The New Year’s morning plunge into Wallowa Lake reached epic proportions on Wednesday morning. More than 100 people of all ages and outfits showed up at the county boat ramp to get 2020 off to a refreshing start. At least 80 of them voluntarily galloped into the really, really cold water. “It’s a bracing way to start 2020,” said Enterprise artist Leita Barlow. “I think it’s going to be a year we all need to brace for, anyway.”
The weather cooperated. At the 10 a.m. plunge time, the sun shined brightly and it was 38 degrees. A blustery wind and temperamental clouds provided the only motivation for complaints.
Rich Wandschneider, Ralph Swinehart, and others started the plunge tradition in 2007, with only about ten participants. It’s grown every year since then. “It’s a way of clearing off the grime and concerns of the old year, and starting fresh,” Wandschneider said, noting that there are similar events in Boston and elsewhere. “This year we had more people than ever. It’s a way for newcomers to get to be part of the county, and for people who’ve lived here to celebrate.” People of all ages and interests took to the water. Parents trouped into the water carrying their two-year-olds. Old timers stripped into swim trunks and plunged in. Two dogs, a black lab and a yellow lab mix, were among the wiser in the crowd. They stayed on shore where things were warmer and saner. It was the first time in for Janis Carper, who was conned into participating by her friends. Despite initial misgivings, Carper seemed thrilled and invigorated by the chilly dunking. “I don’t get to swim in the lake very often,” she said. “So I thought I should give it a try. I’ll probably be back next year if the weather isn’t too awful. It was really fun.”