Day Out at Stony Brook

by Mary Clista Dahl

There is no better way to start a day than with an early morning text from a friend that reads, “Any interest in taking a ride to the park today?”  It took us less than an hour to pack the bag and round up the dog and head for the thruway.  In transit we debated over two destinations, one close and familiar, the other farther but new; both with hiking trails and waterfalls.  New and exciting won.

We arrived at the park and did the slow cruise, scoping out the layout and finding the best spot to leave the car.  There were trails marked on either side of the tiered waterfalls, and we decided on the west gorge trail.  We scaled the paths that bordered the creek, heading toward the sound of the running water.  When we arrived, we were disappointed to find signs forbidding entrance to the creek bed.  We understood, but the golden retriever was indignant.  Back on the path, we admired the defined rock striations and the foliage that grew out of them. In an amazing act of defiance, trees steadfastly remained upright even with most of their roots exposed from the rocks.  The greenery thrived; poison ivy, ferns, moss.

Our climb brought us higher to more intense waterfalls.  At the tallest one, there were people in the plunge pool taking advantage of the splendor.  At best this was four feet deep, great for a natural wading experience.  This was for obvious reasons a popular destination.  Everywhere you turned, selfies were being created. The rocks that lined the floor of the pool and the creek bed were much different than what the walls were made of.  Thousands of colorful pebbles, rocks and boulders, mostly smooth and round decorated the bed.  Several giant rectangular ones were scattered about.  These I consider to be nature’s furniture, so I plopped myself down on one and took in the paradise.  I admired the position of all of the stones and marveled that each one has its place and will lie perfectly still until some animal, current or human disturbs it.   This brought me to notice a father guiding his toddler son by the hand to a stable rock.  When they stood still the boy immediately and instinctively picked up the nearest small rock and heaved it into the water, living for the rewarding splash.  Over and over and over. Some folks were dangling their feet, others skimming stones.  The retriever contentedly paddled after a stick as far as leash length would let her.  Virtually everyone was smiling.

We all enjoyed the gifts of nature until the ranger came and reminded us that we were not permitted to be there.  He was kind in his direction, and I like to believe that he watched quietly from the woods and allowed our joy to play out for awhile before doing his job.

We crested the trail and headed back down again, stopping often to admire the elevation and the vista of tree canopies and waterfalls and the valley down below. All the way enjoying polite hellos from friendly hikers, bird calls and the meditative sound of the leaves shifting together in the subtle summer breeze. Tranquility.

This vanished at the end of the trail where the overcrowded snack bar and playground awaited.  We found a bench to replenish our energy, soak up the sun and people watch over lunch.  We remarked on the evidence before us of the blessings of the environment being passed on from generation to generation.  Whether by intentional parental influence or osmosis through walks in the woods, children were learning about Mother Nature, so kind, so giving, so patient.

Am I interested in going to the park today? Indeed, today and any day.