The Skinny on Dipping

Posted on June 21, 2014 under Storytelling with one comment

Mary Ann Falls

Mary Ann Falls



It’s almost time to bring the bathing suit out of hibernation.  Almost, I say, because we have had one of the longest winters and coldest springs that anyone can remember.  In a few days’ time, young children will burst through the doors of the school and face the endless possibility that is summer.  There is no better feeling in the world than being a child with two months to do nothing but have fun.

We were fortunate to have had a place to spend our summers when we were kids.  We would hop into the car with our parents and make the twenty minute drive to Bayfield.  This is where most of us learned to swim, some of us much better than others.  Our own four kids spent many happy hours at the same beach.

Some people swim year round.  When they’re not swimming in the ocean or their own pool at the house, they may be found at the university doing laps.  As part of my marathon training I used to do pool running.  It is exactly as it sounds. You simply mimic the running motion is water without the pounding on the knees.

There’s swimming and then there’s skinny dipping.

I would like to say that I am an expert on skinny dipping but I am not here to bare my soul or any other body part.  I may have swum “au natural” when I was two or three and that’s all I’ll admit to.

When I lived in Victoria I occasionally drove to the famous Sooke Potholes to go for a dip.  I didn’t know much about this place the first time I went there.  There is a river that comes down from the mountain, forming several natural pools in a step-like fashion.  The pool closest to the bottom is the warmest and is most often frequented by families with small children and senior citizens who don’t want to take the hike all the way to the top.  I quickly discovered that the higher up I went, the skimpier the bathing suits became until the final pool where no bathing suits were required.

I haven’t been there in years but am threatening to go back to Sooke to check it out.  I’m wondering if I will have the energy, or the nerve, to make it back to the top of the mountain!

I remember vividly a trip my future wife and I took to Neil’s Harbor when we were courting.  My brother was the doctor at Soldier’s Memorial Hospital.  He and his wife suggested places to swim, including all of the wonderful beaches in and around Ingonish.  Over the years I had seen the signs for Mary Ann Falls and was intrigued to go there when it appeared on my sister-in-law’s list.  She was a native of Neil’s Harbor and knew the area well.

We drove into the secluded forest glen that enclosed the Falls.  We changed into our bathing suits and securely locked the car, with our wallets and dry clothes inside.   I didn’t think twice about putting the keys in my swimming trunks.

We had a glorious swim and when we exited the chilly waters, I discovered that the car keys were missing.  Nobody could accuse us of skinny dipping that day.  The keys had to have sunk to the bottom of the deep, dark pool at the base of Mary Ann Falls.  The locals told me that I would need scuba equipment to retrieve them.  With no towel or dry clothing we walked a few kilometers to get to the highway and hitchhiked back to Neil’s Harbor.  My sister had to drive three and a half hours from Antigonish to bring us the spare keys.  Can you say, “Not amused”?

Some people even swim in the winter … outdoors.  And I’m not talking about the polar bear dips which are popular on New Year’s Day.

The story is told of two couples who got together one New Year’s Eve for a meal and some revelry.  It was a stormy evening with the wind whipping the snow into impressively high drifts.  The wine was flowing.  Late into the session, one of the men thought it might be fun to skinny dip in a massive snowdrift just off the back deck.  This made perfect sense to the other guy.  The women would have none of it.  That is, until the bribes surfaced.  In exchange for “taking the plunge”, one would receive a coveted dining room table from her spouse while the other would be rewarded with a long desired leather coat.

After many hours of silliness this all made perfect sense.  Shortly after midnight, the lights were dimmed to avoid the prying eyes of neighbors.  The clothes came off and the giggling began as, one by one, the participants, male and female, plunged into the snow bank.

“Now a promise made, is a debt unpaid” (Robert Service).  Two weeks later, a lovely birch table graced the house of one of the woman.  Sadly, the other woman did not receive her leather coat.  She did, however, receive an 8 lb. 6 oz. daughter, exactly 9 months later.

Look before you leap.

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