Reflections on my Trip to Arkwright Falls


When I was young, my father and Mr. Dyer were Sunday School teachers at our church, Ivory, NY (need a really good map to find that place). The two of them took several of us boys, students in their classes, camping. We set up tents on some state land a mile (more or less) from Arkwright Falls. We had a great time hanging around the campfire roasting marshmallows, swatting mosquitoes, and doing other campish things. We slept, tightly packed, in our little tents. The night was cool, but not too cold. In the morning, we ate our Spartan breakfast. Learning how to make toast using a stick and a fire was interesting. Then we prepared for our hike.

Arkwright Falls is not the largest falls around. It is fifty miles away from much larger Niagara Falls. But there are no people at Arkwright Falls– just river, forest, and falls. The Falls are on no map that I have seen. People near it know where it is. Sometimes the serenity and peace is more important than what is the biggest and the “best”. We had a great hike. We goofed around, as kids are prone to do. Although out in the wilds, the dirt path there was smooth and straight.

The water sure was ice cold, but the day was hot and bright., so it felt great!! We stayed and swam and splashed in the pool at the foot of the falls. In movies I have seen, people seem to be compelled to go to the top of the falls and jump off into the pool below. But since there was no movie being done there that day, we did not do anything particularly death-defying. Besides, I doubt my dad would have let us.

One can only appreciate a waterfall, large or small, for so long. Eventually, it was time to start going back to our campsite to pack for home. We were all soaked now. Our canvas top sneakers “squished” as our wet feet “squooshed” in them, sockless.

Some of us started walking and jogging faster than the rest and in a friendly sort of way we became a bit competitive. Competitive may be the wrong word, but gradually I came to the conclusion that I would win (who knows what?) if I made it to the campsite first. So I started moving faster and faster. Soon I was jogging along at a pretty good pace. It became apparent that the return trip would not be as fun as the trip over. The sun was high now in the heat of the day and the sweat generated from running soon attracted happy little bugs of the forest. I also was not one who particularly enjoyed running. Years later, two years on High School track only further clarified my general dislike of running.

Weary, hot, and buggy I arrived at the campsite first. I had won. Looking back I discovered that there was no one else racing. I had raced myself while everyone else was having a merry stroll along the path. Worse, I discovered a problem with running sockless in wet canvas-top sneakers. My ankles were heavily abraded and I was bleeding. Eventually, everyone else came along happy and relaxed. We packed up and left.

Yes, I know. This was one of the most boring stories ever, right? But for me it was not boring at all. It was one of those life-lesson moments.

  • Success is not always being first

  • Success is not always “winning” (however you define winning)

  • Sometimes success is in the journey

A man who can swim faster than anyone else, yet is messed up in his relationship with God, family, and friends, is not much of a winner. To win at one thing, yet lose in hundreds of other ways, is not much of a success. If one can view life as a journey… maybe a walk back from Arkwright Falls, one can look at success as more wholistic. Make the entire journey a success, not just one tiny portion– sacrificing other joys in so doing.

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