Usually, my wife and I (let’s call her Elisa, so I don’t have to keep typing “my wife”) don’t really do anything special for Memorial Day weekend. We might go to my grandparents’ house in Ventnor and hang out, but usually we kind of just sit at home. This year was a bit different.

                You see, Elisa JUST graduated with her Master’s in Nursing. It’s been a very tough couple of years, because she’s been stressed about school, I’ve been stressed about our crappy living situation, and her being done is just a huge load off of both our respective sets of shoulders. A week before the holiday weekend, two of our married friends invited us over for a couple of drinks. While we were there, my friend pitched me the idea of going up to the Catskills for the weekend, to a cabin that they were going to reserve. We’d split the cost 50/50, etc, etc.

                For the past couple of years, for something like this, on such short notice, the instinct has always been to just say “thank you, but we can’t,” usually because of some prior obligation, or Elisa having to study. This time, though, I thought about it for more than a couple of seconds. Elisa might get a job right away, and this job might not come with immediate vacation time, so we might not get to do much this summer. When I presented this logic to her, she agreed as well that it would be a good thing to do. Also, we don’t really have many friends left that live in our neck of the woods, so it’s important to get out and do stuff with the ones we still have.

                Well, the big day came, and we were ready! We met up with our friends, and drove up there in separate cars, because things would have been a bit tight for 4 of us plus luggage in just one car. We made it up there in just under 4 hours (standard for our distance), and after some comedy with getting lost looking for the place, including driving up a mountain only to be kicked off by security, we made it to the cabin.

                This place was GREAT!! The nice guy that was looking after the places let us check in 3 hours early, and showed us in. The place had a nice wraparound deck, 2 bedrooms, nice kitchen, 2 full bathrooms, and a propane grill. Oh, and a hot tub that seated 6. No…we were not exactly “roughing it.”

                After a brief hike through Pratt’s Rock, we met up with a few other friends that were coming up. After Joe grilled up some nice steaks and chicken for us, we all proceeded to drink heavily (sort of), and go to sleep, to wake up the next day.

This next day description is kinda long, but I’ll keep it as short and to the point as possible:

                In the morning, we had some coffee and breakfast, and five of us packed up a cooler with lunch and struck out for some adventure. The first place we went to was Kaaterskill Falls, a hiking trail that leads to the tallest waterfall in the state of NY.  There were quite a bit of people there, which I guess makes sense, because it’s something that people would want to see. The hike to the actual waterfall was about a half mile, but it was a bit slow-going, because of all the people, and their kids…and their dogs (lots of dogs).  We eventually get there, and it is just a fantastic sight to behold. Power of nature, people. I very much wanted to jump in, which you’re allowed to do, but I unfortunately didn’t have my suit on me. Next time, Gadget.

                We took some pictures, and then noticed that some people were continuing the hike by going up to the next tier of the waterfall (there were 3 levels to this thing). The sign said “End of Trail,” as in, “it’s your problem if you get hurt doing this thing that you’re not supposed to do.” Of course, we said “screw it,” and started going up. It was really more of a “light climb” than a hike; one or two of the girls we were with got a bit flustered and had to back down. Joe and I decided to press on. There were a couple of rough spots, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. We got up to the next level, looked down, and that’s when we realized exactly how high that climb took us. Pretty damn high.  But then, we looked UP, at the tower of water crashing down in front of us. I can’t really put into words how awesome this thing looked…and the picture I took of it didn’t turn out all that great, so I will just leave it to your imagination. It was great.

                Two things happened here. They’re strange, and probably sound trivial, but they’re worth mentioning. On the way down from that upper tier, there was a guy who was also making his way down, wearing a backpack. This backpack, I saw, had a fairly long looped string hanging down from it, which I saw as a big potential hazard (sticks and branches all over the place). I just let him know that I was going to tuck it into his pack, which I did, and he thanked me, and went on his way.  The next was when we met up with the girls and started hiking back to the beginning.  There was a kid who was quickly making his way back, and he passed us. When he passed, he slipped, and got his foot caught between two rocks.  He started twisting around, and couldn’t get it out. I’m getting worried about him snapping something at this point. So, I calmly kneeled down, told him to be still, and delicately removed his foot. He got up, said “Thank you,” and went on his way.

                I don’t know. It just felt good to help these two people. I work at a job where I seem to have little to no impact on the day to day. I’m a cog in the machine…but more of a “spare part.” Here, I may have made a difference to two people. When I was in grad school, I took the Meyers-Briggs personal inventory test. They scored me as an “ESTJ.” Long and short of that is that the most popular jobs for me would have been a police officer, soldier, fireman, etc. People who are supposed to help people. ….And I look at spreadsheets all day.

                Anyway, back to the trip!  The second (and last) destination we went to was “Plateau Mt. Lookout,” just a bit down the road from where we were. When we got there, we could see that there were not many people there at all. In hindsight, this should have told me something. The sign said that it was 1.2 miles. Sounds good…we’ll get there, take some pictures, and it’ll be great! Well…it was great for me, anyway.   

                As we got further in, we could see that the trail got progressively more difficult. Rocks, roots, and trees to climb over, at just about every step, and always going “up.” About 20 minutes in, we ran into a couple of people on their way down. They told us we only had about 45 minutes to go.  If I recall, my reaction was to genuinely laugh and say “Cool!” Some others in the party groaned. One of them quit about 6 times on the way up, but persevered after a few minutes rest. We basically climbed up a freakin’ mountain, here. JUST before the top, there was about a 7 foot rock formation that you had to scale, in order to get to the top. ..NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS!!! I kind of had to do a tricep dip, swing my leg up and over, and hoist myself up that way. We gave boosts to 2 of the ladies, but the other one, impressively, did a Spider-Woman up that thing like it was no problem (this is the one who had quit 6 times, so I was really impressed at this comeback).

                The view was, for lack of a better word, breathtaking, and it is the picture that I have posted here.  We stood up there for awhile, hydrating and admiring the view, and then made our way down. On a sidenote, we checked a travel brochure afterwards. That trail was listed as a “Difficult” hike. I am glad that we did NOT know this beforehand, otherwise it’s possible that we wouldn’t have gone. It was a fantastic sense of accomplishment, and I was very proud of Elisa for being the toughest chick in the group.

                The rest of the trip was pretty standard. We went home from that hike, cleaned up, ate dinner, and checked out the next morning. We did stop at a bird sanctuary, but they were somewhat out of birds. I think I was spoiled by the sights seen the day before, and this was just a light walk through the woods. Still a fun time, though.

Here comes the vent:   

Driving back home, I experienced that familiar sense of dread. This was now Memorial Day. I thought the whole time that we were going to get home, and I was going to hear the neighbor’s music at unreasonable levels.  …I am right most of the time with things like this….I was right on this as well.  This kind of shit just deflates me. I have tried to reason with this woman. When that didn’t work, I have called the cops, which did work. However, since it’s a holiday, I would not resort to that, because they have more important shit to do, like arrest morons who drive drunk. It’s still goddamn annoying, though. This fucking neighborhood….these people just don’t give a shit. I was even more angry and frustrated than usual, because we had JUST come back from such a nice couple of days in the mountains, and I had JUST related to her the other week about me not having as good a time at these events as I could, because I know in the back of my mind that it has to end, and that we have to come back to this stinking hole.

                I talked to Elisa about it. It seems that everywhere we go outside of NJ is better than NJ.NY is better; Catskills are better, New York City is freakin’ awesome.  …VA is better..SC is better…PA is better (except Philly; I can’t stand that place); everywhere is just goddamn better. Rather than mope about it, though, this only helps to motivate us further to get out of our neighborhood (this should be happening in a few months, soon after Elisa gets a job), and then to leave NJ altogether, which should happen hopefully within 4 years or so. My parents (my mom especially) are having a rough time handling this idea, but it is what has to be done. VA is not far away, though…Williamsburg is about 5 hours from their place in NJ, and I plan to come up one weekend per month after we move, and of course for the holidays. In the meantime, we’ll just have to see how it all pans out.