One Friday a few weeks ago, Darrel woke me up with the news that he had decided we should go swimming that afternoon.
This was huge! My children have never been swimming in their lives. We’ve wanted to take them, but thanks to Epsom salts, we know Zac can have FPIES reactions through soaking. Since I know of several FPIES kiddos who have reacted to chemicals in swimming pools, we decided food was more important to trial than swimming pool water and have avoided pools this whole time.
I used to be a swimmer in high school. Varsity, no less. Not teaching my children to swim has been frustrating.
This summer I made some efforts to find local “swimming holes” of natural bodies of water where people go swimming that we might take the boys to teach them to swim. I failed to find any suitable for our purposes.
Darrel finally succeeded!
So after school, we loaded up the car with swimsuits, towels, a picnic lunch, water, a blanket, and headed off to King’s River.
Slightly over an hour later, we arrived at the trail head. The instructions Darrel found said it was an easy .6 mile hike to the swimming hole. We figured the kids could handle that.
The guy who wrote those instructions was on crack.
That hike was easily 1.5 miles, and parts of it were not easy at all! Still, the kids were total troopers and never complained once. (I can’t say the same for their parents; we were loaded down like pack mules, after all!)
After what seemed like forever, we turned the corner on the trail and saw this:
Suddenly the two hour journey to get there was all worth it! Beautiful!
The boys were chomping at the bit to get in the water, but, since they don’t know how to swim I insisted they wait for us.
Darrel took a few minutes to take some pictures while I got the boys into their suits and set up “camp”. Just as I started to take off my shirt to head to the water, Darrel shouted at the boys to “Go to Mommy! Get away from the water! NOW!”
Since they’d been trying to get in the water before we were ready, I just assumed that was why Darrel was yelling. Then he yelled again.
Curious, I walked over to see what was going on.
“There’s a copperhead. See?” Darrel said.
I looked. OMG! A 3-3.5 foot long copperhead was swimming toward the rock wall, where it slithered up and stopped.
Right in the swimming hole we were just about to put our precious children.
Heart don’t fail me now!
Considering my ginormous snake phobia, one would imagine this marked the end of our attempts at swimming that day, right?
It was over an hour drive plus almost an hour hike through the woods to get there! We didn’t want to go through all of that and not fight for a chance to swim!
Besides, my self-imposed “get over this snake phobia” treatment is apparently more effective than I had thought. Despite being in such close proximity to an incredibly dangerous snake, I was not freaking out.
Kind of shocking, actually.
Suddenly the snake disappeared into the water. We had no idea if it was still in the swimming hole or had slithered through some little hole to escape elsewhere.
So we waited and watched.
Ten minutes later, there was still no sign of the snake, and two young ladies with a Dalmatian came hiking up.
I warned them about the snake and we all stood on dry land, watching. Jed and Zac, of course, played with the doggie and forgot all about swimming.
Five minutes later, more intrepid swimmers arrived. This was a couple with their 3 month old baby and one of their friends. They, too, began Snake Watch with us.
Finally, after 20 more minutes passed with no sign of the snake, the new Daddy decided to climb up to the top of the waterfall and jump in to the swimming hole.
We all cheered as he did it, but just as his head reached the surface our cheers turned to screams. “Swim! Get out of there! There’s the snake!”
He swam like a fish for shore, as the Copperhead was busily swimming directly at him.
As he reached dry land, the snake turned directions and swam up on another rock wall against the water.
Now both the new Daddy and Darrel started throwing rocks near the snake, trying to urge it to slither AWAY from the water.
While the snake was present and accounted for, the lady with the Dalmation let her dog wade into the water a bit, and we let the kids go about three feet in to the swimming hole to sit down so they could pretend they were swimming. They loved it!
Until Jed decided to be disobedient and go farther in to the swimming hole with no warning. He took two steps and hit a drop off; down he went, completely underwater! Darrel leaped into action faster than I could even think, pulling Jed out safely.
Safe, but terrified.
Shortly after that, the rocks finally did make the snake move! Unfortunately, it slithered back in the water and disappeared again. Everyone took off running at least 5 feet away from the waterline the instant Mr. Copperhead was no longer visible.
Well, folks, that’s it! All three groups of wannabe swimmers gathered our stuff and left. Obviously the copperhead was not going to leave, and no one was willing to jump in that water (again) with him.
We loaded up all our stuff and began the long, hot, hike back to the car. The kids were still begging to go in the water, so Darrel decided to walk with the boys up the creek as far as they could. Since I was in tennis shoes and not sandals, I headed for the trail.
It was a REALLY long hike back. Unlike on the hike to the swimming hole, where the kids were anxious to find the water and didn’t dilly-dally, on the way back, they wanted to dilly-dally in every decent sized area of water they found! On 3 different occasions, I simply put my stuff down and sat on a rock to wait for the boys to catch up. And yes, I was paranoid that a snake would slither out of the woods at me at any moment.
Even better was when the creek finally got too shallow and dangerous to walk in, and Darrel herded the kids back up onto the trail. They did not like that at all.
So for the rest of the hike, they moved slowly and complained constantly and loudly.
It was miserable.
When we got to the car, Jed informed us that he was hungry and wanted to eat NOW. Since we hadn’t gotten to enjoy our picnic at the swimming hole, we set up the picnic blanket in the shade of the car and ate.
Not quite what I had in mind for the afternoon!
On the plus side, that was when Zac got to eat his first ever potato chip, so at least there was one bright spot in the day!
We went home, dejected and frustrated. However, we decided that it was worth it to try and find another swimming hole, and Darrel promised to keep looking.
I left for work the next day. Sunday, a mere two days after our foiled attempt at swimming, Darrel and the boys succeeded! He found a new swimming hole and headed out with the kids.
Since I was at work, I could only enjoy seeing the pictures Darrel emailed to me. It looked like glorious fun (and made me hate being at work all the more). The kids loved it and can’t wait to go back.
I can’t wait to go. I haven’t been swimming in 3 years, after all! I only wish we had found this great place earlier in the season. We won’t have many more weekends of swimming left to us this year.
Oh, and the best part of our experience? Ever since the copperhead incident, Jed has had several bad dreams at night about “copper snakes” and falling in the water and nearly “drownding”. Though, at least he’s impressed with Daddy being “like a superhero, Mommy!” and “saving my life!” Good job, Daddy!
Have you ever been chased away from a swimming hole by a snake?