Valley View to Paint Lick
By Wesley Houp
We slide in boats well after dark. Snow flurries in our headlamp beams, and the rush of water over lock 9 gradually fades behind us as we settle in to the slight headwind, swirling upriver between Cedar Point Run to the south and the old YMCA Daniel Boone Camp to the north. In no less than a mile, the wind dies, snow breaks, and stars peek-a-boo through widening cloud-faults. Backlit by December twilight, the cleft of Mary Baker Hollow breaks the dark horizon of palisade downstream. The current’s slight, and we ease along the dark water’s surface trying not to disrupt the reflected depth of universe gathered around us.
In less than an hour, we’re beaching at the small, rocky mouth of Mary Baker Hollow. Danny flashes his headlamp up the steep bank. “Devil’s Pulpit is somewhere up there. We could camp in the cave if you’re willing to Billy Goat the gear.” The thought of pitching the bedrolls in a more temperate cave has definitive gravity on a 20° and, as of yet, moonless night.