Elias and I went to one of my favorite places yesterday, where the air rushes through the hemlocks and moss drips from overhanging stone. Sages Ravine cleaves the eastern face of the Taconic Plateau along the Connecticut and Massachusetts border - there are old monuments here perched on the steep hillside delineating these territories - and unlike the other celebrated waterfalls of our region it gets very few visitors on a hot summer day. Part of the reason may be that there is no sign marking the trail and no obvious place to park besides a worn pull off hard by the bridge that spans the stream as it makes its final plunge to the lowlands. The old spur trail from here to the AT is obscured by dead fall. This leaves it a special spot that locals know about: our own piece of primal wilderness.
The main attraction of Sages, besides the noticeably cooler air temperature on a sweltering day, are the dark pools and increasingly spectacular cataracts that descend the ravine. The rocks are slick and treacherous, and one is always mindful that others have taken falls here from which they never recover. The water is bracingly chill even in August, and the sunlight filters down in dappled splashes and broad shadows like the flanks of the wild brook trout. There are great boles of fallen trees that snowmelt and floodwater pile up and push down the gorge from pool to pool. It is a place of wild fascination, where in low water the stream dives beneath its bed and under hill until it emerges in a torrent from the rocky bank downstream.
Elias is six, goat-footed, but still willing to hold my steadying hand. We made out way through the laurels and the chestnut saplings to the first of the plunge pools, but I encouraged him that we would visit each in turn after first reaching the greatest of the waterfalls. This part of Sages actually has one final pool above these falls, but it is wise not to try and reach it for the climb is perilous and the water dark and deep. We stopped at the foot of this great cataract, the water still high for this time in August, and waded over the mound of alluvial stones pushed up at the edge of the water. It was quickly over his head, but not the place to practice his newly acquired dog paddle. We tried out each pool in succession, finding one that was broad and deep enough for both of us within our own comfort zones. In a few minutes we were refreshed and ready for towels and the short walk back to our car.
I used to come to Sages alone, after work, and for a time before we had children Viv and I would drop into the cool of the trees for a dip on a humid afternoon. Now my children are of an age and maturity where it is possible to share this place with them as well, to learn how to be in a wilderness of wary wonder.