Over two days, he walked 30 miles across the Great Lake’s narrowest and most frozen section, from Catawba Island State Park to Colchester, Ontario. He climbed 10-foot ice ridges, grew disoriented in a blizzard and got Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” stuck in his head.
When he finally arrived in Canada, he shared pizza with a family bewildered by the uninvited visitor stumbling to the shore of their lakeside home and hitchhiked back to America.
Or at least that’s the story as he wrote it in “I Walked Across Lake Erie ... Alone,” which appeared in the December 1978 issue of Cleveland Magazine.
As years have gone by, the tale has seemed more unbelievable, even though George Leshkevich, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, points to archival ice charts from February 1978 that show the lake’s west end was 100% covered with 30 to 70 centimeters (about 12 to 28 inches) of “thick ice.”
The myth grew so popular that clothing company Homage wanted to immortalize the feat on a T-shirt.
Voelker, an experienced traveler, backpacker and hiker, has since moved to Palo Alto, California, and earned a Ph.D. at Stanford University.
While he has affidavits signed by witnesses along the way, he couldn’t provide them, but he does have a slew of photos of himself on the barren lake ice taken from a tripod.
“I’m glad I did it, but it was probably foolish to have gone alone,” says Voelker. “I just wanted the adventure.”
Read More: Click here to read the full list of 30 Myths That Define Cleveland
in the cle
8:00 AM EST
November 25, 2019