Ahhhh… summer in Vermont. When Ryan and I were still living in Brooklyn I’d stand on the disgustingly hot and stinky subway platform reading Vermont Life
magazine and cry. The photos of expansive green fields and refreshing swimming holes made me so very homesick for my Vermont childhood. I knew there was no other place I’d be willing to raise my own children.
Since we moved here five years ago, we’ve made it a point to take advantage of every summer activity we can think of. Those dreamy swimming holes I missed so much now figure prominently into our weekly plans. Our kids love them for the many options they present: swim! throw rocks! hunt for creatures! We love them for their shade, the fact that they’re almost never crowded and the adventure that’s often involved in locating them.
A little rain won't scare us away.
One thing we don’t do often (read: ever) is seek out these places sans
kids. So when a friend recently told us about a little-known spot in Waterbury that she said was great for skinny dipping, our date was set.
We left our house on a blazingly hot and sunny afternoon, turned onto I-89 south, then instantly faced a wall of dark clouds. It was obviously raining where we were headed, and my weather app warned me that strong thunderstorms were moving through the area. But what are a few rain clouds when you and your husband are embarking on your first mid-day skinny dipping mission? We would not be deterred.
The ride was predictably gorgeous — this being the aforementioned summer in Vermont, which shines even under rainy conditions — and our anticipation level was delightfully high. The whole trip felt to me like ditching class to go do something mischievous and exciting. It’s safe to say that Ryan’s life is generally more thrilling than mine, but I could tell that he was feeling it, too. We were, after all, on a mission to get naked in public.
We turned onto Camel’s Hump Road and noticed that, even though the dirt road leads to just one place, passing cars were more frequent than we’d expected. Once we located the exact spot our source had identified, there was really only one thing left to do.
Ryan was the first to strip down and jump in. The water of Ridley Brook ran grey-brown thanks to the very recent downpour, but the current wasn’t particularly swift and he assured me we were safe. I spent a little time concerning myself with logistics — How can we keep our towels out of the rain? Where should I put my phone? Can that logging truck driver see my bare ass if I stand right over here? — before I took off my clothes.
Then, with our towels, phones, keys and inhibitions tucked securely into a plastic bag, I stood with my feet in the water, arms crossed at my chest. Goose bumps formed instantly all over my body. I tried the “inch in” method. I tried to imagine what it was going to feel like to be fully submerged. I tried to stall.
“You have to go for it, babe!” Ryan shouted over the falling water.
“I don’t know if I can! It’s so frickin’ cold!” I shouted back. Most of me wanted to just rush in, but the part of me that was holding back had the upper hand. That’s another reason I love these swimming hole experiences. The water will always be ridiculously cold. You have to fight the voices in your head telling you that you’d be better off just staying on the riverbank.
“Come get me,” I whined. And as Ryan made his way back over to the water’s edge, I realized that this moment was everything. That sometimes what you need most is for someone to reach out their hand and promise that you’ll be glad you jumped in.
Of course, I was glad. The murky water was super refreshing and provided a slight respite from the swarming bugs. Plus, there’s something indescribably primal about being naked in a natural body of water. I made up a story in my head that anyone driving by who happened to catch a glimpse of our shimmering wet figures would feel lucky for having done so. They would be briefly transported to a time in our collective history when such a sight wasn’t so rare. Imagine that.
I’m feeling possessive of this little gem of a swimming hole, but I fear this post would be lacking a crucial element if I kept the precise location to myself. It's at the intersection of Marshall Road and Camel's Hump Road, in Waterbury. Just promise me that you’ll never swim there in anything but your skivvies.