I’ve wanted to check out Ausable Chasm for quite a long time (here’s their facebook page; tons of cool pictures!). Of all the regional theme parks we visited as kids, The North Pole, The Land of Makebelieve (wow that video brought back some memories!), Gaslight Village, Frontier Town, et cetera, we never made it to Ausable Chasm. On the past couple New York trips my wife and I made, I made an effort to go there, but it was never in the cards. This time, we finally made it and it was fantastic.
The Chasm is located off of New York’s Northway, or I-87, between Exits 34 and 35. They’re 12 miles south of Plattsburgh, NY, and one mile north of Keeseville, on Route 9.
What is Ausable Chasm?
Basically, it’s a gash in the Earth with a river running through it.
Okay, to put it more eloquently, here are the words of Seneca Ray Stoddard:
“AU SABLE CHASM tells the story of the Ages. Here in enduring rock are the records of that dim past when in the eternity of “the Beginning” the unstable earth reeled and staggered with the pulsations of its heart of fire.
“Here may be found the ripple marks of waves that washed the ancient beach, and the pittings of raindrops that fell when the rock was in its plastic state. Here are signs of the hardening shell and the shrinking where the thin crust wrinkled and bubbled up to mountain heights, then breaking like crackle-glass, left deep gorges and ragged peaks.
“Then the mighty leveling glaciers followed to grind and polish and fill, and the floods came down out of the mountains of the South loaded with sharp flint and rasping quartz to clear the gorges and gnaw their way deep into the new rock, until, in the fullness of time, stood revealed the “Walled Banks of the Au Sable.” The story is all there, plain to those who can read its writings.
“To the scientist it is interesting as illustrating rock fracture and erosion; to lovers of the strange and beautiful, a place of wonder.
“-Seneca Ray Stoddard, 1907“
We opted for the Walking Tour, it’s about five miles of hiking (okay, walking), but didn’t do the river float. I had hiking boots on, and those apparently aren’t allowed in the rubber rafts (you don’t really need hiking boots, here, sneakers are fine). They did have some more appropriate gear in their gift shop, buuut we didn’t want to spend the money and we’ve already rafted down a couple Colorado rivers, so we know the experience…but we watched the rafters “put in,” when we got to that part of the hike, and it did look like fun!
One of the first things we saw, at the beginning of the trail, was quite curious: a fossil that showed tiny footprints and tail impressions that the sign said were still unidentified.
That captured my imagination!
I mean, here are these tiny creatures way back when, just making their way along some muddy terrain, minding their own beeswax, most likely never giving a thought to their passage (really, I can’t assume the little critters weren’t thinking about their futures, now, can I?), especially that their tracks in the mud would survive them into some incomprehensibly distant future! We were here! those tracks scream, and it was so cool to me. Tiny critters we may never know had passed by this little strip of mud in a distant, foggy past….
Another interesting thing I noticed (but don’t have multiple pictures of) were all the “pointy sticks” angled down on us! As we walked through the chasm, I couldn’t shake the whole “Indiana Jones” feel to everything, and noticing these “pointy sticks,” which were angled trees that lost their footing (and their branches stripped) as the soil eroded away, just fueled that fire! The thundering river, the ancient rocks walls, the brooding shadows, the pointy sticks…
Who was watching us from above?
What danger were we walking into?
Would we make it out alive?
Then we passed mysterious cairns….
…happened upon the hidden Nazi substation, secretly observing them as equipment was lowered into the gorge and people were hurriedly evacuating from some hidden horror—my God, what had we gotten ourselves into?
I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying we got out alive.
Anywaaay…we continued to hike around the five or so miles of trails, including the Inner Sanctum trial, which is the trail mainly depicted in the slideshow below. It ran down and along the river. The hanging bridge was part of another trail we didn’t partake (at another fee we didn’t pay), but we stood really, really close to it and took pictures. We also hiked through a dry chasm., and guess what? It was dry. No river ran through it. It was a cool hike, over and under deadfall and rocks. My favorite kind of hiking. We managed to avoid detection by the roving bands of our unseen threat from above—
Dang it. Gotta stay focused, sorry.
Upon return to the gift shop area (where you can refill your water bottles by simply asking those behind the food counter to do so…or buy a gallon of maple syrup for over $80 [hint: don't do this]…), we found a mini-museum, on the left, right before the restrooms. It talked (“Really?” you ask, “it ‘talked’?” No, it “displayed…”) about the history of the chasm, and how the recent floods had damaged the chasm; how it was rebuilt. Surprisingly, one the most interesting exhibits there to me was the evolution of the Ausable Chasm promotional flyers.
What about all the rocks and flood destruction and history of Seneca Ray Stoddard on display at the museum?
No. My “take away” from the whole museum thing were promotional flyers from the seventies.
You see, I’ve had a certain image of the flyer in my head all these years, from what I’d remembered as a kid, and I’d found it there…it was the 1971 version of the flyer. That was cool to me….
Well, there’s lots more to do there, so, we might have to make another trip to do the Zip line, foil our stealthy antagonists, and find that lost Ark thingy….
Next week, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Boldt Castle!
Enjoy the slide show!
- Upstate New York Vacation 2014 – Part 1 of …. (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- One Painting…Two Dogs (fpdorchakrealitycheck.wordpress.com)