Summer's End: Last Swim at Whipple Dam

Things are changing. The mornings have been foggy and damp with dew. The evening's darkness is arriving earlier now. I've spotted the first reds and yellows and oranges in the trees. The sun's angle is migrating. The shadows hang differently on the grass.

One of the things we love to do in summertime is also drawing to an end. After this weekend, the swimming areas will close at all of the local state parks. For those of us who love to swim, it is a great loss. For there are often days warm enough for swimming well into October.

So this weekend, we tried to maximize our swim time. I was away on a bus trip all day on Friday. On Saturday, we had our last swim at Bald Eagle State Park. On Sunday morning, we made our way to my personal favorite swimming hole: the pretty little lake at Whipple Dam.

There was a dense fog advisory in the early morning, but the fog was lifting as we drove to the park. It turned out that the fog was a bonus, especially for me as a photographer; as it rose, it formed pretty, puffy, little, white clouds. They made for great reflection shots.

The last time we were at Whipple, on Labor Day, it was the most crowded I've ever seen it. We did swim that day, and we saw some cool critters. But it was really too busy and noisy to be considered "peaceful," a thing we go there seeking. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed, though I tried to hide it.

So on this day, the last official day of swimming, my husband suggested we go back to Whipple Dam, and it was absolutely perfect. It was probably our last visit for a while, and it was just the way I want to remember it.

When we got there, around mid-morning, only two other small family groups were there. The beach (that sandy area to the right middle) belonged entirely to us, and the water was absolutely delightful. It was cool and clean, the surface smooth as glass. It even smelled good; it was the scent of "just water" (or "just-wa" as my husband calls it). The stuff of life.

The water is always colder at Whipple Dam and Greenwood Furnace than at any other parks we know of. It's part of why we go there. While many people dip their toesies in, few swim. It isn't for the faint of heart.

But believe me, the swim will take your mind off anything and everything else. It will anesthetize your worries. It will ground you completely in the present moment. I assure you of it.

I don't usually get my hair wet; I put it up. But for this one last swim at this favorite place, I wanted the water to wash all of me. I wanted to let my hair down. I wanted to swim with my hair flowing around me like a mermaid. I wanted to get completely wet. And so I did. And the cool, clean water left my hair silky-soft, like I had washed it in rain water.

When I got out of the water after my swim, I threw my towel around my shoulders and stood along the edge, waiting for my husband, who was still swimming. I had spotted a skink with blue stripes and I was stalking it with my camera, when I saw two dragonflies enjoying a bit of afternoon delight.

I focused the camera on them as they sat linked together on the railing along the water, and then - suddenly! - Oopsie! - they landed right on my shoulder! I was trying to figure out how to get a shot of them, when I couldn't even see the picture I was taking. 

I also felt a bit indignant, I'll admit it. I mean, come on. What did I look like? Some kind of cheap fleabag hotel that rents by the hour? Honestly, get a ROOM, bugs! (In truth, I suspect the bright colors of my towel reminded them of summer flowers.)

So I snapped away and took about a half-dozen shots, which turned out mostly crooked and blurry. But I got a few winners, and the best one appears in the extras. Have a look; perhaps it'll give you a giggle. It did me.

And finally, we were starving and so we headed home for lunch; or whatever meal you call it when you have breakfast in the middle of the afternoon. Before we left, though, we took one last wistful look around.

Good-bye to the lake. Good-bye to the swimming area. Good-bye to the reflections on a surface smooth as glass. Good-bye, fancy (and amorous) bugs. Good-bye, summer.

The soundtrack: Dar Williams, The End of the Summer.

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