First of all let me admit that no one could say that one swimming hole in the Pines is the BEST because it all depends on what the seeker deems to be the best attributes of a swimming hole - what are you looking for in a swimming hole?
Today, however was the Most Perfect Pinelands Day I could have imagined. My purpose today was to teach my Lab/Weimaraner Mix, Trixie Belden, how to swim. I adopted her in January and I think she had little to no previous swimming experience and possibly no woods experience at all. Needless to say that all changed the day she came to live with me. We are in Big Timber Creek Dog Park every single day (only missed 6 in 7 months due to weather) and at least once a week we are in the Pine woods, usually at Parvin State Park but also, we like Whitesbog, Atsion, and my personal favorite, the Cranberry Trail from Pakim Pond to the Ranger Station at Brendan Byrne State Forest (3 miles).
It became apparent with the warm weather that Trixie, despite her breeding, could not swim; that is, she probably can swim but doesn't know that she can. So, I decided that when the weather was right, and with the help of a friend, I would take her to a Pines pond, lake or river and show her that she can do it.
We started off today at Pakim Pond and by chance there was a guitarist there - YES, it is true - he was, to quote Joni Mitchell "Playing real good for Freeeee" and he was playing my favorite song, Neil Young's "Harvest Moon." So we listened while we had our picnic lunch looking at the beautiful Pakim Pond, my personal vote for prettiest pond in the Pines. Then, already dressed in our swim suits, my volunteer buddy, Barb Spector, and I walked into the black black water of Pakim Pond with our unwilling dog friend, Trixie. She will go out to her elbows and no farther, despite the examples of other dogs, and coaxing, and toys. So I picked her up at her upper torso and walked her on her hind legs out into deeper water - my waist height and her back height, and when I let her down, she did indeed do a clumsy splashing dog paddle back to the beach, where she then carefully avoided me for some time. Trixie's first swimming lesson.
We repeated this unsatisfying experiment several times and then decided to find cleaner water, Pakim Pond (posted NO SWIMMING ALLOWED) smelled bad like rotting vegetation.
On our way to Batsto, we drove through Chatsworth and found that Buzby's General Store was open. I like to stop there when I can and chat with Marilyn Schmidt, writer, storekeeper, and Pinelands entrepreneur extraordinaire. More on that tomorrow. I'll stop here by saying that I did buy the cranberry fudge with walnuts in it - there's goes the diet AGAIN.
We took 563 and stopped next at Harrisonville Lake (water hole #2) which was too crowded and I feared there might be some who would complain about swimming with a splashing and shaking-the-water-off dog, so we went further down the road to the Hawkins Road and Godfrey Bridge boat launch into the Wading River. Here the sand was clean and the fast running water was sweet smelling and cool but Trixie still did not want to swim. I coaxed her out with treats, and forced her out on her hind legs again and kept her out in the moving stream with her leash while kayakers and canoeists looked at me wonderingly. I found myself explaining over and over again that I was teaching my dog to swim, and over and over people insisted "dogs already know how to swim." (Trixie's second swimming lesson)
This was the perfect spot - not too crowded, shallow, clean and the people were friendly.
The highlight for Trixie, though short lived, was when she found chicken bones and crab shells in the crook of a tree, but other humans ratted her out and I took her away before she could get a bone stuck in her throat or intenstines, and dragged her out into the water again.
Did she have a good time (I"m not sure). Did I? YES! I loved this day. It was my idea of the perfect day.
It reminded me of those long gone days of my teen years when we would pile into the car of one of the two boys in the neighborhood who were resourceful and clever enough to learn auto mechanics so they could buy and fix an old wreck. We would drive out into the Pines and find a quarry or a swimming hole and hang out there all day. It was a dream of mine that with retirement, I would learn once again, how to "hang out" for a day, just lounge around in a summer dream. If I'd had a picnic chair to sit in the river at the Wading River put-in spot at Godfreys Bridge, today, I would have been able to do that. And I could have tied the dog's leash to the chair and she could have sat out there too.
Do you have a favorite swimming hole? Tell me about it and I'll list them email@example.com
I didn't forget Atsion Lake, I was only talking about free and off limits spots today. There are several at Batsto, but the day ran out before w could get there. Wel'll go back. Trixie still doesn't know how to swim.