisco Beaches

After a couple of great swims from the Dolphins club at Aquatic Park, I went to look at a few of the San Francisco beaches.

Firstly, I walked along the coastal footpath from Baker Beach around to The Bay. Both Baker Beach itself and Marshalls Beach along the walk were quite dramatic with booming surf and views of The Golden Gate Bridge. The waves were too wild and the currents too strong to swim at these ocean beaches.

When I got around to the Bay side of the Bridge, the beaches at Crissy Field (East Beach) were calm enough for swimming, so in I went. The water was cold but it was a really hot day, so I soon warmed up.

Marshalls Beach

Baker Beach

Crissy Field (East Beach)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another Swim In The Bay

My first swim in San Francisco Bay this year was overcast and misty and filled with the continual sound of foghorns across the water. My next swim was very different on a very hot and sunny day.

Water temperatures are 14 C according to the Internet, but it didn't really feel that cold because I was wearing a swimming cap.