It’s been hot in the deep Catskills for the past couple of days, but today’s supposed to achieve a new level, one dangerous enough to sound an alert on my mobile phone. I haven’t found a swimming hole yet.
There are a wealth of magical spots to swim where the Hudson Valley meets the Catskills, but farther out, where houses are just occasional dots in the rolling farmland, they’re precious and few.
I live right down the road from the East Sidney Dam, and anyone can swim or boat there for a price. But it’s a public beach. That’s not what I’m looking for. I want the deep spots in a creek or river, or the pool made by a waterfall, or even a good, deep pond. And I don’t want to see other people.
I spent my summers as a child and as a young mother in Otsego County. Land was cheap back then, and my parents, rather than taking annual vacations, decided to make their own vacation place. First, we camped. When I was in grade school they built a simple place set far back from the road. Then they dug a pond at the foot of a healthy hill that the locals called Independence Mountain. The pond was about an acre in circumference, fed by underground springs and completely private.
Getting into the pond required determination. The soil there is clay, and the first few steps into the water were slippery. To be frank, it was gross. But once in the water, I was rewarded by a sense of isolation. There was no sound but the birds, the frogs, sometimes the distant sound of people from the nearby campground.
We had an oversized truck inner tube that served as my dock, my lifeguard, and my lounge chair. On hot days, I spent most of the day in that pond. The topmost layer of the water would be warm, but if I dove underneath into the murky, weed-filled lower level, it got chilly, then icy.
I’m looking for a spot like that. I’m willing to share with snapping turtles if I have to, as I know they always find the best ponds, too.
My neighbor has a pond, but he tells me the neighboring cows “wrecked it” when he gave them access for a few years. There is a deep spot in the creek behind town which is clearly off limits to swimmers, and I’ve seen people walking up the road in swimsuits from that area. There is a brook below the field across the street here, too, with some deep spots, but I haven’t found a way to access it.
My daughter took me to her spot on the Rondout, the last time I visited. It was pretty close to perfect. We had it all to ourselves.
No, I won’t tell you where it was. We all have to find our own. That’s part of the lure.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.