On Saturday we drove to Salisbury Beach State Reservation. We dropped off Christophe so he could commence his 17 mile run home, and the remaining three of us went out to walk the beach. We go outside a lot, in any weather, but our ventures to Salisbury are generally for the purpose of documenting dead birds for the SEANET program. This means a 1.5 mile round trip, and, when in the company of two young boys, about an hour and a half.
I was poking about in the piles of wrack and discarded plastic while the boys dug holes and inspected crab carapaces. Suddenly, I heard Simon howling. I turned around to see him nearly up to his knees in the water. His face was contorted with shock and pain and he appeared paralyzed by the full force of the north Atlantic in winter. I hauled him up onto the sand and stared into his face asking, “Why? Simon, WHY did you do that?” I felt for the boy, of course, but my bewilderment was extreme. What had possessed him to blithely stride into 35 degree water? “Simon, you could die out here doing that!” I said. This was patently ridiculous, since the car was within sight, but I do try to instill general wilderness survival principles whenever I can. Malcolm offered his input: “It’s not the cold, Simon. It’s being wet.”
We still had most of our SEANET walk ahead of us, and I sat next to Simon deciding what to do. There was no wind, and it was pretty warm at 37 degrees. He just needed to have dry feet. “OK Simon. I’ll give you my socks.” Simon looked suddenly delighted. The boys are obsessed with my socks and they raid my sock drawer almost daily. I was beginning to think this ocean immersion was planned.
I took off my boots and stripped my thick wool socks off. On his reddened, clammy feet, they reached up to his knees. He was clearly relieved. But what to do about his sodden shoes, which would instantly soak through the socks? Yankee ingenuity. I had a couple grocery bags and I tore one into two pieces. These I placed over the socks and then put the water-logged sneakers over them.
We made it through the walk and even, at its southern terminus, found an extensively scavenged Canada Goose corpse. My own feet stayed quite warm in my serious winter boots, so it was no real sacrifice. After all, I would freeze to death myself if it would save him. But he doesn’t need to know that. Otherwise, my sock drawer will never be safe.