(Video is for atmospheric sounds and me speaking what is below. You can either watch video or just read below! Same thing!)
Cassie and I walk through about three inches of snow and ice, up a windy hill to the state park both of us have been to before. The last time I was here, it was summer. Myself and two other friends, packing water, snacks, and towels, wearing bathing suits, preparing to travel into the gorge to go swimming.
It’s February now, a new year. Every inch of every surface is covered in a fine layer of powder. Footfall amplified a thousand times by the tiny crystals of crunchy ice. An inch of snow today, and twelve inches tomorrow. We bundle up: hats, three layers of jackets, two pairs of socks, pants, scarves. We make sure to bring gloves. It’s below freezing, you can feel your skin drying, hardening, when it’s exposed too long.
Two dogs greet us before we get to the top. The second becomes our guide, weaving in and out of our legs, bringing us to the place we wanted to go, the stairs that lead up to the bridge.
The stairs get steeper as the sound of rushing water gets louder. Inside the gorge the water carves paths in the stone, eroding the walls, changing the course of the water.
The stairs connect with every part of the gorge and surrounding area. The land is manipulated by human hands. Like the water, the land is changed with it. A dam, cutting the river in half, ice piling up like sugar amidst the snow, ice, slush. An abandoned mill, the foundations still standing, signs proclaiming the land is not longer safe. To the bridge: the stairs and pathways floating above the stone, fences cutting the picturesque landscape into pieces.
The water is endlessly gushing, gushing, gushing.
Away from the bridge, from the dam, the sound fades. Again the sound of our shuffling, crunching footsteps return, the laughter never ceasing. Walking over ice, lamely dancing on the slick pavement.
Human hands have touched everything. A crumpled, half soaked pile of brochures, proclaiming, “It’s your nature” makes me uneasy. The quiet, empty land meant for cars next to a building with a sign out front that says, closed for the season, just reminds me of Cassie sending an email to this state park only to receive one of those “this address does not exist,” automatic replies.
This place feels abandoned in the off season. Empty. The only people coming are those who bring their dogs, unleashed, letting them run free among the old quarry. For some reason I like it better in the winter. Seeing it appear untouched it brings me back.
I remember why I came here, visiting the area for the first time when I was still in high school. Driving over the hairpin turn, overlooking the mountains that aren’t actually mountains and thinking how this is a place that feels like home.