The sun set for the second time on our adventure. We were in New York, driving in our two-van caravan, hoping we were going in the right direction.
We had an address and a GPS, and we drove the 250 miles, ending up in a chain of small towns, each smaller than the last, until we finally saw the sign for Olcott. At least there was finally a sign for the town the hosted our last dive.
So we drive to the even smaller town of Olcott, and we park at the beach, and we see no one. Calls are made, and we get back into the vehicles, driving around to another side of the Carousel Park to find the rest of our team. Once there, we suited up and strapped on our tanks.
A local preacher came to our group and gave us a blessing. There was a small crowd with lights there to cheer us on. It was almost ten p.m. We were two hours behind. I was sweating in the wetsuit, tired from lack of sleep, wearing my seventy pounds of gear, off-balance while wearing an air cylinder on my back.
In the dark, we moved through the park, down the embankment, onto the beach. We waded in until waist deep and slipped on our fins. We had another buddy to join us snorkeling, and we swam out to our last site: the historic docks of the Olcott Hotel.
Years ago, almost one hundred of them, actually, there was a beautiful Lake Ontario-side hotel. Ships would come to unload passengers specifically to stay in this grand hotel. There are still pictures of people disembarking on the docks, wearing those old-style long dresses with fitted sleeves.
Then, the hotel burned down, and it was never rebuilt. The docks were left alone, and began to rot. Locals told us keys were still being found in the water.
We swam out to the very end of the dock which ran parallel to the beach. The visibility was poor as we descended into the shallow water. We swam together, me and Kyle, slowly inching along the bottom, hoping to find a key nestled in the swaying plant life. We didn’t.
We surfaced after ten minutes (our requirement for every dive), and returned to the shore. Others had already made it back to the beach, completing our time, so we didn’t hurry. I looked up at the stars, once again finding Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor, our companions for three of our five dives.
Kyle and I waded out onto dry land, and the small crowd above us cheered. I got high fives from the rest of the production crew. Kyle and I hiked back up the embankment, water streaming from all of our gear, heavier now than it was when we hiked down.
We did it. And in that moment, I wish I could report that we were triumphant. That all fourteen of us were dancing in the parking lot. But we weren’t. We were all tired and hungry, all doing our best to hide our grumpiness. We stripped of wet gear, few of us caring about propriety as we got back into dry clothes again for the first time in five hours.
We drove the two blocks to our hotel that night–the historic firehouse, where the man who owned it was kind enough to set up extra cots to accomodate all of us. Then we walked across the street to the Lighthouse Grille, which had stayed open just for us.
When I walked in with Kyle and Tami and Jessica, we were greeted by baskets and baskets of the best fried food: pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, french fries. We were starving. Liz ordered a salad, and when that came, it was glorious. It was nearing midnight. The day seemed a blur.
More ladies filtered into the restaurant, the same wolfish look of hunger on their faces when they spied our baskets of food. That was when the mood finally turned from exhaustion to at least a little more exultant.
After everyone arrived, and beers were in hand, Stephanie stood and made a toast. I think she was proud of us. We made our attempt in a little over 22 hours.
5 Great Lakes. 24 hours.