Monday, October 24, 2011

BUSHKILL FALLS WAS A REAL KILLER


Every year when fall comes around, I can’t help thinking about the time my husband and I decided to spend a week in October at a resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

For years, I had drooled over the magazine ads for the resorts in the Poconos, with their heart-shaped beds, heart-shaped bathtubs and fireplaces decorated with cherubs. So in 1975, I convinced my husband we should spend our vacation there.

The place where we stayed was run the way cruise ships were run back then. Meals were served at specific times, activities were scheduled at specific times, a photographer followed us around everywhere, and we had an activities director who gave us our itinerary every morning at breakfast. There even was a loudspeaker over each bed so he could make hourly announcements about what was going on so we wouldn’t miss anything.

One of the activities listed on the morning itinerary was a trip to “breathtaking Bushkill Falls.” It was such a beautiful fall day, we signed up for it. When we arrived at the designated meeting spot to leave for the trip, however, our activities director informed us that he would lead all of us to Bushkill Falls in his car, but we had to provide our own transportation.

“What kind of field trip is that?” I said to my husband. “You’d think a place like this would have a van or a bus or something!”

Luckily, we had driven to Pennsylvania, so we had our car with us, but judging from all of the muttering and complaining we heard, most of the other guests didn’t have even so much as a bicycle. That’s when Bill, a young guy with bushy red hair, asked if we had a car – and if we did, could he and his wife ride with us? He said they were newlyweds who’d flown in from New York and then had taken the shuttle from the airport to the resort, so they didn’t have a vehicle.

The fact that Bill’s wife, Tina, looked as if she’d just stepped off the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition might have had something to with my husband’s quick response of, “Sure! Just follow us to the car! We’ll be glad to give you a ride!”

It seemed to take forever for our convoy of cars to arrive at Bushkill Falls. We thought we’d pull into the parking lot and the falls would be right there, facing us. But as it turned out, the falls were at the end of a trail through the woods – a long, hilly, winding trail.

Unfortunately, Tina had worn high-heeled shoes that were anything but hiker friendly. As we walked along, every time I turned around, she was down on the ground in the leaves.

Bill wasn’t much help. “What are you doing down there?” he asked her after about the sixth time she’d tripped and fallen.

“I’m looking at the foliage!” she snapped. “It’s all on the ground anyway!”

She was right. Our “breathtaking” foliage hike turned out to be nothing but acres of bare trees. When we finally came to one tree that still had a few bright orange leaves on it, we jokingly gathered around it and “oohed.”

Tina, however, wasn’t amused. She had leaves sticking out of her hair, mud on her jeans and dead grass all over her sweater. She looked like a scarecrow.

“I’m dying of thirst,” my husband said after we’d hiked for about a half-hour. A few steps later, we came to a narrow stream that flowed into a small pool.

“Water!” he said, making a dash for the pool.

“Don’t you dare drink that!” I shouted at him. “You’ll probably get some kind of creepy bacterial infection or dysentery, and I’m not about to spend our romantic vacation sitting around alone while you’re in the bathroom!”

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then knelt down at the edge of the pool, cupped his hands, thrust them into the water and drank it as if he were a camel storing up for a two-month caravan through the Sahara.

We finally came to a huge waterfall with a wooden footbridge in front of it.

“Walk out to the middle of the bridge, one couple at a time,” a male voice came from behind a tree, “then stop.”

The voice belonged to the resort’s photographer, who’d obviously been part of the convoy to the falls. He had an annoying habit of popping up when and where we least expected him. I was afraid to scratch any of my body parts or adjust my underwear, for fear he’d leap out of the bushes and immortalize me on film.

My husband and I walked out to the middle of the bridge, stopped, and posed for a photo. Tina and Bill then did the same.

“Now can we leave?” Tina asked, groaning. “My butt is killing me, I’ve fallen on it so much today!”

Bill cast her a distinctly fiendish smile. “I’ll give you a massage when we get back to our room.”

When we finally made our way back out to the parking lot, our mouths collectively fell open. There was no one was there. Thanks to Tina and her high heels causing us to fall way behind on the hike, we had been abandoned.

“Do any of you remember the way back to the hotel?” my husband asked as we climbed into the car.

We simultaneously shook our heads. Unfortunately, GPS systems in cars were still considered science fiction back then. And the map my husband and I had used during our initial drive to Pennsylvania was sitting on the desk back in our room.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find it,” Bill said. “We can always stop and ask for directions.”

Being lost in an area that was all woods, however, didn’t exactly give us an abundance of direction-providing souls to choose from. The only living things we saw were squirrels, and I was pretty sure they couldn’t tell us much. It took us nearly three hours to find our way back to the resort.

By then, we had missed a good portion of the “Back to the ‘50s” party, one of our scheduled activities in the hotel’s nightclub.

Not that it mattered anyway. My husband spent most of the night in the bathroom.

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