United States of America
During one particularly oppressive summer, the record heat drives me away from home in search of cool, refreshing water. About 50 kilometres west of Austin, on the edge of the rolling Texas Hill Country, I find a small pocket of watery paradise cut by a meandering subterranean river: the Hamilton Pool.
Thousands of years ago, the roof of a water-eroded grotto collapsed, exposing an underground lake, which is now half shadowed by a dramatic crescent overhang. The jade-green pool is like a mirage; enveloped by an amphitheatre of limestone and moss at one end, while lapping at a sandy beach at the other.
Before plunging into the surprisingly deep pool, I feel the cool air beneath the overhang. It’s refreshing but somewhat unnerving, with the weight of all that limestone hanging precariously over my head. Still, the lure of the cool, invigorating water works its magic and I slip into its refreshing embrace. Overhead, the Hamilton Creek tumbles over the rock precipice and down a 15-metre drop into the pool, creating a singularly beautiful waterfall. After a swim and an hour of lazing on the small beach, I almost forget about the heat, ready to take the shaded walk along the creek’s bank to the Pedernales River and head back home.
The number of people permitted into the pool is strictly controlled and I’m grateful this tranquil spot is not teeming with swimmers. I leave, knowing I’ll return. And when I do, I’ll be prepared for friendly locals, spectacular scenery cold, clear water – along with a desire to swim, hike and luxuriate in this hidden paradise for an eternity.