When you come across an alpine lake, the weather is hot (or not), and the prospect of a cool dip is too good to pass up, keep safety in mind.

Walk in, don't dive in: you don't know how deep it is or what's under there. Yes, it may be pristine and clear. But until you've been in it once to check things out, take the safe route.

Leave your clothes on land: keep the fabrics and products you're wearing out of the water to leave it as you found it- as much as possible.

Stay where you are safe. If you don't know how to rely on yourself for your safety in water over your head, don't take a chance on suddenly finding yourself there. If you're responsible for the safety of kids, don't let them go anywhere where you cannot safely help them.

Be aware of the effects of cold water. Submersion in water in the 50s or lower can literally take your breath away. It's disconcerting especially if you don't expect it. Dip your toe in first and be sure you really want to "do this."

If you don't know how to swim--i.e. rely on yourself for your safety in water over your head--take a Miracle Swimming class. It's specifically for adults who are fearful in deep (or shallow) water. It's not about learning strokes. It's about learning how the water works and how to prevent panic and be in control. Classes are in about a dozen cities around the U.S.

-Melon Dash

Founder, Miracle Swimming for Adults, 1983, when I joined REI in Berkeley