Jessica Kieras - Lake Billy Chinook
41.5 km (25.8 miles)
13 hours, 14 minutes on 9 July 2020
Observed and documented by Mary Louise Warhus & Lauren Smith
First documented swim
- Name: Jessica Kieras
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 40
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Redmond, Oregon
- Daniel Baugher - kayaker / feeder / navigator
- Mary Louise Warhus - pilot / observer
- Lauren Smith - pilot / observer
Escort Vessel: Sweetwater (pontoon rented from Cove Palisades Resort Marina)
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used:
Cove Palisades Resort to Crooked River Bridge to Deschutes River Bridge to/around Chinook Island (in Metolius River) to Cove Palisades Resort
- Body of Water: Lake Billy Chinook
- Start and Finish Location: Cove Palisades Resort (44.562643, -121.266902)
- Waypoint 1: Crooked River Bridge (44.528841, -121.264588)
- Waypoint 2: Deschutes River Bridge (44.525689, -121.299630)
- Waypoint 3: Chinook Island (44.589179, -121.365553)
- Minimum Route Distance: 41.5 km (25.8 miles)
No known swims of this route, nor other documented marathon swims in this body of water.
- Start: 9 July 2020, 05:48:22 (Pacific Daylight, America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
- Finish: 9 July 2020, 19:03:19
- Elapsed: 13 hours, 14 minutes, 57 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||64.9||72.9|
|Air Temp (F)||53.4||82.5|
Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Every 20 minutes, one of the following: Infinit Endurance Blend, Miso Soup, Beef Stew (Mountain House), Hot chocolate, hot chocolate mixed with coffee, coca-cola and one impromptu drink of Dan’s apple juice.
by Mary Louise Warhus (observer) and Jessica Kieras (swimmer)
The Crooked River Arm
. . .aaaand she’s off! About 20 mins later than we were shooting for but there was a lot of Desitin slathering and pontoon ready-ing. As Jess begins her swim out of the marina, it’s a bit of a scramble for Lauren and I to run to the pontoon, untie it, and follow her out. It is exciting and stressful, though Jess, of course, is calmly swimming. She even looks relaxed, though I suspect she’s probably not. The engine cuts twice as we follow her out, but we are still able to remain hot on her tail. Lauren and I on the boat, and Dan on the kayak, are all alert, attentive and excited as Jess heads up the Crooked River. It is incredibly calm and peaceful on the water; except for Jess and our crew, it’s just birds flying and fish jumping, and an occasional passing vehicle along the road.
In seemingly no time - less than an hour- Jess is swimming under the Crooked River bridge in great spirits- we are all shouting and cheering her on and she even pumps her fists in the air and asks us how WE are doing! We may or may not be waking up campers nearby. As she heads back down the Crooked, past the marina, and towards “the Wedge,” all is well, the conditions remain calm, the water temperature remains relatively steady, and the air temperature continues to rise. Jess tells Dan she’s feeling good. Lauren and I are mastering the observation tasks and have already developed a streamlined system for everything, which adds to the feeling of calm.
As we continue downriver and the sun begins to crest over the cliff sides, Jess switches to her green goggles and enjoys some hot chocolate on a couple feeds. Boat traffic is definitely increasing, causing a fair amount of wake and pontoon rocking.
I’m careful not to touch the desitin on my face as I put on my tinted goggles and then take a delicious guzzle of warm chocolate from my thermos. Everything went great this morning and I’m enjoying the absolute beauty of my surroundings. The water is like glass and boats are only just now starting to putter around the lake.
I know I’ve got a long way ahead of me, so I just focus on relaxing with every stroke. ML and Lauren are doing a fantastic job already and Dan is right by my side, paddling the kayak neither too far ahead nor behind me. Even so, I occasionally pick up my head to sight what is ahead, looking for “The Wedge”. Dan brings us closer and closer to the rocky cliff, and suddenly, we are already there.
The Deschutes River
As we approach the Wedge, where the Crooked River meets the Deschutes River, Dan is on high alert and instructs us to be the same. Approaching the Wedge as we are, hugging the shoreline, it is nearly impossible to pick it out from just another hill of the shoreline, because the angle is so sharp. Dan stays with Jess close to the shoreline, while the pontoon takes a wide turn into Deschutes, so that we can see and be seen by other oncoming boats as well as help protect Jess and Dan. Jess begins swimming up the Deschutes after 2:46 hours and we take in the gorgeous canyon walls, moonset on the west ridge, and even calmer waters. She is still “feeling good” and peeing at every feed, and so is the crew (feeling good, not peeing). The water temperature has risen somewhat, though Jess says the water feels cold.
Around 10am, Jess is still feeling good and switches to Miso, while Dan and I coordinate the handing over of his coffee and lunch. Like Covid-free clockwork, I grab the handle of the cooler and set it at the side of the pontoon and Dan opens the cooler lid without having to touch the handle. We are immensely and ridiculously proud of ourselves of this system. At 10:08, the Deschutes Bridge is in sight, and the wind starts to pick up slightly from the northeast. We follow close to the shoreline, which has an old abandoned stone road, as Jess begins to add some backstroke and breaststroke to the mix.
I can feel the water temperature rising and am in a basic state of cheery bliss. Having gotten into a very nice groove through the chillier, deep section of the Deschutes, I’m now quite happy with my pace and remind myself that I’ve got a long day and not to overspend my energy. I start swimming some backstroke and even the occasional breastroke to help keep my hip flexors loose. The time just sort of flies by, with Dan’s signals for feed time coming as somewhat of a surprise. I’ve done this section of the swim several times before, and I allow my mind to wander down memory lane to how this place has been an oasis in a terribly stressful time. A wash of gratitude comes over me and I take a minute to count my blessings before going back to counting strokes.
We arrive at the bridge and I swim backstroke under it, looking up and admiring its strength. I wave at ML and Lauren again, making sure they get a chance to get a photo, then head back up, still feeling great. “Nothing about this swim sucks!” I think elatedly.
Once again at the Wedge, and just before crossing into the main river channel, Jess requests beef stew at her feed which, to me and Lauren, sounds like about the least appetizing thing we can think of. While expressing as much, Jess starts coughing. Apparently the beef stew isn’t going over well with her either. “Down the wrong pipe,” she shouts! After a slightly hairy and harried crossing, we are enroute, heading north toward the Metolius. Jess’ stroke rate increases from 60 to 64 over the next feeds and Lauren and I confer with Dan regarding. When asked about it, Jess says “that’s great!,” while at the same time saying she feels only “ok” and requesting Ibuprofen and chocolate coffee on her next feed.
We arrive at the confluence with the Metolius, which has a very different feel. The intense cliffs of the previous rivers are replaced by large juniper-dotted high desert hills in yellows and greens. Meanwhile, the speedboat and jet ski traffic is at its peak (we hope).
Her higher stroke rate remains as we head toward Chinook Island and the conditions begin to get windier and choppier. There are variable wind gusts from the south and the north, and the water temperature drops as we near the island. Jess’ teeth are chattering, and she says she is having a rough time, yet nothing to be too worried about. She is on pace and has no intention of being pulled out, that is for sure. Dan is keeping close to her and makes sure to talk with her at each feed. As the island is in view, Dan tells Jess “it’s like swimming to the mailbox.” A couple emerges from a houseboat - Houseboat 52 - and inquire about Jess’ swim with amazement.
“What’s that up ahead?,” Lauren asks Dan. “Looks like a shitter!” And a floating bathroom it is indeed. Unexpected and, as a 7-8 knot headwind persists, a welcome bit of amusement for the crew. And at 15:28, after more than eight hours of swimming, Jess rounds the far side of the island. Lauren, Dan, and I cheer with excitement and Jess lets go some mid-air fist pumps of joy. Crew excitement and chatter increase almost immediately - “We better get a tailwind now!” “We’re so close- she just has the return left!” “I have to pee!”
I’m on the far side of the island and I’m psyched to have made it to somewhere, at last. I look around while doing some double-arm backstroke. The island looks less developed and more remote than other spots on the lake. It’s neat. My fist pumps are a little lackluster compared with the ones I gave at the bridges though and I’m kind of tired.
The return along Metolius stretches out before us- long and windy, with the Crooked further ahead than we wish and the temperature dropping. The water temp fluctuates between 67.0 and 67.6. Jess says she is “chilly” and Dan asks her who the president is, just to be safe. She is cold, but “ok” and “just uncomfortable.” And along comes Houseboat 52 again, and the couple is adamantly cheering for Jess, though I assume she has no idea. Her feeds switch from Infinit to Coke to beef stew. At this point, Jess’ shoulder is clearly bothering her, her stroke rate drops slightly, and she swims almost an entire 20 minutes of backstroke. Following that, she flatly rejects the next beef stew feeding, requesting more Coke instead, in another five minutes. Dan shouts, amused, “She doesn’t like what’s on the menu,” which is of no surprise to me or Lauren.
The beef stew—made from Mountain House, my absolute favorite backpacking food—tastes absolutely disgusting. “No.” my stomach says. “Just. No.” I hand it back to Dan, but forget to give him the lid to the thermos. “Just toss it to me,” he says, and I do, but it falls just short of his hand and sinks down further and further, presumably to the bottom of the lake, which is very deep in this section. I duck down to try to get it, but miss it and yell out an expletive. I’m grouchy, very grouchy at this point. I’ve reached an uncomfortable state where I’m nowhere near my personal limit, but also not loving every minute. Plus, a stabbing nerve pain has begun in my shoulder. Something I’ve felt before and I know goes away with time. I start swimming again using just my left arm. But how much time will it take? Will it get dark out here and I’ll still be swimming? What if my left shoulder goes out? Will I just kick to the finish?
At this point, healing my shoulder becomes my singular focus, requiring all my attention, which is actually helpful as it takes my mind off everything else. I try swimming with my right fist closed, to lower the power on my right shoulder. By now we have crossed the channel and made considerable progress back up the confluence with the main part of the lake. I end up going a feed (20 minutes) backstroke, babying my right arm the whole time. Finally, I do 20 breaststroke strokes and tentatively try normal freestyle. The pain is gone and everything feels back to normal soreness. Dan asks me how I’m doing. “A lot better,” I say, noticing I’m not even feeling chilly anymore. “A whole lot better,” I tell him.
Crooked River return
And with extreme elation, we finally reach the Crooked again! It is officially the home stretch and the crew is crazy excited. Jess’ shoulder doesn’t seem to be bothering her anymore, the water has calmed down, the wind has mostly subsided, there is little boat traffic, we can see the waterfall in the distance, and a lovely, light sprinkling of rain has started. Less than two miles to go, and it seems Jess feels this excitement as well! Her stroke rate has picked up and she is relishing Coke and apple juice feeds, an apropos treat and energy boost for the last push. At one point, a speed boat is barreling towards us and the Sheriff’s boat, which has just passed us and waved, cuts in front of us and heads directly toward them to ensure that the boat slows down and gives a wide berth to Jess. For some reason, this just really makes me smile. Everyone’s got her back! And the marina is in sight!
Lauren and I are kind of beside ourselves, though Dan seems totally chill. And Jess is steady and calm and seems great. We push the pontoon just ahead of Jess, though within sight, and right after she rounds into the marina, a guy on the dock grabs the boat from us and lets us just hop out quickly and run down the dock alongside Jess as she swims to the end. We are bubbling over with excitement, running and smiling, and are there to see her emerge and slowly, carefully, put her feet on dry land. Jess made it! She completed the 25.4 mile course of swimming in just over 13:14 hours!!
Lauren is crying, I’m rocking a huge grin, Jess is shivering, and it all seems like an incredible, crazy blur. Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, we cannot give her the big giant hugs that we would love to. . .and that she probably does not want right now anyway. So instead, as Dan crawls out of his kayak to help Jess put her robe on and warm up, we just stand there beaming ridiculously, thrilled to have been able to support and watch Jess complete this awe-inspiring swim.
Also see: Swimming Billy Chinook (Oregon Lake Bagging blog)
Click to enlarge.