Picture a watering hole.
A seemingly-endless African savanna breaks, a menagerie of wildlife (or at least a stag water buffalo) stands on the edge of the chocolate-colored earth, lapping up the turbid water, hoping a crocodile isn’t lurking beneath.
Now picture a similar watering hole in Poughkeepsie. Instead of blonde grasses, there are thickets of jewelweed and grass under maple trees.
Unfortunately, Simba, Timone and Pumba are nowhere to be seen, but if you’re lucky, you might spy a womp-womp.
Though the lack of lovable animal companions is noticeable, you can rest easy, as that lack also means that there are no crocodiles in the Watering Hole.
About a half-hour stroll away from Vassar, you can find this Watering Hole.
The Watering Hole is a great place to go to savor the last bit of summer weather. Or, if you can’t make it before the leaves start falling, to welcome the spring (or at least slightly less bitterly-cold winter). But no matter when you go, the excursion will definitely be an adventure that you won’t soon forget.
Step one is just getting there.
After you get off of campus and set off towards the Watering Hole of your dreams, you have to navigate a windy little neighborhood until you reach the woods that serve as home to the idyllic little Watering Hole. If you happen to have a car or a friend with a car, the drive should take you no more than fifteen minutes, even if you get lost.
If it’s your first time going, definitely find someone who has been there before and can lead the way. Otherwise, you could easily end up wandering around the turnpike in your swimsuit (which would be an adventure in itself, maybe you could try that next time you’re out).
Step one complete.
Once you get there, you will have plenty of options from which to choose what you’d like to do.
Picnics or snack sessions are cool, if you were clever enough to think ahead and bring food. Although every now and then you will run into other people from Vassar or from Poughkeepsie at the Watering Hole, in all likelihood, you will have the place to yourself.
If you just don’t feel like getting wet today, it’s also nice to just chill in the grass.
For either of these two activities, it is highly recommended to bring along some close friends. Chilling in the grass and having conversations with friends is one of the best possible study breaks.
If you feel a compulsion to do some more adventuring, you can try to cross the entire Watering Hole by jumping on the stones scattered all throughout the water, but if you fall in, you have to start over from the beginning!
Don’t worry, though. The water is never more than slightly above waist-deep, although Maryam Pourmaleki ‘16, who was at the Watering Hole just last weekend, reports that the water level is currently around hip-height.
Additionally, the lower water has allowed a small sandbar to poke its head above water, perfect for sitting on.
The water has been know to be rather cold at times. But even then, it is still quite refreshing. If you’re tired and a little hot from the walk over, a plunge into the water will swiftly reinvigorate you.
Do be careful. The water is rather shallow and there are no lifeguards on duty, so going and diving into the water is probably not a good idea.
If you really feel the need to dive into a body of water, it is far safer to use Vassar’s own pool, which has lifeguards and areas of proper depth for diving.
Or you could wade around in the waist-high pool and play with the flakes of shale pebbles that will be between your toes.
No matter what you do when you first arrive, at some point, you really have to head to the main attraction: the so-called Tarzan Tree.
On one of the banks, right up against the water, grows a sturdy maple tree. Over time, the elements have eroded away at the tree’s base, leaving its gnarly roots exposed to the open air.
To be fair, there are many other trees around the Watering Hole that look very similar to the Tarzan Tree. But none of them have the rope swing and ladder attached to them.
At some point in the distant past, Poughkeepsie locals decided to nail some plywood boards to the maple’s trunk, forming a makeshift ladder to ease your climb to the knotted rope hanging from a branch high above the ground.
Once you’ve gotten a glimpse of the ladder and the rope swing, you’ll know that there is no possible way you will be able to leave until you’ve gone off the swing at least once or twice (although, in all reality, it will probably be somewhere closer to tens of times).
It’s kind of like the high dive at a public pool: Depending on who you come with, once you climb up, there’s no climbing back down.
At the top, you will pause for a moment, and then you will grip this—surprisingly reliable—knotted yellow rope, take a deep, deep breath of the fresh air, and launch yourself away from the safety of the trunk, letting out a crazy scream (whether you plan to or not), hoping the whole while that you look as badass as Tarzan, and drop the six or so feet into the chilly green water below.
Mission complete. You have successfully visited the Watering Hole.