Imagine a muggy, 90-degree August day. You’re hiking a dusty path in the woods, sweating up a storm.
Then, you round a bend, and a swimming hole with crystal-clear water and a cascading waterfall comes into view. What could be better?
Cheshire resident Dave Hajdasz writes about hidden spots such as this in his books “Take the Plunge” and “Swimming Holes of the White Mountains.” As an expert on swimming holes in New England, the author has discovered or sought out well over 100 of these oases.
Hajdasz’s writing adventure began in the 1990s, when he found a website about swimming holes around the country. An avid swimmer, he started checking some out and writing about them for the website. Before Hajdasz knew it, he was managing the Connecticut portion for the site and soon enough was writing about all of New England.
It didn’t take long for a Vermont publisher of outdoor lifestyle books to contact Hajdasz. Initially, the publisher wanted photos for a swimming hole book he was working on with another writer. Hearing nothing after two years, Hajdasz decided to contact the publisher. “Hey, did you ever write that book?” he asked. The publisher, in fact, never did.
When the editor asked if he wanted to write the book, Hajdasz agreed to take on the project. While his qualifications to pen a book were limited — he’d written a college thesis on “Gas phase iron molecules in chemistry” — he decided to give it a go.
Hajdasz said the format made it easy to weave a nice little story for readers, with the book’s one-page descriptions and a photo. Most of the photos feature members of his own family or friends and their kids.
In 2012, the Vermont book — “Take the Plunge” — came out and was well received, Hajdasz said. Both the Vermont and New Hampshire “White Mountains” swimming holes book have updated information in their second editions. The titles are sold in bookstores throughout New England and on Amazon.
While Hajdasz prefers remote and isolated swimming holes himself, he caters to all tastes in his books. There is no rating scale, but he said iconic swimming holes conjure up visions of clear water, a majestic waterfall, a secluded grotto, or a great view. “That’s a bonus,” he said.
Other great features include a combination of large and small pools, those with rocks to jump off of, and serene pools, as well as sections for both small kids and older ones.
In his books, Hajdasz details a number of areas that are easy to find and access. He’s driven to explore by “the thrill of finding a new place” but he also enjoys revisiting his favorites, which include these “must-see” locales: New Hampshire’s Emerald Pool in the Evans Notch area of the White Mountain National Forest; Middle Ammononoosuc, located in Bretton Woods near Mt. Washington; and Paradise on the Sawyer River.
Hajdasz notes the “easy walk” to get to Emerald Pool, which has many of the essential elements for a perfect swimming hole, including impeccably clear water. Middle Ammononoosuc is rugged terrain with interesting rock formations. “It takes a lot of courage to swim there,” said Hajdasz. As for Paradise, it might be difficult to find, but the place lives up to its name. The pool is deep and the surroundings include huge boulders and a waterfall. Paradise is located west of Bartlett, New Hampshire.
Vermont’s selections of swimming holes are categorized into northern, central, and southern reaches. One that is closest to Connecticut is the Timber Crib Dam, a national historic site, located in Guilford, Vermont. The dam is made up of timbers and is one of the most picturesque places you can imagine, said Hajdasz.
“Water just falls in sheets over this dam, the swimming hole is below it, and there’s a secret compartment. If you go through the waterfall, you can go under the dam,” he said.
Anything in the Mad River area of central Vermont is a good choice, and in northern Vermont, Three Holes in Montgomery Center is Hajdasz’s pick for one of his ultimate swimming holes.
“It’s beyond words. I can’t describe it,” he said.