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Wallis: A Swim in the Kingdom

Route 100 from Morrisville to the Northeast Kingdom is stunning in high summer. I traveled that way to Lake Memphramagog to accompany - in a kayak, for safety- my friend Martha who was competing in a ten mile open water swim.

There were entrants from all over; some were there to swim a mile, three, ten or more. The Border Busters were scheduled for an early morning start and a 15 mile course that would take them into Canada. They needed passports.

Swimmers who hadn’t brought their own Kayaker, wore their numbers seeking volunteer “Yakkers” in the crowd – sort of a blind date for safety.

Martha, a high school friend, lives away, so we were tourists Friday evening. By chance, we ran into her friends Eleanor and Robert who grow apples and make iced cider. I learned that apple trees are naturally biennial. Jay from Montpelier extolled the beauties of the Canadian town Magog and the taste of chocolate covered blueberries made by monks.

As night settled on the Lake, it seemed like a magic place.

Early Saturday morning we were at Prouty beach. Newport police were out in a launch, and we Yakkers headed to the first buoy to await our swimmers. A t first, I couldn't see the Martha among the green swimmers caps. But then she called my name and we were off. As the swimmers churned through the water I got used to the paddling. Every thirty minutes, I offered Martha powdered protein and water and packets of a gooey substance that claim s to taste of hazelnut or toffee. Not for me, thanks.

Memphramagog is beautiful, and at a slow paddle the beauty just seeped and settled into my bones. I was fully absorbed with nature all around, my own Walden, when I remembered to look for Martha. But she was there and around the five mile mark, lifted her head to tell me that she’d learned some of the island homes were fourth generation.

A happy crew welcomed swimmers back to the beach. Some competitors had been liberal, and it appeared somewhat random, in the application of sunscreen. One woman emerged from the water looking strangely like she’d rolled in flour.

But as I looked at all the beaming faces, it seemed clear to me that they’d all arrived, by their own route and their own way, in their own personal Kingdom.