Swimming in Superior

Editor in Chief Rachel Hutton reminisces about going for a dip in the great lake’s icy waters

Editor in Chief of Minnesota Monthly Rachel HuttonIt was less of a splash than a hesitant inching, toes curling at the chill, waves licking the ankles. Then up to the shins, seeking stable footing on the slippery rocks with each forward step. Next, knees submerged and soon the thighs, water clear as far as you can see, and cold. Bracingly cold.

The hardest step is getting up to the bellybutton. You have to force yourself. From here, the swimmer goes one of two ways. The Go-for-Its jump right in, all the way under, and pop up howling. Testing-the-Waters stop and consider turning back to shore, knowing the next few steps bring greater unpleasantness.

But how often does one get to swim in a lake whose freshwater surface is the world’s largest? I hadn’t done so since I was a kid. So, I waded on, into the dark, gray-blue water, out toward the blue-gray horizon. In 80-degree temps and shallow depths, it wasn’t the soul-shocking, breath-catching chill I’d remembered. It was plainly refreshing—so long as you stayed in only a few minutes.

Even if you’re just interested in staring across its vast expanse, Lake Superior is what draws us to the North Shore (where we also eat, hike, relax, and more, as detailed in “The Ultimate North Shore Guide,”). But I encourage you to go out on a mild day, in a calm spot, and take the plunge. L.A. can keep its detox teas and cold-pressed juices. Minnesotans already know how to cleanse.