The Vibram Gods only know how many miles my boot heels have seen over the years. Although many of these steps were lone introspective trips that challenge no one but me, at times the crunching sound of foot steps in front or behind me was a comfort. Over the years I have shared tent and trail with many very interesting people. My traveling companions were an eclectic mix of funky forest philosophers more akin to Tolkien's fellowship then average trekkers. At times we had much in common, at other times we were as different as stones on a beach but the one commonality that always seemed to be evident was kind regard, respect and concern for each other. I felt safe and at total ease with these guys and could be myself.
As much as Sam is my Son and Russel my Brother these trekkers were my crew. No leaders or followers, no egos or competition. As far as we knew all of our penises were the same size or so we thought and no display from "Alpha" males was necessary or tolerated.
I missed that trusted unspoken type of camaraderie. I don't crew trek anymore.
We grew up and walked different paths (and trails) the only evidence left to recall these days were some photos buried in a box deep in my closet.
Until just the other day.
Happenstance reunited two of us that had not spent time together in fifteen plus years. Tom and myself have jobs that occasionally allow us to bump into each other every ten years. It was always good to see him but we were working and no time could be carved out to really visit. On our last chance encounter he mentioned that Mike, another member of the "old" crew was in the area visiting family.
Mike had moved away twenty years or so earlier without asking permission and relocated in far off places known only to level six members of the witness protection program and Dick Chaney. But now Mike had returned to challenge a local white water river while on vacation. We did the smoke signal thing and made tentative plans to group up and do something together for old time sake.
The plan was Kaaterskill Falls........
It was very good to see my old friends again. Time had changed them only slightly. Tom and I both had fancy new medical devices. My pace makers due to genetic predisposition and lack of exercise and Tom's bad knees due to an unfortunate direct high velocity cranial impact with a rouge south bound apple pie. Mike had a steamer trunk with an enviable amount of travel stickers plastered on it to prove he was not afraid to wonder.
Just like old times we set straight to work. Plan "A" pizza and beer!We didn't let the fact that Trusty Rusty broke down or the fatal motor vehicle accident or the twenty two mile detour stop us. After a stop for lunch to kill time (none of us really needed to eat) we planned our assault on New York State's highest waterfall.
I was forced to live with an Itty Bitty Espresso.........unfair
The high steep region of the Catskills is undeniably beautiful. The trees were just showing a blush and the sky was that ultra bright blue that begged to be white. The air was cool, crisp and seemingly clean. The detour was picturesque as it rolled along the ravines and saddles of unnamed mountains ever climbing. The roads were narrow with little to no shoulders and I just had to stop to shoot a pic or to.
A look down over the side of the road found what looked like an El Camino that lost control on this narrow road some years ago. I could only hope it's driver survived the crash and I was briefly reminded of the loss of life the made this detour necessary. Life can be so short, it is important that we take full measure of our blessings.........
On to the hike. I just knew the accident would keep the hiking traffic down and we would have much of the Gorge and the falls to ourselves.................NOT!
The crowd under the falls milled about snapping shots of the hissing water. We met with other like minded nature lovers and compared cameras while exchanging well memorized lines from Eastwood's Eiger Sanction (guys with grey hair know these sort of things) as we watched a couple rappel the upper falls.
Tom wisely opted to wait under the lower falls while Mike and I climbed. His knee was playing hell with him and he needed to work the grave yard shift this night. So after being frisked for unregistered ballistic pastries, we left for the main cascade.
Places like this are really magic, the low angle light of afternoon caused a rainbow to dance across the pool under the falls.
The rock was warm and cool both at the same time depending on the sun's track. Lush greenery clung to rock that seemed to cling to nothing, the thermals shifted around as we squinted in the bright light. Everything was alive and beautiful. I was impressed by the noticeable lack of litter, testimony to the character of those who walked the rocks with us although I must say we did seem to find many abandoned articles of clothing here and about. I can only imagine the sensation of skinny dipping in such a place. The waterfall and the bright star light must have been a life changing experience to someone (or two) again the Pantheist in me calls.
While I took time for a SPOT check in, I wondered the smooth rock and admired the strange patterns in the stone.
I sent three OK messages out of the gorge, when I check later that day only two had be received. With the high escarpment behind me I was not surprised the satellite geometry was impaired. Never the less, I would have been rescued as a short matter of course. SPOT rules!
On our way back out of the gorge we had the pleasure to be introduced to Mr. Ted Hill, Flower stick champion of Salinas California. Ted did not have a juggling assistant (he could have used one) but he did have a great promoter. A rather interestingly dress women in long skirts and clogs who went out of her way to ensure we got Mr. Hill's name right.
See you on Letterman Ted.
Finding each other again after all these years was a gift. I am pleased to see my friends are reasonably healthy, happy and still doing some of the things we once did.
Just when one starts to feel old, things can happen to rejuvenate the soul.
Thanks Guys. Lets do this again real soon.
The Safest of Travels.