Not going swimmingly: A (hypothetical) attempt to skinny dip past the law in the Delaware Water Gap

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Say that all a totally hypothetical Philadelphia guy (or gal) wanted to do this past weekend was to take in a nice, pastoral scene from the comfort of a warm, aquatic dip: go inner-tubing, say, down the relatively nearby and exquisite Delaware Water Gap. Say he’d already made the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Stroudsburg, Pa., in pursuit of this goal — when he realized that the Delaware River, the whole river, was “closed” due to high water levels resulting from Hurricane Irene, as was the case this past Friday.

But this man’s (or woman’s) itch to swim was strong: so strong, let’s say, that he decided to try his luck hiking a few miles through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to Catfish Pond, a scenic watering hole in which swimming is allowed — only to discover that the park, too, was closed, except for the small portion comprising the Worthington State Forest. That forest is home to Sunfish Pond, a deep glacial lake near the Appalachian Trail, in which swimming is prohibited.

Say he marched on anyway, a couple of hours up the un-peopled trail, arrived at the pond and, seeing no one around, said, “To hell with it!” and, flinging off every shred of clothing, began wading into the quiet, calm, warm water as the setting sun bathed the ancient pond in deep yellows and pinks — when suddenly a “Hey there” sounded from above, the voice adding, “Don’t worry, I’m not coming down any farther.”

It would likely have belonged not to a park ranger, as the hypothetical man might have feared, but a New Jersey “Ridge Runner,” one of three volunteer caretakers of that state’s portion of the Appalachian Trail.

“I’m sorry to have spoiled your afternoon,” the kindly bearded man might have said almost apologetically. “One person swimming here probably wouldn’t hurt anything, but imagine if everyone did it.”

It would have been, we suspect, a long, dark trudge back down the path.

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