Canary Falls from below
Sunday, September 21 2003
This morning I continued work extending the Stick Trail into hitherto-unexplored territory along a gently-sloping terrace that connects the place where the trail used to terminate to the spectacular falls southwest of the farmhouse of our uphill neighbors. In my mind, I've been referring to these falls as "the Canary Falls" because they are on an unnamed tributary of Stony Creek that runs near the intriguingly-named Canary Hill Road, the next right south down Hurley Mountain Road after my own Dug Hill Road.
After the blade of my bow saw broke off in a fallen tree I was clearing from the trail, I stopped work and set off on foot to see what trajectory my trail should take from there. I eventually found myself on a mystery trail leading steeply down into the gorge downstream of the falls. This trail must see some occasional human use, because it is marked by faded orange ribbon and features a prominent "No Trespassing" sign, a vintage one pressed out of sheet steel like a license plate. The gorge has a perfect V-shaped cross section, and when you're at the bottom, there's room for nothing except the flowing water.
Approaching the falls from downstream allowed me to see much more of the cascades than are visible from above (mind you, I've only been to these falls twice before, and one of those times they were frozen completely solid). Completely unseen from the top are the lowermost cascades, which are the most impressive of all. They're something like fifteen feet high and drop straight down over a thick band of especially-resistant Kingston bluestone overlaying dozens of thinner, less-resistant bluestone layers (all of which have receded further than the thicker band on top). The rock is dyed charcoal-black from the rich tea-like water, which drains from an extensive system of languid wetlands above the falls.
After finding a way up around the lowest falls, I found the falls above to be a series of stair-steps that could be climbed like those of the Acropolis. Near the topmost cascade things got steep again and the rock was densely covered with moss. I'd long since lost Sally in the woods, but Eleanor was with me, and she had no trouble scrambling behind me all the way to the top.
When I got back home, I noticed that there were a couple places on my right hand where a painful rash had developed. I suspected I was having an allergic reaction to some slimy fungus I'd handled when moving logs in the woods. Or perhaps something like a centipede or a spider had bitten me.
Late in the afternoon Gretchen got a call from our downhill neighbors Bob and Laura. Laura was calling to tell us that their 13 year old dog Schatzi, a female German Shepherd, had died the other day. She had been left alone at the house for some days while her owners had been in Nova Scotia, but two days after they returned home, their tenant (who lives in cottage on the premises) saw Schatzi behaving strangely. Moments later, after everyone had gathered to see what was up, the poor dog lay her head on Bob's foot and died, apparently of a stroke or a heart attack. It's a good way for a dog to go - it's how Wilbur, my old Labrador Retriever, died back in 1982.
Laura reported that Bob had been devastated by the loss. He'd never had a dog as long as he'd had Schatzi, and the two of them used to ride around together everywhere in Bob's pickup truck.
Gretchen decided to write a card and pick out a nice candle (a leftover from the Catskill Animal Sanctuary shindig) and we walked down the hill (with our dogs, of course) to give our condolences. Bob still seemed emotionally fragile - at least by the standards of a grown man of Germanic origin. It also seemed that a visiting cousin and mustachioed nephew were adding to the stress. Gretchen told Bob that it's a Jewish tradition to light a candle to honor the departed - and then we departed, though not in the way that called for the lighting of candles.
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