Up the trail past the third bridge, a little north of where the sound of water gets louder as it tumbles over rocks into a deep gorge, I clamber down a short, icy incline to the water’s edge. The snow was pristine and crunchy all the way here, marred only by the occasional deer or rabbit track, so I know I’m alone, but I still check up and down the trail for anyone as I strip down to the bathing suit I wore underneath my snow pants.
The sandy shore of the river freezes the bottoms of my feet as I breathe deeply and calm my mind, but the pain is nothing compared to the shock of cold that slams into me as I step into the near freezing water and sit down in it. I feel my feet go utterly numb, my hands too, and my head feels like a balloon, while the thick frigid water flows gently by and a few stray snowflakes drift down from a pearly gray sky.
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