This is a view from the footpath, that might give you some idea of how steep the slopes were, on our way to the falls. Or maybe not. Those were really tall trees.
This is the very top of Kaaterskill Falls. It is hard to get perspective in a photo, but this top tier is 175 feet tall. There is a shelf, about fifty feet deep, at the bottom of this, that you can walk on. There's a shallow pool there, then the water falls an additional 85 feet to the ground. Kaaterskill Falls are taller than Niagara Falls, but perhaps with just a bit less water volume...
Anyway, here's the July 1 letter:
I think no day goes by, for the past two years, that I don't thank God for giving me the gift of my job at Robert's firm. It is so pleasant to work for such competent, decent, generous people, and my job is relaxing and fun. The best part has been that Robert and I get to work together. Our long commute have been wonderful for our marriage--we have that block of time every day that we get to spend all alone, to talk about everything and make fun plans for the future. It has been a dream job for us.
So we were EXCEEDINGLY BUMMED when, on Friday, they called us in to tell us that they were going to have to let me go because of some upcoming changes in the firm. Two of the partners had announced their intention to retire at the end of the year, then a recent Supreme Court decision has made it just about impossible for people to bring class action lawsuits against companies who lie to their stockholders. About half of the firm's business has been representing employee retirement funds against companies like Enron, to try to avoid disasters like Enron. (Apparently, having to deal with pesky lawsuits that prevent the sacking of people's retirement funds is is bad for big business.) Anyway, most of the work I've been doing has been reviewing documents for these gigantic cases. With the current case load, and nothing big on the horizon, they no longer needed two litigation assistants. Other support staff are also being let go. This is bad news, but at least I'll have three more weeks at work, then six weeks' of severance. Then God knows what. It is also possible that Robert may lose his job later this year. (We are keeping that from Robert's mother, for the meantime, because she'll fuss too much.)
This makes everything scary, because without my job, we can't afford our car payment, and without Robert's job, we can't afford our house. Even though I'm sure we will ultimately be fine, I am so depressed out about this you can't imagine. I'm sure we won't be able to match our previously ridiculously high salaries, and with two elderly mothers, we desperately need the vacation time we've both finally accrued. With new jobs you have to start all over again, at zero. But I have always believed that God really likes me, and always has an interesting plan for me, if I will only keep my eyes open for the opportunities shown to me. After all, at one point, God revealed my good pal Robert to me in a different light than I'd ever looked at him before, and you know, that turned out pretty good! I think this change is an opportunity in disguise, if only I look at it the right way.
Even having that understanding and faith, I had a pretty crappy weekend, working desperately to fend off panic feelings and depression. We went to see Pirates of the Caribbean on Friday night, thinking that might help. I have loved these fun, swashbuckling movies, but the third one was a bit ponderous. Also, I couldn't get that heroic music out of my head, and I had dreams about sword fights every time I closed my eyes. That, and worry, kept me from sleeping. I think I finally dropped off at 5:30 a.m., but woke up an hour and a half later, unable to go back to sleep.
I decided to avoid thinking about it (HA!) by keeping busy with yard and house work on Saturday. At about two p.m. I decided a glass of wine might be just the thing, and I ended the day in such a stupid state, I couldn't believe it. It was fireworks night in Beacon, so we went to the sports field where they are held. We were planning to meet up with our friend Roy and his squeeze, Anne, so I brought a big bedspread for us all to lay down on. Roy wrote the next day in an e-mail that he was sorry they couldn't find us in the crowd. I told him that was not surprising. Impaired by too many glasses of wine, I had not dressed appropriately for the after-dark temperatures. Also, my head was throbbing and spinning so much, I laid on the grass and rolled myself up in the bedspread like a mummy, only peeking out at the end to watch the quite fabulous display in the sky. I'll tell you, alcohol for medicinal purposes is a crap shoot. I felt like crap and had a headache later, but I slept like a sack of rocks!
By Sunday, I was ready to give up on feeling sorry for myself. Robert and I took a drive into the Catskill mountains, to Kaaterskill Falls (In New York place names, the suffix "kill" is the Dutch word for "stream"). It was a pleasantly cool day, in fabulouly gorgeous surroundings. In spite of a bad beginning (Robert had researched three different well-critiqued restaurants for us for lunch, only to discover that ALL THREE were closed, and for sale), we had a lovely adventure.
There are signs posted all over Catskill State Park, advising people to stay on the trails to "prevent fatalities." The hiking books are also full of dire warnings about how many people plummet to their deaths there every year. So we started on the trail through the gorge to the falls, with no intention of doing anything but sticking to the path. It started out very rocky and steep, but forest service workers have moved the huge rocks around to make natural-looking stairs. We followed those along a pretty stream, for about half a mile, enjoying the lush forest scenery. Then the terrain changed a little, and we had to concentrate on the path, that had smaller rocks and ropey tree roots sticking up out of damp and crumbly-shale earth. We finally made it to the bottom of the falls. In all, they are too tall to get in the frame of any single photo, and without much water volume. From a distance they looked like a long, wispy feather against the rock face.
We could see people walking around at the very top of the falls, and sitting on the deep rock ledge. We followed what appeared to be the trail upward, but about halfway, we started running into places where the path appeared to go in two or three directions, and there were no flash marks. In retrospect, it was easier going up than coming down because when you are focusing on what's above you, you don't really realize what's below you. It was easier to jump over that two-foot space where the path had crumbled and slid down the hill, when I wasn't looking at where that earth ended up.
At the rock shelf we were on good old granite, and had a nice chat with a couple who were having a picnic there with their two teensy kids. The kids were eating a mango and were covered from head to foot with mango bits and juice. There was a large, shallow pool of clear water there, where they could get cleaned up. We took more pictures, then started the trek down.
Oh, my God.
That's all I can say. I can't recall being so scared out of my wits than I was on that walk, except maybe the time a few years ago when Robert and I found ourselves on the freeway, with a speeding car hurtling toward us in the wrong direction. It was impossible to find a clear path, and hard to find sure handholds in soil and loose gravel that frequently gave way to landslides. I found a whole new meaning in that term, "tree hugger." We did a good deal of the descent sitting on our butts, aiming toward trees and things that might break our fall. (I have a great photo of the back of Robert's pants, taken afterwards, but I didn't use the digital camera...) We would follow what appeared to be the safest route only to find ourselves at the edge of a six foot drop-off, to a two-foot shelf, above a thirty foot cliff, with no way to go back up the way we came. It was just dreadful.
But I guess it's the kind of dreadful we'll do again.
I guess that's enough for this post. Send a line! Let me know you're alive!