In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t worked at a regular, full-time office job for very long, so the concept of getting paid holidays like President’s Day off is still a novelty. I decided to use my unplanned-for day off for a staycation, and finally explored the nearby Palisades-Kepler State Park.
It was an overcast, drizzly day, and I had the park nearly all to myself.
It’s funny, I used to explore the outdoors alone all the time. After you fall out of the habit, though, and are constantly amusing yourself with your phone, your books, your friends, your stuff, your local restaurants and bars, your Netflix, your to-do list, your craft projects, you view an unstructured, unplugged chunk of time in the outdoors as a bit daunting.
“But what will I do?” you ask yourself. “I’ll get bored of walking around for an hour, probably.”
Then you drive far enough that your phone signals weakens and dies, you step out of the car, zip up your rain jacket, and you fall back into yourself. You listen to the geese. You admire the bluffs and the leafless trees. You climb a large, fallen tree. You get to a point where you can’t comfortably turn around to go back down, so you sit and pretend to admire the scenery until the dude walking his dog gets out of view, then you can butt-scoot down past the knot until you can stand and balance-beam-walk back down to the sandy shore.
Palisades rewards curiosity. The narrow dirt paths wind past green, mossy boulders and meld into stone steps, taking you up a hill to a river overlook, or down along a root-twisted path right above the river’s edge.
The park is a good example of nature and human-made structures working in harmony. The steps leading up the steep hills seem as natural as the bluffs beside them, and pretty stone or wood bridges guide hikers over ravines. I have to wonder if this park was the work of the CCC (The Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the best things to come out of the New Deal during the Great Depression), if these sturdy bridges and scenic limestone shelters have stood since the 1930s.
It rained off and on during my visit. As the rain went from a light patter to a heavy downpour, I sought shelter in the shelter pictured above. And yes, it did smell like piss and was heavily graffitied, marked with deep grooves in the woods and the stone, marked with Sharpie art and scribbled pencil. Please enjoy this photo collection of some of the shelter’s graffiti highlights:
You could tell by the graffiti the nighttime use this spot gets. A lover’s nest, a Wiccan ritual site (it’s hard to see on my photo of the compass etching, but some teen witches had attempted to turn it into a pentacle/magic circle, with the words “Love”, “Peace”, “Goddess”, and “Integrity” written between each of the four directions), a stone sketchbook for erotic fairy art, a Stoner Palace, a corner to piss in, a scenic outlook…the choice is yours!
As the rain died down, I was able to wander once more, contented wind down trails and slowly find my way back to my car, getting lost several times along the way. It turns out getting lost in a state park is a perfect way to spend a holiday afternoon.