On one of our weekend visits to family in Vermont, we decided to do a little side trip and check out a swimming hole. Did you know that there’s a website that lists swimming holes? Of course there is: it’s SwimmingHoles.org! That’s how Cute W found Hamilton Falls, which was a bit under two hours away from our house. It was a lovely spot,but we clearly weren’t the only people who checked out the website, because on a summer Saturday, it was downright crowded.
Okay, okay, it doesn’t look all that crowded, but trust me, there were many, many people. In fact it was pretty comical, because driving there, it really started to feel like the middle of nowhere. In between bouts of one of our favorite family roadtrip games, That’s Your House, Cute W and I kept humming the Deliverance song. And then it suddenly we were surrounded by picnickers, dogs, and kids.
I hadn’t read the description of the swimming hole ahead of time, which was too bad, because some caution was in order. Basically, there were four different little pools along these falls: two at the bottom which you see in this first picture, with our girls perched on the rock between them. At the very top of the falls there was another pool with a gigantic sign warning people not to swim there. Between the top pool and the two bottom pools, there was another pool part of the way up.
When we first arrived, the girls ran at the first trail they saw, which took them to the top pool. In spite of the tremendously huge sign stating that swimming there was exceedingly dangerous and that, in fact, at least 12 people had died at the swimming hole, a rowdy group was swimming away. No. I said. No way. M looked at the many, many people having a lovely time and went into Pissed 13-Year-Old Mode. An awesome start. We hiked around to the lower portion of the falls and the girls headed in. The pool on the right is especially fun because there’s enough of a rock overhang to make you feel like you’re in a cave, which is completely wonderful if you are a kid and makes you ponder just when, exactly, the overhang might collapse if you are a mother.
What followed was some massive parental miscommunication. I had slowly, gently inched my way into the water while Cute W stayed dry to take photographs. At one point, M seemed interested in trying to climb up to the middle pool. It seemed a bit ambitious to me, but I told her that she could if she wanted to try. She’s naturally a bit of a scaredy-cat about things like that. During our trip out west, Cute W would walk within four feet of a canyon’s edge and she’d start yelling, “Dad! Come back! You have a family!” Philosophically, I hate it when parents call out to their children on playgrounds, “Don’t climb on that! You’ll fall!” It irritates me. I think that kids who are given freedom generally find their own limits pretty well. Plus, it was a difficult climb. Between the difficulty and her general demeanor–well, this sounds lame now, but when I said that she was allowed to do it, I didn’t expect her to actually do it.
I’d also really been focused on saying no to pool that was up high, next to the big danger sign. It was nice to say yes to something that felt like it was pushing a limit without being a complete depth trap. Or, at least, this was my line of thinking as I consulted with Cute W. Except he was pretty sure that the middle pool was a death trap, too. And it was about when we were discussing this that we realized that the girls were making the climb, and that another swimming hole visitor had attached a rope that kids were using to help them ascend. At that point it felt perilous to yell at them to stop. I felt like I didn’t want to distract them, just go into support mode. So I started scrambling up the rock, thinking that hopefully I could catch a kid if she came tumbling down.
This picture must have been just after we realized that they were going for it, and I was probably sloshing along the lower pool to follow them.
Anyway, they made it up to the higher pool, although I believe we were all terrified, although only the grown-ups will admit it. We only lingered for a few minutes because the guy with the rope had to go, and without it, I think we would have been trapped there. It was even scarier coming down. The whole venture was absolutely a parenting mistake on my part. You know, some days you really nail this parenting gig, and other days, you just have to be grateful that you haven’t accidentally killed anybody!
After cheating death, we ate a picnic lunch and explored the lovely creek for a bit before heading on our way.