A little over 2.5 years ago, I started blogging about my experiences on The Hudson River – primarily through photography, occasionally with commentary.
I started the blog on January 1, 2011, and vowed to post everyday for a year, shoot everyday and visit the river everyday I was in town. I also said that I would make it to the source of the Hudson in 2011. Today is my 962nd straight day of blogging. I have not made it to the river everyday but thanks to smartphones I have shot everyday. Due to significant challenges to our family I didn’t make it to the source in 2011. In 2012 I damaged myself, particularly my right knee and did not make it to the source.
On August 14, 2013 I reached a source of the Hudson River. “A” source not “the” source? Yes. According to the New York State Legislature of 1870’s, Lake Tear of The Clouds, high up on Mount Marcy, is the source. According to mapmakers and earth scientists Henderson Lake in the Tahawus Tract is the actual start of the Hudson River at the Henderson Lake Dam (Outlet).
On August 14th, I drove out of Queensbury NY and headed up into the Adirondacks. The weather was very changeable, going from bright sun to threatening overcast and some rain and then back again. This pattern repeated all morning. The road runs somewhat parallel to the Hudson but with frequent switchbacks and side trips. You cross the river several times.
It was a slow journey as I kept stopping to get out of the car, walk and shoot but always with the trailhead to Henderson Lake in my mind. I found myself slowing down the closer I got to the lake. Luckily only two or three cars passed me during the last 15 miles on 28N then Tahawus Road and finally Upper Works Road so I did not feel rushed.
When I finally reached the trailhead of the Upper Works Trail, I made sure to read all the park announcements, walk to the various trails that led off of it and even walked back down the road about 100 yards to look over some deserted and collapsed structures.
When I really could not delay any longer, I started up the trail. I kept leaving it to go down to the banks of the Hudson, which is no more than 10-20 feet wide at this point, to shoot. I really cannot express how beautiful the park, the forest, the mountains and the river are. These pictures that will follow do them slim justice.
Soon enough I came to the fork in the road. The trail continues in one direction heading into the mountains. The path leads to Henderson Dam. I took the path. I could tell when I was about 100 yards away from the Lake. I don’t know how I knew, I just did.
I turned on the video function on my camera and narrated the last bit of the walk for myself. I have not listened to it yet but I know it had to do with three years of work, three years of life, three years of striving, procrastinating, thinking and going on instinct all now coming to a (not the but a) culmination. I came to the top of the rise and stopped, just stopped. There was the lake no more than 20 feet in front of me. There was the dam maybe 200 feet away through a field of little purple flowers. I took no pictures. I said no words. I just looked and listened. Did I not move for a minute? Five minutes? More? I have no idea.
When I finished absorbing what I needed, I picked up the camera and went to work.
I shot in every direction. I shot the lake, the river, the fields, and the mountains.
I bushwhacked about a half mile around the lake bank just because.
Then I walked towards the dam. I took over 100 photographs around the lake, the dam and the headwaters of the river. Two are out of focus. The two I took as I went towards the dam.
When I came back I thought, “ok. Time to process. Time to leave.”
Like hell. I had to get down to where the headwaters stopped being Henderson Lake and started being the Hudson. It was a steep but not impossible 10 feet down. For the first time I wished I had my old camera, both for practical reasons and sentimental ones but I had left it in the car. I slid down, jammed my camera bag, gently between two boulders and walked/ crawled over three boulders.
Then I looked down the river, the start of the river.
I stuck my hand out and just let the water roll over it right at the demarcation point. I cupped both hands and took a drink. I took an iPhone shot.
I grabbed my bag and started to scramble up. A light rain started falling. I looked up but while it was overcast I didn’t see any rain clouds. I came to the top and realized that it wasn’t raining on the river and there were no drops on the lake, seemingly it was only raining in a 30/50/100 foot circle around me. Again I just stopped and let the light rain hit me. Then I walked forward out of the rain and when I turned around it was gone.
I am not a “spiritual” person. I’m not an astrology buff, I don’t talk to the spirit of the trees, I do not go to church, I am a rational humanist and as such, I knew something very special had happened.
After I returned home, I told Katherine the story. She is a spiritual person. I like her interpretation. “What is rain?” she asked me. “Rain is the tears of the clouds. You didn’t make it to Lake Tear Of The Clouds so it came to you.” I liked that.
Then I realized that the real source of the Hudson is not Henderson Lake Or Lake Tear but rain. It falls and becomes the Hudson, the Hudson evaporates and becomes the rain and on and on.
I will make it up to Lake Tear someday reasonably soon and I will be excited, awed, and blown away and will feel many things. But, whether or no, I already have found an ending and for one precious moment in time I was totally relaxed, happy and at peace.