Polar Bear participants emerge from the chilly water of Port Angeles Harbor during the 2021 New Years Day plunge at Hollywood Beach, which happened despite a pandemic and the lack of an organized plan. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Polar Bear participants emerge from the chilly water of Port Angeles Harbor during the 2021 New Years Day plunge at Hollywood Beach, which happened despite a pandemic and the lack of an organized plan. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Freezing temperatures raise bar on polar bear dip challenge

New Year’s Day plunges planned on Peninsula

PORT ANGELES — It’s always a chilly challenge, but this year’s sub-freezing temperatures will demand especially hardy polar bear dippers.

If late enough in the day, Saturday’s mid-20s climes may have risen toward the day’s forecasted high of the low 40s — but then again, they may not.

The earliest polar bear dips scheduled on the North Olympic Peninsula are at 10 a.m. Saturday. Those are at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles and at Lake Pleasant in Beaver.

On the east side of the Peninsula, the plunge from a Nordland shore into Mystery Bay, although not officially scheduled, is expected to be at noon.

“You can’t really stop it,” said Tom Rose, owner of the Nordland General Store and longtime host of the bone-chilling event.

Official schedules don’t mean much to people who want to test their mettle by jumping into cold water in the middle of winter.

That was illustrated in 2021, when even a pandemic couldn’t stop the tradition.

The point is to get “the craziest thing you’ll do all year out of the way the very first day,” said Dan Welden, an organizer of the Port Angeles dip who also plans to participate — for the 34th consecutive year.

In Beaver, dippers will take the plunge into a West End lake from the shore of the Lake Pleasant Community Beach County Park.

The was no ice on the lake as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Carin Hirsch, the plunge organizer.

The plunge was once from the boat launch, but that fell victim to November floods.

During the Port Angeles plunge, volunteers from the nearby Red Lion Hotel and Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County (VHOCC) will be on site with complimentary hot beverages and pastries.

The annual dip is a fundraiser for Volunteer Hospice, and several staff members are challenging the community to get them to take the plunge or get drenched by buckets of ice water.

Among them are the Nurse Report team (made of nurses from VHOCC but open to any nursing professional), which includes Betsy Wharton, a registered nurse and the nursing manager for the free hospice service, as well as Lori Jacobs, longtime volunteer, and Astrid Raffinpeyloz, volunteer services manager.

The VHOCC booth will offer information about volunteer opportunities and how to donate. Currently 150 volunteers, a clinical staff of 10 and a small administrative staff of four serve a patient base averaging 120 and many more clients in the grief support programs.

The hospice service also operates a lending closet of medical equipment available to anyone in the community.

All services provided by VHOCC are free of charge.

Donations to VHOCC can be made online (specify Polar Bear Dip in the “Anything else” section), by mail, at the office on the corner of Eighth and Race streets, or at the dip itself.

For ideas on “how to make the dipping experience more comfortable and less shocking,” call the hospice office at 360-452-1511.

“It’s the fountain of youth,” Weldon said. “You don’t get older; you just get colder. You are frozen in time.”

Jefferson County

The traditional New Year’s Eve plunge from the dock across the street from the Nordland General Store at 7180 Flagler Road will be the second one since a fire gutted the landmark on Nov. 5, 2020.

Rose and his wife Sue have owned the market, essentially Marrowstone Island’s community center, since 1994.

Rebuilding has begun, Rose said this week. Drywall is being installed and “progress is being made,” he said, although it’s slow.

Rose, 71, said he might like to find a younger person to take over the general store.

Rose added that investigators have told him a lithium battery charger was the cause of the devastating fire.

As for the 2022 plunge, he acknowledged it’s likely to be an especially cold one. The wind is an added bitter factor, he said.

Sue figured she and her husband may have to clear snow off the wooden dock that serves as a platform for the swimmers.


Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz contributed to this story.

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