Swimming Outside the Pool

One of the best ways to manage hot summers is by finding new swimming holes.  In Europe this is called "wild swimming", which sounds pretty wild, but all it amounts to is looking for wet places that don't involve cement, chlorine, and lifeguards.  


Any authentic body of water will do -- river, swamp, lake, creek, ocean, pond, waterfall, mud puddle.  Although some spots are more ideal than others, the critical point is to try them out in order of discovery.  Sometimes the sweatiest day of the year coincides with a beaver bog.  And it might be windy and overcast when the best swimming hole comes along.  Either way, refusing to wimp out keeps alive the possibility of a perfect future match of water and weather.  The requisite dip brings many rewards.


Some swimmers are partial to wide shallow sandy beaches, the ones that are clearly labeled on maps and tourist guides.  But I find I get bored pretty quickly with the sameness of these popular places.  Too much glaring sand and sun for a northerner anyway.  What I most like to find is something with steepness, clear and deep, edgy, hopefully with a decent rocky ledge or trestle or even a dock to jump from.


Because a lot of these places are relatively frigid year-round, I have to jump in and get it all at once.  Julie, on the other hand, is a wader.  No matter how cold the water, she prefers to take her torture slowly.  But either way it provides a nice contrast to the best the sun can bring.


My coldest swim was in Frye Brook.  The water was 40 degrees, and the driving rain maybe 10 degrees warmer.  But I'd carried my backpack all day and looked forward to this deep dark rocky cataract, so I was going in no matter what.  Some principles can't be compromised.  And there's nothing better anyway than crawling into a dry sleeping bag after a bracing evening swim.  Someday I'll return to Frye Brook on the hottest day at the height of summer.  There will be no clouds, no wind, no rain, only the blazing sun and a few hungry blackflies.


Nothing against the pool people.  Some just prefer secure and level footing, the comforts of chlorine, and a lifeguard's stare.  But I'd always rather jump into a quiet cold swimming hole even if there might be a little moose pee mixed in, or some thin leeches stretching and sneaking around.

Summer 2013