One of the great things about being a library book sale addict is that I get to handle about 1,000 books a week and I come across some really cool stuff. The latest example is Swimming Holes of California: Day Trips With a Splash by Pancho Doll. As a fan of both water and road trips, this book was a no-brainer purchase for me as it details more than 100 swimming holes throughout California. Pancho spent nine months traveling California in its entirety, driving more than 25,000 miles to get the skinny on the best (and worst) spots to cool off, relax and simply have fun. And he’s created a guidebook that’s not only useful and fun to read, but covers a subject/area of interest that has long been neglected, IMO.
Every swimmin’ hole is given three or four paragraphs of editorial content including detailed directions, GPS coordinates, and a copy of the USGS 7.5-minute topographic map of the area. But that is just the beginning. What makes this guidebook even more useful is his wonderful categorical icons. Each entry includes icons for: The Approach, The Season, The Company, and Overall Rating. Looking to go skinny dipping with your sweetie? Just flip through the region nearest you for the bare bottom icon. Want to take the kids to their first real swimmin’ hole? Find a black circle approach and a baby face icon.
Although eminently enjoyable to read, don’t take Pancho’s easy style and light-hearted descriptions to mean that he isn’t serious about his swimming holes. Here’s the last couple paragraphs of his Introduction to show just how serious he takes this age old tradition-
I’d even argue that swimming holes are the most complete trip to the mountains. Hiking alone isn’t. There is always space between the hiker and the trees, always a separation between us the ground we travel over. But water touches every part of the body with the perfect contact of immersion. People form attachments to these places. Several times I met parents and children at a swimming hole that the parents themselves had been coming to since childhood.
Beyond fun, there’s a metaphor here. Think of the stream as the work week, all noise and repeated motion. The swimming hole is the weekend, a place where the pace slackens, the issue gets broader and the water grow quiet enough to show a reflection.
So, whether you’re a swimming hole aficionado, a hiker, an adventurer, a lover of the outdoors, or just someone looking for something different to do this weekend, your first source of info should be Pancho Doll’s Swimming Holes of California: Day Trips With a Splash.