Back at the state line again, on the Hudson this time, above the Hudson actually, 532 feet above, atop the cliffs, at the Lookout Inn snack bar of Palisades Interstate Park. There's a remnant of the macadam pavement of the original touring road outside, unpaved-over nor buried beneath the successive high speed roads nearby that rush the commuters' rush to the city. It's like some deeper archeology lies revealed, and a reminder of a more leisurely pace. Heavy hewn chestnut timbers of the round hut built by the W.P.A. in 1937 surround a great big bouldered fireplace where a few burning logs cut the chill of a windy November morning. Hot coffee. The unique surroundings. Only the toilets appear modernized, just slightly. They work.
Take a walk. A stone wall with one of those rough tops so you're not tempted to sit on it will keep me from falling over the edge. At a break a path leads down, leaves blow on the wide, heavy stairs built for more genteel outings. It's steep. Cross a small brook, apparently the bridge didn't make it, and back up on a wide path. At the top is a small observation tower to commemorate the Women's Federation's efforts to preserve these cliffs, and an adjacent promontory, scary but for a sturdy old chain link fence, reveals their magnificence. The vertical columns of basalt, or traprock, formed eons ago by volcanic extrusion, have weathered to a fine old craggy appearance. Far below lies a deep pile of blocks that have fallen, and some spires nearby look like they could at any moment. Maybe the one I'm standing on. Not so long ago, this stone was a bit too handy a material for growth and expansion, their toppling and crushing so useful, well, for things like roads. The ladies had foresight. On the way back I spot something through thick vegetation along the trail. Boulders line the irregular shape of a shallow concrete bottomed pool, a reminder of what some gave up here. My mind thinks, "Rockefeller hardscaping". Imagine a Hudson River without the Palisades.
Further south the park road hairpins its way to the bottom of the cliff leaving the traffic's constant low rumble and whine above. Then a small circle and the road leads along below the cliffs at the pace of a carriage road, past boat basins, picnic grounds with tables of stone, even divides for a few yards, as if in premonition. The shade is deep in the afternoon. Somewhere along here British troops led by General Cornwallis climbed silently one night in 1776. The road continues, returning to the top at Fort Lee where the George Washington bridge now spans the Hudson. The sudden appearance of those troops forced the abandonment of the fort. And with the surrender of Fort Washington across the river days earlier, York Island was lost, and hasty retreat to the Hackensack, then eventually to Pennsylvania began. "These are the times that try men's souls", wrote Thomas Paine for the rebels. Breakfast had been left cooking on the fire. The earthen redoubts of the old fort provide an excellent view - the lower Hudson, the island of Manhattan, settlement below the Palisades, and British frigates, sails beating their way upriver, cannon ablazing, as they pass these heights.
More recent history guides further exploration. The scene is vague to me, but an old publicity still helps. Karl Malden and Brando are talking and walking by an old iron fence. Beyond and below the docks teem with activity on the waterfront. I couldn't find the view, but eventually did find the fence. A Hoboken park worker said it's the one and spoke of the fun he had as a kid running these streets with all his friends. Close living with plenty of work right here for the men. Below is empty now but for a few large piles of debris. Maxwell House with its huge "Good to the Last Drop" coffee cup no longer lights this shore for the New Yorkers. Soon this will look like much of the rest with condos, marinas, tall apartments, and shopping centers. The park man wonders if kids still have as much fun.
Resplendent and eloquent brownstones with those high and broad front stairs surround the small park, I'm up and down the blocks looking, but no one seems to know where it is. A small blue and white "Elysian Fields" in a new cafe's window means I must be getting warm. There, just a small plaque on a narrow island in a sidestreet marks the spot. When this was open playground for the crowd across the river, the Knickerbocker Baseball Club played the New York Baseball Club in the first professional baseball game. In 1846. New York won 23-1.
One more to find. It's just around a corner before where the Lincoln Tunnel disrupts a long progression of neighborhoods atop the cliff. Protected tightly by another iron fence, a bronze bust sits on a granite base with the name Hamilton. It just fits before an open view of the river backed by thousands of city lights. In 1804, they rowed across the river to protect their illicit activity somewhere on a bluff below. The Duel. Burr won, 1 - 0. Republican vs Federalist, the politics was personal, honor supreme. Last year the Burr and Hamilton families held their first joint family associations' meeting. 200th anniversary. There's hope.

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