on the way to the swimming hole

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…