“We enjoyed peaceful minutes of drifting, too, with the bottom brown mud, just a few round white rocks dotted about, and the banks grassy, cedars leaning over the water, and white-collared birds darting close to our heads. Then for three hundred yards the river would turn feisty, roaring, tergiversating, as busy as rush hour, each rock having its say. We twisted through new rips and rapids, eluding sweepers, seeing the trout jump, and dragonflies in a mating clinch; jays called in the trees. The clouds were lovely, if we took time to glance upward. There were still-water sloughs, and gulls on the mud-banks, and parakeet cries from the bear-jungle. Then a swift chute, dark choppy water, on into a wide, luxurious pool. Buzzing birds in the woods, occasional pines, more shaggy cedar, big pairs of spruce, a heron flying high with folded neck, a gangly flying loon, some green grassy islands. A winter wren sang. Then again the water crawled with ripples, with stream birds flying up, the water slanting alive with bubbles over a gravel bar.
It became a still, rainy day with some occasional neighborly thunder. We ran by a few gentle rapids and shoals, seeing huge waterlogged stumps that were shaped like moose. The river here was a dream -- rustling, windy, wild-looking and lush -- chipper with birds, overhung with sweepers, dense with low channels forking between the islands. It was beautiful and remote.”
-- Edward Hoagland, Walking the Dead Diamond River (Warner Books, 1974).
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Memorial Day weekend is popularly considered to mark the start of summer and, of course, the swimming season, when millions of people head for the beaches.
Whether you’re a “beach person” or not -- some people are, others of us are not -- there’s another kind of swimming available, namely in scenic mountain lakes.
And as many of you know, taking dips in lakes or rivers is one of the special pleasures of summer hiking. It’s what we’ll be doing often from now till September.
Our first “official” swimming hike typically takes place the 2nd weekend of June, which is when we’ll once again be visiting Sutherland Pond in Black Rock Forest.
That’s our 6/11 moderate hike in privately-owned Black Rock Forest. Sutherland is a lovely mountain lake that provides a perfect place for an afternoon swim break.
From then on, all of our summer hikes feature visits to beautiful lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams, where swimming or wading is always a refreshing option.
Anyone who wishes is welcome to skip the “water recreation” part of any hike and simply enjoy a relaxing lunchtime or afternoon rest break by the water.
But others of you know that on a warm summer day, few things hit the spot more than a dip in a cool mountain lake, river, or stream. It can be just plain exhilarating.
Most of us don’t actually do much real “swimming,” or cover any distance, but simply immerse our bodies in the clear, clean, ultra-refreshing mountain water.
There’s no need to decide in advance whether you’ll wade or swim. But if you think you may want to, start bringing a swimsuit along on upcoming hikes.
-- Charlie Cook