I stop a moment, before crossing the bridge, to remember swimming in the pools when I was a child. Much like the lower part of the park, the camping area had a pool that was created each year by damming up the creek. There is a kids’ pool next to the bridge and a deeper pool for adults upstream. (I think that was a wise choice on the part of the designers, to put the kiddie pool downstream.)
I remember swimming there as a kid, when camping with my parents. I remember it being full of kids. I remember lifeguards. I remember music playing from competing boom boxes. But now, the pool is closed. By closed, I mean the dam is open, of course, and the water freely makes its course under the bridge to the rocky depressions and rock-cut basins that form natural pools just downstream.
I was there, this July, and while walking with my wife, we met some young children, a boy and a girl, who were excited to tell us that they had invented a game where the boy puts a stick into the creek, like a kayak, and the girl tries to catch it further downstream. It made us glad that they were not occupied by phones or tablets; instead, they were outside in the living biological reality of the world. I was especially glad that there were still children playing in the pool area, even if it was not officially open, because it just seemed right that innocent play should be happening in a place that is so fitted for it.
We reminded the kids to be safe and passed over the wooden bridge to the Group Camping Area.
Over the wooden bridge is the group camping area where some friends of mine encountered a black bear one spring. It startled them at first, since they had children in tow. But after the initial shock, they rushed to get a photo, but it was too quick and, hearing them, it charged away.
Past the group camping area, there are about fifty stairs, but I don’t stop when I reach the top of the steps. Instead, I race up another thirty foot incline before my legs fail me. At the top is another old concrete train bridge footer, another piece of the solid concrete Stonehenge of the early industrial age. I stand at the top of the graffiti-clad monolith and look over the wide gap and picture a long wooden train bridge hewn from logs of original eastern old growth.
In a sunny flat spot near a bend in the trail there is a patch of wild blueberries where I have stopped to scoop up handfuls of tart wild blueberries. They are only ripe for a very short time. Crows call and their conversations echo in the gorge. Leaves reflecting sunlight wave and ripple in the breeze. The sound is like ocean tides.
Farther down the trail, the land flattens and in an opening in the trees one can see the Snack Bar and Pool area, bustling with children. I pause there for moment and remember the tiny white oak that used to cling to the cliff until only a few years ago. I remember admiring it.
Then under a stand of white pine and hemlock, I hop down the rocky path, jumping concrete steps secured with two rebar spikes, down to the wooden bridge across the creek, near the swings.
I look up in the sky and see it is about to rain. I can see ripples forming in the pools. Those droplets have a long journey ahead. In that creek, waters come and go. There is no end, only merging with other waters.