Big Indian resident Patti Rudge will soon be putting her passion for swimming to use as a fund-raiser for the John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury.
Patti will be heading to the Lake Champlain Open Water Swim on August 18 in which participants will cover nearly four miles from the starting point in Essex, NY to the finish line in Charlotte, VT.
This competitive endurance test annually attracts more than 60 hearty swimmers. The top finishers will complete the course in about 1.5 hours. Patti has no illusions of collecting a trophy and figures her time will be around 2.5 hours.
The right fit
A swimming longtime enthusiast, Patti is retired from her career as a Department of Environment Conservation Forest Ranger and said she had been toying with the idea of taking part in an open waters competition for a while. A friend sent her information about a Hudson River swim, but that particular event didn’t hold any appeal. However, her interest was piqued and an Internet search quickly turned up info on the Lake Champlain swim.
Patti said she was up for the personal physical challenge and decided to add another component.
“I’m on the board of Woodchuck Lodge and we had been interested in adding a “summerhouse” where visitors could enjoy a respite at the end of a new hiking trail. So, I decided to turn my swim into a fundraiser for this project,” Patti recalled.
Steve Walker, owner of the Roxbury-based Beaverdam Builders, committed to construct the summerhouse and then the board went about the business raising money for the project. Halcottsville mill owner John Biruk provided the hemlock to be utilized for the roof of the mini-pavilion. The summerhouse is situated to provide gorgeous views across an apple orchard and into Montgomery Hollow.
Patti indicated that a Delaware County Tourism grant will fund $3,000 of the work and board members committed an additional $2,000. With about $1,500 to go to complete the budget, Patti decided to seek sponsors for her swim to contribute to the summerhouse project. To date, Patti has received pledges for about $700.
“Everything is appreciated,” Patti stated. “When you think of who John Burroughs was — he was a small town guy who was not wealthy. I hope to get as many people as I can to contribute whatever amount they please. When I head out for the swim, I want to believe there are 100 people cheering me on.”
One thing is for certain, Patti will have plenty of support dur- ing the swim. Taylor Diepold of Big Indian, Margaretville resident Jo Bernhardt and Jo’s daughter, Jenna, all will be hitting the waters the Lake Champlain Open Swim.
Keep getting better
“We have been swimming together for the past three years – you’re never too old to learn. We have really improved our strokes – that’s been a great deal of fun,” commented Patti.
She trains an average of five days per week with Taylor and Jo, with Jenna (with is an Iron Woman triathlete), who resides near Albany, reporting in via her mom
“We swim for an hour-and-a-half during each session,” Patti explained. “We’ll start downsizing our training about 10 days before the event.”
Patti said the group swam at Pine Hill Lake during the early part of the spring and then shifted to Big Pond in the Town of Andes.
It’s her love of nature that inspired Patti’s connection to John Burroughs and led to her idea of using swimming as a fund-raiser.
“I swim outdoors for the adventure, but as much for the solitude. It is spectacular to swim beneath an eagle as it skims the lake, to kick through schools of minnows and dive for turtles in the shallows. We marvel daily at how fortunate we are to watch the trees leaf out and in time, the colors turn. Sometimes we are shaking and dumping igloos of hot water over our heads, but still, we are marveling!” she remarked enthusiastically.
While she rarely swims in pools any more because of the chlorine, Patti has covered up to five miles in a pool and has done three miles in open waters. She noted that the Lake Champlain swim will pose considerable challenge with choppy waters and the distance to be covered.
She explained that a Coast Guard cutter will accompany the swimmers as part of the safety measures.
“The whole thing is done very carefully. It’s not to be just jumped into,” Patti noted.
As Patti and her swim partners gear up for their final days of training, they are looking forward to the challenge of the open waters swim. For Patti, aside from the personal accomplishment, she’s pleased to be adding a fund-raising component to her efforts.
Anyone wishing to support Patti’s campaign on behalf of the Burroughs project is invited to make out checks to: Woodchuck Lodge Inc. with Summerhouse Swim in the memo line. Checks should be mailed to: Patricia Rudge, 50 Brown Road, Big Indian, NY 12410.