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Catskill Mountain House

Chapter 12 (continued)

From "The Catskill Mountains And The Region Around" (1867) By Rev. Charles Rockwell

 

EXTRACT FROM COOPER'S "PIONEERS,"

Volume I., Pages 105-109

"I have travelled the woods for fifty-three years," said Leather-Stocking, "and have made them my home for more than forty: and I can say that I have met but one place that was more to my liking; and that was only to eyesight, and not for hunting or fishing."

"And where was that?" asked Edwards.

"Where! why, up on the Catskills. I used often to go up into the mountains after wolves' skins and bears; once they brought me to get them a stuffed painter; and so I often went. There's a place in them hills that I used to climb to when I wanted to see the carryings on of the world, that would well pay any man for a barked shin or a torn moccasin. You know the Catskills, lad, for you must have seen them on your left, as you followed the river up from York, looking as blue as a piece of clear sky, and holding the clouds on their tops, as the smoke curls over the head of an Indian chief at a council fire. Well, there's the High-peak and the Round-top, which lay back, like a father and mother among their children, seeing they are far above all the other hills. But the place I mean is next to the river, where one of the ridges juts out a little from the rest, and where the rocks fall for the best part of a thousand feet so much up and down that a man standing on their edges is fool enough to think he can jump from top to bottom."

"What see you when you get there ? " asked Edwards.

"Creation ! " said Natty, dropping the end of his rod into the water, and sweeping one hand around him in a circle, " all creation, lad. I was on that hill when Vaughan burnt Sopus, in the last war; and I seen the vessels come out of the Highlands as plainly as I can see that lime-scow rowing into the Susquehanna, though one was twenty times further from me than the other. The river was in sight for seventy miles under my feet, looking like a curled shaving, though it was eight long miles to its banks. I saw the hills in the Hampshire grants, the high lands of the river, and all that God had done or man could do, as far as the eye could reach, - you know that the Indians named me for my sight, lad, - and, from the flat on the top of that mountain, I have often found the place where Albany stands; and, as for Sopus, the day the royal troops burned the town the smoke seemed so nigh that I thought I could hear the screeches of the women."

"It must have been worth the toil to meet with such a glorious view."

"If being the best part of a mile in the air, and having men's farms and houses at your feet, with rivers looking like ribands, and mountains bigger than the 'Vision' seeming to be haystacks of green grass under you, gives any satisfaction to a man, I can recommend the spot. When I first came into the woods to live, I used to have weak spells, and I felt lonesome ; and then I would go to the Catskills and spend a few days on that hill, to look at the ways of man; but it's now many a year since I felt any such longings, and I'm getting too old for these rugged rocks. But there's a place, a short two miles back of that very hill, that in late times I relished better than the mountains; for it was more kivered by the trees, and more nateral."

"And where was that ? " inquired Edwards, whose curiosity was strongly excited by the simple description of the hunter.

"Why, there's a fall in the hills, where the water of two little ponds that lie near each other breaks out of their bounds, and runs over the rocks into the valley. The stream is, may be, such a one as would turn a mill, if so useless a thing was wanted in the wilderness. But the hand that made that 'Leap' never made a mill. There the water comes crooking and winding among the rocks, first so slow that a trout could swim in it, and then starting and running just like any creater that wanted to make a fair spring, till it gets to where the mountain divides like the cleft hoof of a deer, leaving a deep hollow for the brook to tumble into. The first pitch is nigh two hundred feet, and the water looks like flakes of driven snow afore it touches the bottom; and there the stream gathers itself together again for a new start, and maybe flutters over fifty feet of flat rock, before it falls for another hundred, when it jumps about from shelf to shelf, first turning thisa-way and then turning that-a-way, striving to get out of the hollow, till it finally comes to the plain."

"I have never heard of this spot before," exclaimed Edwards; "it is not mentioned in the books."

"I never read a book in my life," said Leather-Stocking; "and how should a man who has lived in towns and schools know anything about the wonders of the woods ? No, no, lad ; there has that little stream of water been playing among them hills since He made the world, and not a dozen white men have ever laid eyes upon it. The rock sweeps like mason-work, in a half-round, on both sides of the fall, and shelves over the bottom for fifty feet ; so that when I've been sitting at the foot of the first pitch, and my hounds have run into the caverns behind the sheet of water, they've looked no bigger than so many rabbits. To my judgment, lad, it's the best piece of work that I've met with in the woods; and none know how often the hand of God is seen in a wilderness but them that rove it for a man's life."

"What becomes of the water? in which direction does it run ? is it a tributary of the Delaware?"

"Anan ! " said Natty.

"Does the water run into the Delaware?"

"No, no: it's a drop for the old Hudson; and a merry time it has till it gets down off the mountain. I've sat on the shelving rock many a long hour, boy, and watched the bubbles as they shot by me, and thought how long it would be before that very water which seemed made for the wilderness would be under the bottom of a vessel, and tossing in the salt sea. It is a spot to make a man solemnize. You can see right down into the valley that lies to the east of the High-peak, where, in the fall of the year, thousands of acres of woods are before your eyes in the deep hollow and along the side of the mountain, painted like ten thousand rainbows by no hand of man, though not without the ordering of God's providence."

"Why, you are eloquent, Leather- Stocking," exclaimed the youth.

 

"Rip Van Winkle" By Washington Irving  

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