The joy of discovery...
Since moving to our new home in the heart of the national forest, we have made an awesome discovery-- a real-life swimming hole! It may not look like much from the photo above, but the wide spot in the middle of the image is actually deep enough to completely submerge oneself in and will accommodate at least 2 people on lounging floaties quite nicely. The creek is spring-fed and remains refreshingly cool. The water here is pristine, with a limestone creek bed and an abundance of small fish that gently nibble at one's water shoes.
This is the same creek that I can see from my windows, but the swimming hole is further downstream and has to be reached by winding past forested hills and valleys on narrow gravel roads. This drive to the swimming hole is part of the fun for me. It is way out there, surrounded by two designated wilderness areas which are part of the nearly 300,000 acre national forest. On its website the Illinois Sierra Club says, "Hutchins Creek (eligible for designation as a Wild & Scenic River) has formed a wide, flat valley bordered by steep forested slopes, rocky bluffs, and V-shaped creek drainages. This area is relatively undisturbed by humans, with a couple of old farmsteads and cemeteries the only evidence of past human usage of the land. The mixed mesophytic forest and the clean, spring fed creeks, typical of the Ozarks, provides habitat for wildlife including neo-tropical songbirds, wild turkey, deer, bobcat, and many smaller mammals."
The Sierra Club failed to note the possibility of our most recent, encounter.
Last weekend we headed over to swimming hole and there were a couple of young families there-- see the umbrella and chair in the left of the photo. When we got out of the car with Sadie, our border collie/lab mix, we were cautious because it seemed there was another dog tethered to a tree up ahead, which was odd. Most dogs we meet around here are off leash, so we were concerned that perhaps this one was a bit aggressive. My husband went ahead to check out the situation, and he came back to the car with a sly smile on his face. "It's a pig," he said. "A what?" I asked. "A pig," he repeated. I walked up and sure enough, there, attached to a long rope was a miniature pot-belly pig. I asked if I could pet him, and his owner said sure. His name was Elmer. As I petted him, his tail wagged non-stop. In fact, his tail wagged the entire time we were there. He was quite friendly and calm. Sadie sniffed him and, uninterested, ran ahead to splash in the creek.
Small though it may be, this swimming hole seems magical to me. It is a far cry from an over-crowded, noisy, public swimming pool. Out here we are serenaded by birdsong and calling frogs. I think about the early settlers whose farm houses are still seen on these gravel roads and imagine the joy and relief they must have gotten from a dip in the creek's cool waters. When I swim here I feel a connection to them. I also think about the protection of our national treasures and am so thankful for the establishment of a national forest system that preserves the sacred beauty of this area, and others like it, in perpetuity. Barring any disasters, natural or otherwise, one hundred years from now this area will look as it does today, as it did one hundred years ago. I am but one creature whose life has been enriched by the clear waters of this creek, like one small fragment of limestone scattered along the creek bed. I realize how intimately connected all life forms are and am struck by the universality of our most simple, basic needs.
Wishing you a weekend of simple pleasures.
Until next time...