We spotted a Canadian flag flying at a dock in Harbor Beach, Michigan, stopped to investigate, and learned about a marathon swimmer who became the first person to swim across all five Great Lakes during one amazing summer.
Canadian Vicki Keith slipped into the water at this spot in the early morning hours of July 17, 1988 and started swimming.
She kept swimming through the days and nights. Heavy wind threw her three miles off course, although a northern current help get her back on course as she continued swimming towards Canada. Heavy fog set in as Keith kept swimming, accompanied by a Canadian Coast Guard ship to help guide her the final miles of her epic swim.
Two days after first slipping into the water at Harbor Beach, a cheering crowd of 400 greeted Keith at the shore in Goderich, Ontario, where she became the first person to swim across Lake Huron.
The 45-mile swim took Keith 46 hours and 55 minutes to complete.
So, what compelled Vicki Keith to reach for a goal many thought was impossible to achieve?
The dedication and perseverance of the disabled athletes she worked with as a swimming coach drove her to embrace the challenges of marathon swimming in order to raise more than $1 million over her lifetime to fund swimming programs for those athletes.
The thought of how those athletes met their own challenges kept Keith swimming through cramps, vomiting, hallucinations and other challenges as she crossed Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
The Lake Huron swim was just one leg during a two-month journey that finally ended on August 30, 1988, as Keith touched the Lake Ontario shore in Toronto, Canada, becoming the first person to swim across all five Great Lakes.
Nothing in Keith's childhood hinted at those amazing athletic achievements, though.
She was born in Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) in 1961 and grew up as a pigeon-toed, nearsighted kid who wasn't particularly good at sports. She did like to swimming, learning to swim by the age of five and becoming a lifeguard and swimming coach as a young adult.
By the age of 18, Keith began thinking about swimming marathons. She set her first two world records for a 19 kilometer butterfly swim and a 100-hour continuous swim within three months of starting to swim seriously in 1984.
Her record swims across each of the five Great Lakes, as well as accomplishments like becoming the first person to complete a butterfly-stroke swim across the English Channel and setting a record for the longest solo swim of 63 hours and 40 minutes, earned Keith over 41 awards and recognitions and 16 different world records over her marathon swimming career.
Her last major marathon swimming accomplishment came in 2005 when she came out of retirement to swim on Lake Ontario in an attempt to bolster her lifetime earnings for charity to $1 million.
Rough weather and water meant it took two tries to finish the swim, but Keith met her goal.
The thought that nothing is impossible if you want it badly enough and the message that you should believe in yourself as you reach for high hopes and dreams is one that Keith shares with business, service and school groups as an inspirational speaker.
Today, Vicki Keith lives with her husband John at Amherst Island on Lake Ontario near Kingston, Ontario. She continues to coach competitive swimming for a team of disable athletes, including seven who competed at the national level in competitive swimming and three who competed in marathon swimming.
Be sure to check out this video from last year's TEDxWaterloo to hear her inspirational message and her story about working with a particularly determined athlete, quadruple-amputee Ashley Cowan who swam across Lake Erie in 2001.
Geocachers visiting the site at Harbor Beach will want to search for a micro cache hidden near the plaque commemorating Keith's Lake Huron swim.
© Dominique King 2012 All rights reserved