For outdoor adventure close to home, mingled with scenic grandeur, nothing beats a winter walk to a waterfall. Such a walk is most challenging, and most inspiring, when snow covers the ground and days of freezing weather have sheathed our local streams in ice.
From the variety of fine waterfalls in the area, we chose Stony Kill Falls in Kerhonkson for our destination recently. Rebecca and I wanted to bring two other couples with us to see this waterfall, whose 87-foot drop is the greatest in Minnewaska State Park and second greatest in the Shawangunks. Since I hadn’t taken this short hike in several years, I decided to go on my own the day before.
I was really alone the day of my “dry run.” The temperature was frigid, as it had been all week, guaranteeing icy conditions near the waterfall and on the rocky trail leading to its base. I was prepared for the treacherous footing with cheap, but effective, crampons, but could not be prepared for the overwhelming feeling of awe that struck me when I stood before the frozen cataract. To say that it took my breath away might seem trite were it not literally true. I heard the crash of water well before the waterfall was in view. By the time I reached my goal daylight was starting to fade, which seemed to magnify the cathedral stillness of the place. It was necessary to clamber around large, ice-glazed boulders to get past a stand of hemlocks that partially obscured the falls from view. Finally I stood gasping before an immense sculpture of ice, snow and spray.