8-20-13 Day #962. The True End Of The Begining

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.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

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.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

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.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

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.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

I shot in every direction. I shot the lake, the river, the fields, and the mountains.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

I bushwhacked about a half mile around the lake bank just because.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

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.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

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.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

Then I looked down the river, the start of the river.

Journey's End_Source of the Hudson

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.

This is the end

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.

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6-25-13 Butter Hill- Storm King Mountain- A Yes And A No

As many of you know I am working to finish my initial work on the Hudson River. One piece of the project is to climb to Lake Tear of the Clouds, the officially designated source of the Hudson. This is a 10-12 hour climb (if you aren’t stopping to photograph) which is rated difficult. As many of you also know, I blew out my right knee in March 2012 climbing to Boiling Lake on Dominica. I haven’t climbed since. The knee is better now and so it is time to go! Now, when I was young and ambitious or stupid, take your pick, I would have driven off to Mt Marcy and said “here I go.” Now that I am not young although perhaps still stupid, I express it differently, I decided to do a few practice climbs and see if the knee is really ready and what climbing shape I am in.

It was a good news, bad news day. I really tested the knee and it passed every test. It felt and feels great. I, however, do not.  I chose to do the Butter Hill/Stillman/Bluebird Trail Loop because it starts with a challenging steep climb over very rocky terrain. You gain about 400 feet of altitude in 25 or 30 minutes of climbing.  Look to right and see 9W and the parking lot

Boro Walk

look to Boro Walkyour left and see the Hudson and Crows Nest Mountain.

After a bit more steepness you are at the top of Butter Hill.  There are some very nice views of the Hudson from here but it was a truly hazy day so I will wait for Storm King. However, I was not alone!

Boro Walk

Cicadas were everywhere. So far the climb had been “easy”. Steep and rugged but things were okay. From here there would be a lot of switchbacks and ups and downs for quite some time, more a hike than a climb.

Boro WalkThis cairn marks the meeting of two trails. I went to the right and up.

You come to some flat rocks near the summit of Storm King. Best views of the river this day.

Boro Walk

Pollopel Island with the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle

Boro Walk

Boro Walk

Boro Walk

Boro Walk

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

It was really hazy today

So while I am shooting this I get a text message from Abigail. Our internet isn’t working. What should she do?. Almost at the same time I hear a loud rumble of thunder and turn around to see this.

Boro Walk

Deciding discretion is the better part of valor I start down off the ledge immediately and just made it under some trees when the cloudburst well burst. Wiped out the poncho, put it on, covered the gear, and discussed New York City internet via text with Abigail for the 1o minute duration of the rain.

After it finished I made it to the summit of Storm King. The storm had moved north to bother Newburgh.

Boro Walk

Boro Walk

A building over a shaft leading down to the Catskill Aqueduct which runs approximately 1100 feet under the river. Notice the train behind.

Boro Walk

Looking down river

Before the trail descends into a forest you pass the junction of the By Pass Trail.  The Stillman then descends into forest which I am sure is usually quite nice but because of the rain, it was sticky, the bugs were having a field day and the trees kept raining.  Still and all, 3 hours into the hike (it would have been about 2:15 except for the photography) things were going well.  Then I crossed over to the Bluebird Trail. This was the second steep ascent. Not as steep, not as rocky but significantly longer and 70% of the way through the hike.  I thought I was going to die. It was hot, (did I mention it was 92 today?), humid and I couldn’t go more than 20 or 30 yards without having to stop and catch my breath.  Apparently, you can’t go 15 months without climbing and get it all back at once. Who knew? Finally the torment stop and I was back on the Stillman Trail. Came again to Butter Hill.

Boro Walk

and my trail map/guide said just follow Stillman out and back to your car in the lot.  THis seemed a little strange to me as I had climbed the Butter Hill Trail to get to this point but hey, they are the experts. I came out about a 1/2 mile below the parking lot and had to walk up to the lot on 9W. Kids, don’t try that at home. These drivers are nuts.

So, clearly, a good day. Lots of good things and I will definitely be doing more practice runs before I hit Mt Marcy.

6-19-13 Cocktails

In many ways this picture is the start of The Quotidian Hudson. I am in the process of “finalizing” a book of my river journey (although until I go to Lake Tear Of The Clouds I cannot say it is finished) and in writing the preface…well to quote the first line: “In July 2010, while Katherine and I were in Riverside Park enjoying a Martini and Manhattan,  a quiet sunset snuck across the sky above the Hudson. I started shooting”

Boro Walk