Here’s how it goes. It’s a hot and dusty day, we’ve worked hard, and it’s not yet time to cook dinner. We leave the cabin, pass between the scraggly pillars of young balsam to our left and robust cherry sprouts to our right. Jump the hole where we had previously dug a cooler into the ground for summer refrigeration, and step up and over the three-trunk staircase of old pine trees. We head into the woods, walking the well-trodden path along the river’s bank and the shady north slope that brings us past the old sawmill site. The land then levels out to a plateau of hemlock mixed with hardwoods. We arrive at the opposite end of the our property, and the confluence of the South Branch and Rocky Branch of the Baker River.
Here is our swim hole. A natural pool that’s deep and lined with rock; water streams in from the South Branch, warmed by the dam upstream. From the Rocky Branch, water cascades in, jumping and bubbling into the pool over rocks and boulder, much cooler and sparkling.
Early in the season, it’s a matter of much convincing, psyching oneself up to make the plunge, then getting out almost as quickly. Now, though, after a stretch of superbly hot and humid days, it’s refreshing, inviting, and oh-so-comfortable.
The sun stays shining on this spot until about 3pm, after which the hemlocks on the opposing steep slope shade out the area. Nevertheless, the place doesn’t lose it’s charm. We wade out to our preferred rock slabs, drop our towels and t-shirts, and splash our way in.
We’ve been taking regular trips of late: upon completing a project, before lunch, after lunch, upon arriving home from work, before dinner, after dinner, after weekend errands ... you name it. It’s our refreshment, our relaxation, our cool-down, our rinse off, and our luxury. We couldn’t feel more fortunate.
It’s interesting, too, to see how the swimming hole changes with storms and seasons. Just in our few years here we’ve seen big rain events leave boulders in new spots and reshape the water course. Too, just an evening of pouring rain can leave the confluence high and our favorite rocks underwater. Consecutive days of hard rain can leave the river muddy, whirling, swift, and dangerous. Water is powerful, and we don’t let ourselves forget it.
This spot completes the comfort and serenity of our homestead (in our biased opinions, of course!), offering a place of cool refreshment, and wooded beauty that balances the strong sun, physical labor, and verdant plants of our working homesite. It’s one more part of what makes our home a delight.
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