Wednesday, January 22, 2014
"Waterfall" The Stone Roses
H’s hiking adventures started out really simple with me. On our first trip, we walked down into the rocky stream of St. Peter’s Village in cold and sparse February. St. Peter’s Village is a really artistic community, at least it was, and it offers a really nice short walk just outside of Reading, Pennsylvania. The town is located really close to French Creek State Park, which also makes a nice walk around a lake. The trek at French Creek takes about 45 minutes to complete. I’m not sure if it’s much more than a full mile, but it’s nice in that you can see water lilies and Canadian geese on the lake while staying pretty much in the shade the entire time.
Nevertheless, St. Peter’s isn’t near that established, but it still is a fun place to go except for on sunny days, when there seem to be a lot of kids looking for a place to get stoned or paint stupid graffiti, the remnants of which are still visible, and for that, the creek isn’t near as pretty as I imagine that it once was when B brought me here all of those years ago to discover something interesting to do in the Reading, Pennsylvania, area. All the same, for a person who likes water movement, it’s a great place to take a camera with a serious zoom to pull in the images of the rushing water as it descends over rocks and its erodes down the stone that tries to inhibit its movement.
On the day that H and I go there, I go with the intent of looking for ice formations in the rocks and for something to do that isn’t sitting around my apartment doing nothing more than renting really bad movies for something to do. In this, the winter is really bad for leaving people with not much of anything to do, so opportunities like this, or drives to Valley Forge to see the deer after we return home from the mall at King of Prussia, do a lot to take us through the cold and nasty and snowy days to get us to the point where we can hike along the Tulpehocken Creek, which is famous for its covered bridge, flat running trail, special regulations fishing area, Berks County historical sites, Gring’s Mill park, and the blue herons that look like giant pterodactyls as the float across the skies in search of unsuspecting trout. Having all of these things together combines to create a casual walk through city style parks / nature preserves. This is not only nice for a day out in nature, but it beats going to malls and wandering around with no intent to buy anything specific.
I quickly find that H enjoys her time in these places, and eventually, we get a really nice day to go for the first five-mile round trip walk to the cliffs at Blue Marsh. This is up and down gentle hills and through the forest, but when it’s over, we sit twenty feet above the water watching the fishing boats float into some fish’s private dining room. As we intrude on this, we watch the waves ripple against the shore. Since this is our first trip of "distance," H is definitely sore from stretching her winter legs properly for the first time all year; nevertheless, it’s a good day with some pictures of the woods and each other to show for our trip.
We do things like this fairly often in the next weeks, so that we can gear up for what is next: Ricketts Glen.
The day that we travel to the Glen is a sunny day in mid-May of 2008. Just like with the trip into the winter waterfalls, this trip represents a sign of what will come in our relationship. Sure, we are happy together, and it is love, but there is this moment and what happens here does hold bearing on the future of the two of us in the most positive of ways.
Love has been blooming and growing since February 9, 2008, when the word first crept off my tongue, and since that time, it has stayed as an omnipresent growing force that made our lives together what they are. Love is a good thing. Love is the answer. Love is in the air. Love is everywhere. Love is all around. Love and only love. I love you. You love me.
Love, love, love. But still, there is a sense of the things that I like doing and the things that I need H to be a part of. There is no reason to not believe that this day will be any different, but to not be able to travel and hike in the glory of nature would make it very difficult to find things to do at this juncture of my life. As a result, a suitable sunny May Saturday comes along, and we head off into northeastern Pennsylvania in search of the adventure that will determine what she’s willing to do and redo again and again.
There isn’t much preparation to go to Ricketts Glen in the spring or summer. Life is as simple as loading up trail food, lots of water, packing the backpack, and having sturdy shoes and comfortable clothing. We have all of this, and with that, we drive up the sunny highways to Luzerne County in search of trailed adventure.
We came in through the standard highways, stopping off at Centralia to look at the fires, the windmills, and the Russian Orthodox cemetery and its Cyrillic letters, which adorn many of the graves in it. Some names have been translated to English, but others remain in their natural language. I don’t try to understand what they are; instead, I reflect on the culture that was impacted here.
As everyone who drives here seems to know, in the middle of Pennsylvania’s Coal Country, an errant garbage dump fire went out of control in the 1960s. Measures were taken to stop it, but alas, they were as successful as installing a screen door on a submarine. By the 1980s, the federal government had to step in, and step in they did in a big way. From the moment that 12-year old Todd Domboski was rescued from the sinkhole that almost killed him with its drop, its flames, and its lethal gases that were 30 times the acceptable level of carbon monoxide, there was going to have to be a new and better way of dealing with the fire that incinerated the foundations of Centralia. Just wait and see wasn’t working and lots of big plans that were enacted too late weren’t either, so the hope for a 40-day and night rain that would come from divine places was equally illogical. Hence, there was a 1983 decision to give $42million to move the town away from these sulfur and carbon monoxide vapors, but even that wasn’t accepted by everyone. The concept of "I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you" is truly distrusted and despised by many parties who literally held out to a point where they could argue that the fire was no longer directly underneath their houses, and so they had no reason to be moved from them anymore. Their plan worked or their lack of interest in being paid for their homes were ignored until recently when the government upped the pressure for them to leave their homes behind. Now, in 2013, there are still 5 loyal residents who still "love Centralia" enough to stick with it until the end. In neighboring Coyningham Township, another 5 residents hang on against these insidious plots of the federal government and the mining bosses as they stand by their man, regardless of what he does to them, because they fear that government will be coming in to strip mine the world beneath their living rooms.
H and I don’t see the fires and the smoke the way that I did when I was a kid. In those days, my dad would drive me through the town to go to his hunting camp. As time went by, the original road that led back to Centralia started to crack and deteriorate. In fact, it’s still possible to see this if a person is inclined to hike back in there, but no longer will cars and trucks traverse its surface.
In these days of yore, the smoke would stretch up into the sky all over the vicinity of the big hill above town. As a result, the smoke made it seem like whoever was walking in front of it had made it across the river Styx to the middle of Hades. The smell of rotten eggs was everywhere, and the earth was blackened and dead. The grass had long since browned, and only the rocks and trash remained to signal what had become of a small Pennsylvania mining town with a proud history of community and Molly Maguires.
On this day that I showed it to H for the first time, there were still a few plumes of smoke here and there, rising out of the black deadness of the earth above the town. The amount of smoke had gone down measurably in the past few years, but it was still there. Another five years would allow for an additional measurable decrease in smoke, and now, all that’s left seems to be a warm spot above a hole that leads into the middle of the earth.
I guess that given time, all things diminish, but in reality, it will be hundreds of years before this fire vanishes completely. Whether it spreads elsewhere or simply dies, only time will tell what the fate of Centralia will truly be.
After Centralia, highway 42 leads up through the mountains to Bloomsburg. By the time we are there, the road has passed through places like Numidia and other assorted unmarked fields and random houses until we get to Catawissa, where there is a beautiful, but aged opera house on the corner. After leaving Catawissa behind, the road curves down over the Susquehanna River and leads to the quasi-famous "Nose Rock," well, at least that’s what I’ve always called it since the first time I laid eyes on it while driving to Bloomsburg University to see a friend in the late 1990s. In this rock’s geological state of being, it always reminded me of a face with a prominent nose sticking out of the wall, pointing off toward the river.
Not that the river smells or anything, but more likely just because.
Up ahead of this windy waterside highway, as the river vanishes to the left, there are a few railroad cars permanently parked for decoration. Once they ran the tracks to exotic locations, but now, they just sit atop a bridge. If you blink, they’re gone, and with them, the road winds ahead to a very short stretch of interstate across Route 80, which then leads back to 42. This road goes through an area of mall overspill, at least what passes for a mall in the northern section of Pennsylvania, as we travel past Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel, Subway, a handful of gas stations, KFC, and some other fast food restaurants and diners as it takes H and I to a T in the road where we head left to Route 118 for the fun and waterfalls.
This is the last breath of civilization as we know it for a long time. Sure, Scranton / Wilkes Barre and Williamsport are big cities, but they’re a ways away from Ricketts Glen. There may be a few gas stations beyond this, but there isn’t a McDonald’s beyond this. Thus, it’s either gas up and fill up with food now or get what you might get from the country store or diner later.
This section of 42 is a fairly windy journey that lasts about a half an hour before we hit 118. Along the way, I remind myself to watch out for deer because there’s a better chance that I’ll see them than almost anything else that walks on two legs. To be honest, after veering away from 442, which is located right after the "town" of Millville, not many cars travel in this neck of the woods unless they’re headed to Ricketts Glen or World’s End State Park, which is another state park that is located northwest of Ricketts Glen on the opposite end of Sullivan County. World’s End is a beautiful park as well. Not only does it have an awesome name, but it also features a few waterfalls, none of size, and a superb canyon vista that allows the hiker or driver to see the Loyalsock Creek from high above the valley floor. On the sides of Route 154, the road that divides the park, the mountains surround and squeeze in the road and the creek, littering the floor with rocks and boulders over the extent of its history. However, going to see that park is not our journey for the day. It will be on other days, but for now, it’s a future thought sort of visited in my mind and unknown in her thoughts. Thus, we head east toward Wilkes Barre-Scranton, and proceed toward Ricketts Glen for waterfalls of size and stature.
Time passes as the car’s stereos mellows us out for our day in the woodland grandeur. When we get to 118, we take it to 487. This will lead us up the huge mountain with no real deal viewing area to the top of the park. The view coming down the mountain seems to stretch into infinity at some points in the descent, but there’s no place to pull over and shoot the image of it without getting killed, and frankly, I’m not into getting killed at this point in my life.
In going up to start our hike from the top, I have decided that we will go to the beach area parking lots, which are by Lake Leigh Trailhead since this will trim about a mile or so off of the hike. Granted, this means hiking down and then up again, but a mile is a mile, even if it means a little last minute exertion.
Walking in is easy. The month of May still causes the ground to feel soft on the feet with all of the leaves that are left on the forest floor from the previous autumn. Time only erodes leaves so quickly. Nevertheless, the vibrant greens of the spring glow brightly as they beckon us into the trail and all that is up ahead. This trail that we are casually walking on seems too gentle to be as destructive as the warning sign and the news articles on the bulletin boards tell us that it is, but I know that they’re true. I just happen to know that they’re truer for other people than me, so I’m not worried about them – unless I don the crampons again. Nevertheless, a part of me does hope that they don’t deter H from coming along for the rest of the hike, so while I acknowledge them to her, I do manage to play them down enough to allow us to go on the rest of the journey without too long of a discussion about what they are and they aren’t. This works.
Well, it’s either that or the fact that we’ve come so far and I’m so excited about this that keeps us going toward the waterfalls, but whatever the reason, we’re still off in search of the good things that are to come.
The path that we are walking down on from the top looks like it could easily handle an ATV. It’s smooth and manicured to absolute smoothness that could probably manage to accommodate a wheelchair. This is definitely not Jack’s Tower Road. Nevertheless, by the time that we arrive at the Onondaga, the steps will prevent a traveler with issues of walking on steep narrow trails from going further, but still, at this point, everything is definitely "gentle."
At the intersection with the Highland Trail, the stream gets pretty flat. It’s actually crystal clear for my special day with H. The stream has been decorated for our presence by logs, bushes, rocks, leaves, and stumps. It’s all so casual and naturally beautiful. Nature's charm is on early, which is good because it hooks the hiker like a Siren song. With this distraction, there is no warning of the drops and twists and turns in the stream that are to come until a little two-foot waterfall pops out and speaks to us:
"Take a picture of me!"
And so we do, and it’s beautiful, and H is beautiful in the picture, and we are enthralled by what is going to come on the steps that are ahead. It’s a gorgeous moment in a gorgeous day, but it’s kind of deceiving because here is a line of demarcation, a place where the forest gets thicker, the rocks that litter and border the stream get heavier, and the trail constricts at about the same point where I tried to balance on a log some years earlier and managed to get the back side of my pants saturated while stepping off of the solid surface and onto an unstable rock, which obviously didn’t appreciate my big ol’ footsteps.
The change in the forest is palpable, and it lets the rollercoaster rider know that the drop is about to begin, and after a series of mini falls and drops, it does, and well… it’s spectacular.
The first site of the day is the fifteen foot drop of the Onondaga, which is a perfect little woodland waterfall. It fits well with its surrounding. The dark shadows on the rocks create a chocolate brown background that is accented with tiny little leafy greens and the occasional white of a wildflower up around and above the face of the waterfall. H is amazed by this, but this isn’t the king daddy, mega waterfall that we’ve come to see. It’s only 1 of 22 drops along the route, and well, yeah… it’s beautiful, but there’s no point getting super excited about a waterfall that comes in at a 2 on Scott Brown’s scale of waterfall ratings, which I must admit is pretty right on even if I’m not sure how the FL Ricketts gets a 3 for sliding off to the side from 38 feet above the forest’s floor; nevertheless, it does, and we gawk at it from the bridge that straddles over the creek just beyond the woodland debris pile when we come to it.
No matter their shape or size, waterfalls are famous for ripping through mountains and creating gorges. In fact, every spring, the winter’s snows melt and create extra water for pushing and shoving rocks, dirt, trees, and any inanimate substance or too sedentary and unsuspecting creature downstream and over the falls. The erosive forces of nature create superbly carved patterns on the rock walls that are unfortunate enough to serve as the edges of this geological process, and with that, a hiker / photographer / daydreamer can go and imagine just how all of these things happened some winter past or some ice age long, long ago.
Today, with H, things are no different. Entire tree trunks are casually thrown into a heap of boulders, logs, and the dead remains of a once vibrant sliver of the forest. Now, this catchall of natural waste decorates the present with remains from the past. For the mighty roar of the slide, the stream slows down for everything that impedes its process. Nevertheless, a person has to understand that someday, the waters will become so strong from the snow thaw that these logs will be thrust downstream as they are floated out by the rising waters of the change of seasons. In addition, the hurricanes of late summer will also continue to carry them down toward Route 118, as they seem to have done with the log that is propped up against the Shawnee waterfall.
The Shawnee waterfalls is the next stop on our journey after the short level handholding section of the trail, which allows us to casually absorb the more rugged and picturesque streams without worrying about our footing over rocks and makeshift steps. It is a smooth section to reflect on what is, what was, and what will be.
As with all waterfalls, Ricketts Glen shows that there is a journey of movement to an eventual destination. Life is moving along, eventually tossed and turned, left in scenic places of demarcation, dropped into new worlds without regard for the past, and all the while, it is still moving through all of the obstacles and places that it travels without regard for where it once was other than these were the places that filled it up with the energy to continue the journey. This is a good thing because the present and the future are everything. Sure, history makes us who we are, and this is something that we respect, but the real journey is to where we’re going – not necessarily where we’ve been other than to note it made us who we are and helped define the traits that we take on in where we are. Here, we note that we might want to ride the ride again, but it will never be the same, so why bother? Why go back to what was? Why not find a new and more beautiful place to do it all over again in a brand new way?
Thus, we journey along through the stream to our eventual destination with the smiles of two people in love on a very good day.
The 30-foot Shawnee and Huron are bookends for the area in between them. If you look from the trail across to the far side of the creek, there is a giant wall that stretches well beyond the 30-foot height of the Shawnee. However, if you climb down into the area from the trail, you can see how the flood waters have carved out the rocks from under and beside the trail. Boulders sit calmly in the places that they were once so violently dropped, but water keeps moving around them in the same way that it moves through the rocks in the wall, which have become porous enough to let rivulets drain from them on the far side. Oh, to be the guy with the video camera who films these tiny streams forming the huge icicles in the winter. Oh, to take the days and weeks of film and speed it up so that it’s possible to see the lines widening and lengthening to the point where they are 30-foot tall gargantuan winter structures. Now, in the spring sun, they are a different kind of art, but they are still a beautiful creation all the same; it’s just that thinking about what they are and what they do at different times of the year makes me wish that I was here in winter again. With that, there’s always next year, but next year isn’t always the next year. It’s only a reflection that a person needs to be patient until it can happen, and so I am patient for next winter since I have this spring.
From the trail, the Huron doesn’t like to give a good solid image for photographers. Instead, said camera operator needs to get his or her feet wet. However, in parts, you can see the drop and the push of all the water that is above it as it is flowing into a rushing torrent that crashes into the flatness of the stream below it. The parts of the waterfall seem to reflect a journey that comes in parts, and with it, there is natural log, rocks, and leafy debris scattered around this area, too. In addition, the back wall seems to have been carved out and around so that it creates something of a half oval ledge, which is really discernible from the point I am now standing.
Looking back, H and I can see the different levels that comprise this waterfall. There is a top of the mountain somewhere in the sky above, standing nearly 100 feet above where we currently place our feet. The small slide at the bottom of this view, which is now in front of us, represents only a small part of this, but if we look closely, we can see there are at least a dozen different sections of this waterfall alone. They may not be thick, but they are present and cracked off, worn down, and broken through in how they represent the geologic history of the Huron waterfall. Above this in the middle is a sea of green all around the heavier and higher section of the Huron. This is the action part of the photograph, a perfectly natural erosive machine that slams down on this bottom waterfall so that one day it won’t be there at all. Neither of us will be there on that day, but as the earth keeps going around the sun and the waters of Luzerne County continue to pump down through this cycling process, this is a truth for the future history of the gorge that we are now standing in, enjoying our day.
Nevertheless, the Huron might be 41 feet high, but there is also the wall height above it, which was cut through by years of water rushing down over the Shawnee. It too was formed when the less resistant dirt washed away downstream and the more resistant rock stayed until it too was carved away in order to form this thick hole in the ground that I like to think of and name for the caves that are found underneath its tower-like walls.
If I ever forget how tall this is, I only have to think of my winter adventures against the staircase on my right. From the bottom, it looks like an S, which it sort of kind of is, but more than that, it’s the different levels of height and hard work that it took to accomplish a path through the unforgiving nature that was here prior to the Civilian Conservation Corps doing their part to build something accessible by the average Joe and Jane / Dan and H. And here, the hard work shows. Maybe they aren’t appreciated as much, the dirty, sweaty guys who worked to put food on their families’ tables in those desperate days of the Great Depression, but looking at places like this and Watkin’s Glen, it’s clear to see just how much effort, talent, and risk these men had to generate to build these places that so many of us take for granted.
However, when I think of what it took to build this staircase up Glen Leigh, I am amazed and thankful as can be that someone had the foresight to make this happen and to make this trail accessible for those of us that want to hike it.
The next waterfall is the Ozone. Just like with the Shawnee and the Huron, H is given permission to gawk at this one because it’s the real deal. Scott Brown rates it as a 4, and I think that’s fair since it’s active in how it flows and for the fact it’s 60 feet tall. I wouldn’t go with a 5, but it is a very visit-worthy 4.
The Ozone is a serious showerhead when it’s turned on full with the extra waters that drain down from the top of the mountain in the spring. This makes me think of what it would be like at Yosemite when those falls are gushing and rushing. To this, Brown talks about the dangers of hiking in serious gorges during the "wet" season. Ithaca Gorge, in particular, is one that he only saw from the rim rather than going into the chasm itself. Life is more precious than a waterfall picture, though sometimes I wonder if there is less of a distance in the value than we would like to believe.
Nevertheless, the Ozone is wide open for H and I, and I am glad that she can see it this way. What better way to take something in than at its best?
As for the anatomy of the Ozone, if the hiker approaching it looks closely, he or she will see that it is actually 5 sections. As with many falls, the thinness of the stream that feeds the waterfall creates a small spigot at the top. This crashing water then hits a ledge and slams over the next ledge creating a second and wider section that divides and divides and divides again. If this hiker looks at the waterfall again, he will see a sliver of rock down the horizontal center of the lower two thirds of the falls. This divides the bottom 3 sections into what waters go each way. However, waters do fall over this rocky outcropping; it’s just that if the viewer looks closely enough, it’s apparent that it’s there. With a really nice zoom on the lens, there’s serious possibility for up close water movement.
And in an instant, I am daydreaming back to that moment and the next moment that I will go back in my effort to capture the perfect angle and image of this surreal world.
Crossing over the stream on a bridge, we are led to more carved-out sections of the trail, which dig out the dirt underneath the rocks that our feet now stand upon. Is it possible that there will be a time when this trail collapses and needs to be propped up on raised platforms and bridges like the trail into Ausable Chasm in New York State? A hiker can only acknowledge the possibility, and yet, the same hiker hopes that he or she isn’t there when it happens. For all the water that flows from the Ozone to the stream below, it’s clear that it will be a wet and muddy affair shuffling through the creek and over the boulders that would accompany any crashing set of rocks and their resultant pile. With the rock wall on the mountainside, there’s no place to go around unless it’s rerouted straight through the stream, so let’s hope the preventative action isn’t needed anytime soon.
In the meantime, we’ll just take our pictures of the carved in underbelly and the dripping, moss-covered walls.
RB Ricketts is the next waterfall that we will visit on the way down. It’s a waterfall that is actually 2 waterfalls; however, the second one is actually only really active and visible when the rains and snows are chugging down the right waterfall flowing in from the side. The main falls is 2 levels of slightly complex water action. The top of the falls is a thin drop. The bottom is a ledge that allows the water that collects on it to flow out anywhere that it wants to go. Branches shade the area, and rocks and logs decorate the base of the falls itself. It’s simple and effective for a stop on this stream.
The first time that H got to see this was on a spring day with lots of water, so it looked good. However, the next time that we went in the mid-October autumn left it positively skeletal. Where our spring adventure left it wide open and rushing, the autumn saw the bottom face reduced to 25% of its width. In addition, there wasn’t much water traveling down that face to make it worth looking at. Thinking of that time, I wouldn’t even give it the 2 that Brown rates it as. However, on this spring day, I’d give it a generous 3.
There are four waterfalls at Ricketts Glen that Scott Brown gives a 5 rating to. B Reynolds is the first of those waterfalls that we will see on this day. There are four things going on with it that rank it so highly in my books. I’m sure if he were sitting here drinking a beer with me and discussing the waterfalls of this fine state, he would tend to agree. The first is the aesthetic of the forest. The rocks that are all around this waterfall blend well with the forest floor, the stream, and the trees to create something very visually stunning. For that reason alone, it’s worthy of a picture on the wall.
Second is the fact that there is a serious echo chamber behind the top section of the falls. I’ve climbed into this area many times during my many years of explorations, and on this day, both H and I walk into the back of the falls in order to touch the waters that drip in front of this sheltered area. How far a person goes into this is dependent on whether or not there is a desire to navigate over the fallen sheets of rock that are situated between the main part of the waterfall and the path that is situated before this. If you are inclined to do this, you will see some serious rivulets of water that grow into sheets in places.
The third reason is the multiple places that you can view it from. It’s visible from above as something more than a ledge that falls off into nowhere. It’s visible from the side as path you can walk under to touch the waters that careen to the floor beneath it. From below, there’s a bridge that offers a good view of what’s above.
Finally, there is the fact that the waterfall continues to flow downhill after this first significant drop over the ledge. There is a maze of rocks and logs that impedes the straightforward progress of the water coming down from the falls, and with this, it’s a visual image that makes for a final farewell to Glen Leigh, despite the fact that there’s a sort of kind of waterfall, the 15-foot Wyandott, which still awaits the hiker in the area below its busyness. Nevertheless, for as "average" as the Onondaga becomes in all of these spectacular and well-crafted mega drops, the Wyandott is also very "bog standard" at Ricketts Glen. Nevertheless, at a different park, this would be an attraction. I’ve seen hikes in Brown’s book that last over an hour and lead to falls such as this. Hell, I did one of these types of hikes in the Cranberry Wilderness of West Virginia, but here at Ricketts Glen… The Wyandott just is the first image that is seen on the right side of Waters Meet.
Waters Meet is a choice of sorts when you’re going up, but when you’re going down, it means that you need to descend more in order to see Harrison Wright, Sheldon Reynolds, and Murray Reynolds. On this day with H, they are all beautiful. The forest is lit up beautifully with the piercing light of the sun, which isn’t as strong as it once was, but it’s still strong enough to light up the vibrant greens and the chartreuse leaves that accentuate the waterfalls and the rocky gorge. The stream is alive. In fact, there are churning bubbles of froth in the nooks, and there is a log that has been gutted so that the water runs through it – the long way! I take pictures of everything I see in order to memorialize the day, and I have H take pictures of me when I’m not taking pictures of her. Love means creating pictures for framing, which feature both young and photogenic lovers.
Where possible, we exchange photo taking responsibilities with other hikers, and I get a few happy love photos of the 2 of us together in the glen. In turn, I give back some of the same to the couples that are on the trail. It’s how things are done out here.
On the rocks, the moss is soft. The water is capped with a whiteness that glistens as the stream moves down. We look at each other, and it is good. We are younger than the people that we have become, and we are in oh so completely in love. Of course, that has only grown since this day that happened half a decade earlier, but it is true. The marks of punctuation on the stream have heightened our feeling of togetherness with marks of punctuation in our lives. We enjoy these moments, not thinking too much about the exhaustion as we re-ascend past the waterfalls we have just walked to see, and we go back up toward Waters Meet, heading left this time past the Erie, Tuscarora, and the Conestoga. The Mohican comes in from the side, and the Delaware appears in front of us. The whole journey from Waters Meet has been one of ascent and sensory overload until now. But now… now it is something different.
Here I am, and I am looking at the Delaware as only a man who has seen it in winter with its icy coat and glory written all over it. It is still fascinating with its ledge and drop, but it’s not as beautiful as it was a few months before this. I take my pictures for comparison sake, and I move on up the mountain, red-faced, and leading the way since I have been here before, and it is what any polite host does.
But there is a sensation in me that this is not the best time to see it. However, I know inside of myself that no matter how much hiking we do together, I don’t ever want to risk H’s safety to see it at this time. True love is caring enough for a person to not make him or her do stupid things just because.
The walk to Ganoga is equally drained and draining. Sure, it is beautiful, but the weather is now closing in on us. The skies are darkening, and we are trying to see, but we are trying to stay dry. We stop for pictures at the 94-foot behemoth, but we move out quickly, well, at least as quickly as the steep climb will allow us to get out of the carved out area that the Ganoga stands sentinel over. The Cayuga and Oneida are small, so we move past them as if they are a hiccup in the moment, which in a way, they are. The final falls, the Mohawk is 27-feet tall, but it’s another hiccup, albeit a slightly harder one to move past due to its steepness and steps. Nevertheless, before too long, we are atop it, and we are heading into the same flatness of water that we began with 4-5 hours ago.
With this, we are at the almost end of the journey, heading toward the Highland Trail. However, the rain is falling, and I decide that we are going to take the trail on the Ganoga Glen side out. We will be skipping Midway Crevasse at the near direct center of the Highland Trail in the same way we will be skipping Adams Falls, which after Ganoga and Harrison Wright, is the final 5 ranked falls. We will not be doing anything at the bottom since the rain has put an end to those journeys. As a result, we will be walking on the road in the hope that it will be easier with it drizzling than walking in the muddy, puddled woods.
As we get to the road, still in relatively good spirits that feature no complaints or gripes, the rain has picked up beyond just drip drops. It’s coming down now, and we are soaked through our clothes. H is clad in my water-resistant windbreaker, and her yoga pants are saturated. My long sleeve Life Is Good "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" shirt has soaked through to my t-shirt. My Camelbak pack, now heavy from the rainwater that has soaked its exterior, is still full of all of the essential supplies, which are much damper than I would like. Nevertheless, we’re both there, on the road, double timing as much as 4 tired legs will allow us to as we head to the other parking lot to get to my Yaris – "the Macho Dude." It is always reliable, and it is trustworthy at keeping me warm and dry. We just need to get there. We know that the way to do this is to keep huffing, and before too long, we are there at its side, mugging for post-rain walk pictures that will remind us for all-time sake of the goodness that we have felt on this day.
And with that, I know that the shirt is right… life is good. Wet kisses are a very good thing, too, and we exchange them prior to driving off into the misty haze that is the top of the mountain.
The car starts, and we are off, reflecting on the day as the rain pitter patters on the Macho Dude, who faithfully guides us back through 487 to 118 to 42 to 80 and back to 42 and onto 61 for the rain-affected descent of the drive from Frackville to Pottsville. Another day, it will whip through the curves and the turns and the straightaways like Boris Said was driving it to glory on some NASCAR road course.
We must have been driving for an hour and a half / two hours when the rain started to break. As it did, a giant rainbowl came into view from behind the Cabelas in Hamburg.
"Have you ever seen a double rainbow?"
I nodded to the negative. I hadn’t.
Just like that, one began to materialize, as if on H’s command of having mentioned it. We pulled over and snapped pictures, completely happy that this was turning into the best day ever. The only thing left to do was to seal the deal with ice cream.
And why not?
H was a keeper.
The rest of the dream was floating on clouds. From this point on, everything was going to be headed toward the next phase of our relationship – prepping to keep H for all of my forever and evers.