“The notion came to me, I suppose, by degrees. I had shed my clothes and was floundering pleasantly in a hole among some reeds when a great desire to stretch out and go with this gently insistent water began to pluck at me... standing quietly in the water, feeling the sand shifting away under my toes. Then I lay back in the floating position that left my face to the sky, and shoved off. The sky wheeled over me. For an instant, as I bobbed into the main channel, I had the sensation of sliding down the vast tilted face of the continent. It was then that I felt the cold needles of the alpine springs at my fingertips, and the warmth of the Gulf pulling me southward. Moving with me, leaving its taste upon my mouth and spouting under me in dancing springs of sand, was the immense body of the continent itself, flowing like the river was flowing, grain by grain, mountain by mountain, down to the sea. I was streaming over ancient sea beds thrust aloft where giant reptiles had once sported; I was wearing down the face of time and trundling cloud-wreathed ranges into oblivion. I touched my margins with the delicacy of a crayfish’s antennae, and felt great fishes glide about their work.
I drifted by stranded timber cut by beaver in mountain fastnesses; I slid over shallows that had buried the broken axles of prairie schooners and the mired bones of mammoth. I was streaming alive through the hot and working ferment of the sun, or oozing secretively through shady thickets... and as I was finally edged gently against a sand bar and dropped like any log, I tottered as I rose. I knew once more the body’s revolt against emergence into the harsh and unsupporting air, its reluctance to break contact with that mother element which still, at this late point in time, shelters and brings into being nine-tenths of everything alive.
As for men, those myriad little detached ponds with their own swarming corpuscular life, what were they but a way that water has of going about beyond the reach of rivers? I, too, was a microcosm of pouring rivulets and floating driftwood gnawed by the mysterious animalcules of my own creation. I was three-fourths water, rising and subsiding according to the hollow knocking in my veins: a minute pulse like the eternal pulse that lifts Himalayas and which, in the following systole, will carry them away.”
-- Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey (Vintage Books, 1959).
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As many of you know, among the special pleasures of summer hiking are swimming and wading in beautiful mountain lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
Few things are more wonderfully refreshing in warm weather, especially after we’ve worked up a sweat or otherwise indulged in some exhilarating exercise.
A “swim” doesn’t have to involve much exertion or covering any distance, but can simply mean immersing ourselves and cooling off in some fresh mountain water.
Wading and swimming are always optional and never mandatory, of course. But nothing feels more delicious or more therapeutic when our bodies are overheated.
Which is why from June-September most of our hikes (and camping trips) take us to rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water suitable for swimming, or at least wading.
Our first “official” swimming hike is our 6/10 moderate hike in Black Rock Forest, where we’ll be stopping at Sutherland Pond for an afternoon dip and rest break.
Then on our 6/17 easy hike we’ll be able to wade into gorgeous Peterskill Creek in Minnewaska State Park. And the following day, on our 6/18 moderate hike, we’ll having a swimming option at lovely North Lake in the Catskills. And so on, every weekend.
Starting bringing your swimsuit if you think there’s a chance you may want to get all the way into the water on some hikes. And get ready to feel utterly refreshed!
-- Charlie Cook