In an effort to sort through all of my old files and pieces that I wrote many, many moons ago in undergrad and graduate school, I have unearthed this piece that I wrote about Shelving Rock Falls in Lake George, New York. I don’t remember why I wrote it, but I definitely remember writing it; this place is still a source of inspiration for me. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it a lot of ways it represents who I was when I wrote this, some six years ago…
Piles of dead leaves, newly dehydrated, crunch underneath my feet, melding into forgotten layers of old and soggy; centuries of seasons built a new layer of earth’s crust. Fallen branches lay scattered, some struck down by lightning, some broken and splintered by time. Some were burned in violent storms; the seared wood was like fleshy black scars on the crisp, solid bark. The surrounding forest encapsulates me underneath an endless canopy of trees that are impossibly tall.
I used to think if I could just reach the top of a tall oak here, I would touch the sky.
Climbing like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, I scale the side of the slick mountain. At the top is a steep climb-down the other side to the waterfall, always a tricky procedure. The path is damp with mist from the gushing falls and sticky with puddles of mud formed from constant foot traffic, making for a deadly game of slip-n-slide. Hopping over dead branches, twigs, and oversized roots that twisted their way across the surface as they ran away from elephantine trunks, I reach an enchanted clearing. Pushing thick green arms of tall pine trees out of my way, I see the skyscraper-sized waterfall which pours, smooth like silky white wine, over the beaver dam and lands with thunderous crashes on the polished rocks below.
The falls are composed entirely of delicately carved rock. From the larger boulders that served as a regal gate, to the floors smooth surface, which could have passed for the finest of Italian marble. Each layer was a floor in a naturalist’s mall; the first floor rises upward from the base of the falls and creates a natural slide from the constant pounding of water into an almost-still pool, which always feels frigidly cold. Lined with tiny pebbles it’s home to oily black leeches during those times when the falls were slow and water was stagnant. The second plateau is a photoshoot backdrop, where visitors would snap pictures with their families in front of a small oasis.
A fallen tree lays in front of a picturesque series of cliffs and trickling water.
Crawling underneath the treacherous falls, where the water thrashed down and there were no foot holes or grips, brings me to the “hot tub.” The thick coat of slime built up on the rocks makes it hard to grab hold of anything; the surface was as smooth and unabrasive as glass. There isn’t a large opening between the wall of the cliff and the falling water, so when I can’t take the pressure of the water, I plaster my face to the creases and increasingly rare dry rock folds for relief.
Eventually I reach a smooth incline, waddle upward and hold onto a boulder for support, which was more slippery and greasy than under the falls – the less water movement, the more corroded tslime.
The easy path was an icy façade.
Using my upper body, I climb over the formation and into the naturally carved tub. It’s beautifully cut by the water, whittled from time. It’s a perfectly circular pool, infinitely deep. Scattered along the walls were indents, seats carved by Father Time and Mother Nature. A steady dribble of water streams from the beaver dam at the top; an unexpected paradise in the Adirondacks, steeped in mystery and magic. The wind whispers through tree branches, the frosty waters heal, and in this moment it seems possible to achieve immortality.