The swimming hole: the name invokes images of abandoned beer cans, a decrepit tire swing hung on an old oak tree, and a banjo melody setting the mood. Welcome to one of my favorite places, nestled behind the embankment of the Benezzette store in Elk County, Pennsylvania. It’s a peculiar area where an otherwise shallow creek—or “crick”, as per local dialect—expands to thirty feet breadth and at least six feet deep, yet one can distinguish each smoothed stone at the bottom through pristine water.
This hidden treasure escaped me for seventeen years of living only ten minutes away. On the verge of college, my sister, best friend and I made the best of our last few days of freedom, until we were delirious, consumed by the heat. We became explorers, trekking a length of creek my father “knew” had a great swimming hole, but finding ourselves with no relief, save a foot deep of ice cold water. So as a last valiant effort, we headed towards an old party spot, an okay swimming hole, so said my friend, down a path not fit for cars.
We walked into the opening of a dream. A wide pool receives cold water, then fans out life a leaf warming in the sunlight. A rope swing hangs on the far bank and a well-worn path has seen hundreds jump despite common knowledge of just how tricky it was not to end up back on the bank or thrown into the rocks.
Even with a main road so close you could throw a stone and hit it, a thick row of trees forms a fortress against the outside world. We were so engrossed that first afternoon that we stayed for hours until we thought our parents would mount a search party for lack of cellphone service. We returned over and over in the last span before we embarked as college freshman, and while I miss those days dearly, I know that the memories and that clear blue water will always be waiting at home for me.