This story is based on a real event and takes place in a real place. Peanut Falls are part of several hiking trails at the Palisades in New Jersey/New York. Since this story, the trail has been rebuilt. I recently hiked there last time I visited home. Here is a picture I took
We had made it down the cliffs, but I wasn’t very sure of the way back to the top. There used to be a path to get back to the main hiking trail. But when Hurricane Floyd had come to New Jersey in September, he had washed out the path. That had never stopped my friends and me before. We probably hiked down to the waterfall, at least a couple of times a month, but usually, Cat was the one, who led us up and down the cliffs. It was just him and I for now. But I could just worry about that later.
It was pretty quiet at the bank of the Hudson River. The two of us were sitting on a fallen tree. The tree probably fell during the hurricane too because I didn’t remember it being there before. The only sounds were the crashing of the water lapping as it splashed on the bank and the trickle of the water as it dripped down Peanut Falls. The cascade wasn’t really impressive. The only time it was impressive was after a marginally heavy rainstorm. At the same time, you didn’t really want to hike down a washed-out trail when it was just a hill of mud.
“I think I’m going to climb the fall,” Jeremy said.
“I’ll watch,” I said.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” he asked.
“Nonexistent when it comes to climbing things. You know I’m a klutz. Slippery rocks and me probably aren’t the best idea.”
“Your loss,” he said.
We walked towards the falls. The pool in front of the falls wasn’t very big, nor was it very deep. It had been a particularly dry winter with only a few snow flurries to my dad’s disdain. April hadn’t brought us many showers either. I walked over to the stone wall to the right of the falls and sat down.
A long time ago there used to be a garden. None of us knew very much about the garden except that it used to be a part of a much larger estate in the 1800s. All that was left of the garden was dilapidated stone and brick walls built into the cliff and the remnants of columns scattered on the ground. Empty beer bottles, cigarettes, and graffiti-filled what was left of the foundation of the estate, but even so, there was something beautiful about its decay. It was one of our favorite places to hike to.
Jeremy managed to scale the waterfall pretty easily. He shouted my name from the top and waved at me. I gave him a thumbs up.
Climbing had been his thing. We had been counselors-in-training together at sleepaway camp; he spent most of his time at climbing tower. I did too. I would lie on the benches and read one of the millions of books I had brought to camp over the summer. Occasionally, I would move and change whatever CD was playing in the wooden shack. Jeremy had tried to get me to attempt to climb the tower many times, but I always said “no.” Once in a while, I would rappel. Rappelling was easier. I just had to climb a ladder, and then sort of hop down the wall, on belay. It was easier to go down then up. I was sure hiking back to my car later today would follow that same motto.
Hiking had been our thing. During the day, we would go for short hikes in the woods. We would hike to the low rope course, and play on the different obstacles. The rope swing was my favorite. After curfew, the two of us would meet up behind the cafeteria, and hike up to The Rock. The Rock had been the campout area at camp. I wasn’t really sure why it was called The Rock, there wasn’t any rock. The two of us would hike up to the campsite. Jeremy could find his way there in the dark without a flashlight. It probably wasn’t a very far hike, but it always seemed long under the guise of moonlight and stars. I would point out the two constellations I knew, Draco and Scorpius, and he would try to teach me the others. Occasionally, I recognized a planet or two, usually Mars or Venus.
The hike went up a hill behind the cafeteria and into the junkyard. The junkyard was covered with old camp equipment. There were rusty bicycles, broken down Hobie Cats, deflated soccer balls and basketballs, old pottery wheels, and faded lifejackets. Once you passed through the junkyard, there was a small clearing in the woods, and then you made it to The Rock.
We would spend most of our nights at The Rock. We were close with the pioneering counselors, who didn’t care that we were violating curfew. In fact, one of my counselors was a pioneering counselor, and the other had been a CIT the summer before, and breaking curfew was just a CIT Rite of Passage. We would toast marshmallows for S’mores. Jeremy would laugh at me because I would light mine on fire. Sometimes, Jeremy or one of the other counselors had a guitar and they would play songs around the fire. My favorite was Fade to Black by Metallica. I loved to watch the sky for shooting stars. But mostly, we would sit in comfortable silence.
“I think I’m ready to go,” his voice brought me back from my reminiscing.
“Okay,” I said.
“Thanks for bringing me here. It reminded me of the summer.”
“Thanks for visiting me. I’ve missed hanging out with you.”
We started up what was left of the stone stairs. It was going to be a long way back, especially if we trusted my sense of direction.
Author's note: We did eventually find our way back to my car. We bushwhacked through a lot of the off-trail land. About three days later, my legs were covered in poison ivy. It's also when I discovered I was allergic to poison ivy. My legs were so swollen that I couldn't walk and missed school and prom because of the severity of the reaction to poison ivy.