So, mom & I are staying at this resort up on Georgian Bay. We fall asleep around 11 that night — more of a late nap for us — and both woke up aboot 3 in the morning just rarin’ to go.
As a dedicated Niagara Escarpment explorer and veteran waterfall collector, I knew there were a bunch of major flowing gold-mine sites around there.
“Check-out’s at noon, and the sun’s up around 6; If I left at 5, I could drive to the furthest falls an hour away, and work my way back between sunrise and noon.”
Stunningly, I actually do this – driving into the pre-dawn mountain blackness with only headlights and pavement,
and scooting opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and other flashing pairs of unknown eyes on unmarked roads.
I zip zam zoodle thru the crazy mountain backroads thinking it’ll be daylight any second, but the crazy thing is . . . the sun never comes up!
I’ve been doin’ this a long time, and believe me, the sun almost always comes up.
But it was well past 6 and still pitch black. Is my watch running fast?Is there an eclipse? Have I slipped through the looking-glass again?
Finally, by Some Act of God, I happen to spot a stamp-size sign that says “Eugenia Falls,” and pull down this dark Alfred Hitchcock road with crumbling old Psycho houses on either side, and craggy finger-tree branches reaching down to the car that’s slowly, drunkenly lurching over a series of long lost humps and lumps – “Yeah, BIG falls you’re headin’ to, B!”
At the end of this Norman Bates backroad there’s a one-lane bridge to nowhere. Or, as it turns out, a dark gravel clearing that, “ahhh, must be the parking lot.”
If you cranked the wheel you could barely circle around once inside it. And as the car flashed its watchtower spotlights I could see the return headlights of herds of surprised animals eyeing me from the woods. “Great. It’s Wild freakin Kingdom!”
Stray cats are meowing, raccoons are scratching, and starving coyotes are salivating at the arriving fresh flesh . . .
I’m not scared of much, but there are some animals out here that could wreck some serious havoc if you bump into them in the dark.
I finally spot what appears to be a trailhead, and pull up beside it waiting for some form of light which is not at all forthcoming in this surreal never-ending night in the depths of the highest point on the Escarpment in these remote Canadian mountains.
I get out of the car and hear this sudden scurrying and squeaking and screeching and big-twig-snapping and I jump right back in the damn car! They were having some major northern forest party out there and I was not about to crash it.
So, I’m sitting in the front seat with my head bent over maps and Bruce Trail books, and at the first hint of light I look up through the windshield, then just as I turn my head to the left this freakin’ black bear leaps right at my window!!
I had it part-way down cuz I was listening to the forest — never heard him comin’ — and suddenly one of its paws comes right thru the window! and I see these long black claws right in front of my face!and I went “Whoa!” and jabbed at it with the mechanical pencil I was holding, and it kind of yelped, and pulled its huge paw out and ran off!
naw, that part didn’t really happen. but I was certainly imagining it!
very scary mountaintop in the dark.
but the moment I raised my head from reading and looked out the first-light window,
this cat meowed at me.
It was sitting by a tree at the edge of the clearing and watching me so closely it knew the second I raised my head from reading.
now, that is Not a crazy cat.
I got outta the car, and at this point had been thinking about the Eugenia Falls hike for days, so I say to the kitty, “Well, if you wanna come along, you’re totally welcome. Actually, it’ll be really fun. If you wanna hang, I’ll help ya out if you need something later. letter of reference. a little yard work, whatever.”
I poured her some granola before we set out, but she thought that was a crummy idea. (sorry)
so, we go for this massive hike and she’s trotting along behind me the whole way, and I’m digging on this being a Cat that’s behaving like a Dog!
have I found God?
If she wanders off, I’d just say, “Kitty!” and she’d come right back.
“Good little puppy kitty!”
We eventually get to a real steep ridge that requires some long-reaching four-legged climbing on my part, but she’s able to make it right up! And I’m thinkin, “This is one intrepid cat!”
So, we gorge ourselves on the gorge and hike back along the top ridge overlooking the deep ravine and finally reach the magnificent Eugenia Falls, which oh-my-God is such a super sacred secret spot! Hundred-foot falls; deep, rich and colorful canyon called Cuckoo Valley, of all things, named after the birds that populate it, and the One’s who Flew Over to it in the middle of the night. House-size caprock boulders have dropped down around the falls and dot the riverbank like cabins. The crashing thunder of the water and the splashing blooming life feels like you’ve walked right into the first page of Genesis! exploding nature in every color of the rainbow, and with a rainbow!
The falls was named after Empress Eugenia who was a ‘consort’ to Napoleon.
And there was actually a fool’s gold rush here in the 1850s.
Which is so Canadian. We don’t have gold rushes, we have fool’s gold rushes.
But the valley still blissfully blazes today – a lingering unhistorical masterpiece.
And speaking of precipice, I’m right on the edge of it of course, sticking my head over to feel the water and soak up the ions, and going, “No kitty, this isn’t for little-people.” I’m really concerned she’s gonna fall or jump in, but she’s just playing along the razor’s edge, and it was painfully evident right from the start that she was as crazy as I was.
I begin calling her Kimosabi Commando Kitty, because that was obviously her name.
I mean, most humans can’t keep up with me in the woods, and here’s this little 5-pound furry nuthin’ doin’ the whole hike and then the essential falls-side hang at the end of it!
And she’s not wanting to go home, or go to the bathroom, or getting tired or cold or hungry or whatever the heck somebody’s always getting . . . she’s just a cool cat hangin in the universe.
So I chat her up a bit, and she’s right into it! Likes where she is, but the food sucks and the neighbors are just animals. (sorry again) She’d been reading some Kerouac and was done with her Dharma Bums mountain phase and thinkin of going On The Road, but was still kinda on the fence. In fact she was happily dancing along the fence that separated where you can stand from the several-hundred-foot drop to the boulders below.
And I’m goin, “Yeah, this cat could do.
She Gets it.”
and that’s the whole deal.
So we walk back to the car, and once again I blow her mind that I know this short-cut thru the woods even though I just got there. And she raises her eyebrows and goes, “Excellent! Well done,” then trots up ahead singing, “Do-Wah Kitty, Kitty Kitty-kitty Do” . . .
We get back to the car at the end of our first date, and it’s that awkward moment of, “Well, do you wanna come home with me or not? I don’t do second dates.” And she’s all finicky and playin hard-to-get.
There’s a picnic table near the car, and she’s like, “Buy me a nice dinner first.”
So I break out everything in the car that’s edible, but she’s havin’ none of it.
Then some cowboy comes strutting along with his 2 dogs, and she suddenly starts makin’ eyes at him! But he’s already got one on a leash, and a second sniffing nearby, so he’s not interested in another pussy.
He says, “It’s been out here for two weeks and nobody’s been looking for it,” as she’s preening away on the picnic table. But this guy’s too scared to even make eye contact, let alone touch her. Thinks she has rabies or something. I’m thinkin, “Naaaa. that’s a sweet kitty, not a rabid kitty.” He points out how thin she looks, and he was right about that! Petting her was like rubbing a skeleton with a rancid towel draped over it. Her fur’s all matted and clumped like she’d been rolling in leafs for months.
Then after a long pause he matter-of-factly says, “Aaa, it’ll never last the winter,” as he stares at her like she’s just some blade of grass,
which I Whitmanly see her as.
Then he just walks away!
And it’s just me and kitty.
Crazy freakin kitty.
Standing on the picnic table pedestal.
And I’m seeing David in the stone.
So I open the car door, pick her up for the first time, and as we squeeze in behind the wheel she immediately jumps right back out.
So I open the back door, ah-ha, pick her up again, sit in the backseat, don’t let her go, close the door with my foot, and “HA! Gotcha in the car! . . .
. . . Now what?”
I’m hopin she doesn’t start scratchin the hangnail outta mom’s velvet New Yorker. She wanted a pet, but it wouldn’t be much of a present . . .
“Here’s this burr-covered stray cat! Uh, sorry about your car!”
But all along I’s thinkin’ a cat would work for mom cuz they’re so low maintenance.
Now here was the kitty finding me.
And I heard it say in a John Cleese voice, “I picked him out thousands. He wasn’t like the rest.”
So. . . “I’ve got this cat in the car . . . “
a little wiggy.
both of us.
but going with it.
When I arrived at the falls I saw all these rabid raccoons and crazy coyotes and bleeding Brians starring in episodes of Animals Gone Wild, and now here I was driving out Alfred Hitchcock Lane with a wild creature in the car next to me! knowing how most women feel on dates.
“What Is this hairy thing, . . . and is it rabid?”
I’m driving and folding up maps and shooshing the cat and trying to figure out where the heck I am and what I’ve done now, when suddenly – like a mirage on the horizon . . . there’s a Norman Rockwellian Nowheresville corner-store, sitting right on a corner in the middle of nowhere!
But of course, I couldn’t get out of the car because the cat makes for the door when I even look at it. Mini-Einstein knows the driver’s door leads outside, and just crouches there staring at it — but ah-ha, when I climb over to the passenger door, I can come & go as I please. “That doesn’t lead outside, you’re not fooling me. This is the way out, I know it,” smirks the disheveled messy-haired little naturalist.
(the cat, I mean.)
So I walk into the Green Acres General Store in these demented Shining mountains, and sure-enough there’s old Sam Drucker in his pristine apron manning the Hooterville counter. He’s near-about never seen a woman with long hair, let alone some fella! And in walks this crazed biker hippie freak who looks like he could be, well, rabid. And old Mr. Drucker’s givin’ me the eye and slowly reaching for his rifle (or slingshot or whatever they have in Canada) as I’m pacing around like a sweating crack addict dyin’ for a fix in my haven’t-slept-in-days-and-just-found-a-cat mode, Frrreeakin out that there’s some strange burry critter with claws in my car . . . and that I seem to be going home with it. And how it’s so much like last Saturday night.
And finally ol’ Mr. Drucker splutters, “How ya doin’, stranger?” as he pretends like he’s not reaching down. But I just let him have it, both barrels — a Full-on stressed-out Cosmo Kramer — YELLing . . . “I’m FREEEEAKin’ out, Jerry!”
And I just let that hang there in the still morning country-store egg-n-bacon air for about an hour.
And just as his fingers are reaching the cold steel under the counter, I end the pause,
“I just found this stray cat out by the falls . . . anybody lost one?”
And he starts to stand up straight again.
Of course we become best friends — but ya just had to open with the old rabid-stranger-at-dawn routine.
So I buy some shmancy purple-label pop-top cat food, sneak back in the passenger door, and set up the little skeleton with a royal feast. Then realize I’ve still got 4 waterfalls to hit before noon! I’m gonna need a bigger car!
We pull outta Ziffel Corners looking for Hogg Falls, (I’m not kidding: the adventure’s not over, we are in Hooterville, and it is pronounced “hog”), which turns out to be down this even-more ridiculous dirt road that’s actually called East Back Lane! (I think I played a lot of ball-hockey on this road.) and of course the waterfall doesn’t have a sign, is not on maps, and nobody knows about it except some locals and kooky waterfall collectors who read maps like artists do paintings. I can detect the slightest 3-dimensional drop in any cartographer’s canvas: sometimes waterfalls are in brochures and have big signs and admission gates, and other times there’s not a single sign to follow except nature’s. You get real good at telling whether a dip in the road was caused by a former creek or not, and tracking cliffs from a distance, and eyeballing distances through forests, and following instinct, and spotting trailheads in deadwood, and Boom, the first slow patrol down East Back Lane I spot an old car path to nowhere – and know I’m home! Pack up a hike’s worth of supplies, head in, and sure enough the falls is five minutes downstream.
And I have this moment. What you search for. Steep narrow hidden ravine. Nobody in the world is there or comin’. I’ve got a cat in the car, a seat on the rocks, a falls to myself, a day on the road, and a mom on vacation. So I write a haiku …
Leafs falling, summer ending;
a waterfalls, cat-finding
day with mom
And it’s all so wonderful, I go back to the car blissfully, open the door foolishly, and watch the cat bolt furiously!
Thought I had a cat,”
as I watch it disappear forever into the forest.
And I’ve just driven the poor thing about ten miles from its home.
And we’re not exactly on a first-name basis yet, so it’s sure gonna be hard to call her & collar her. But I’m goin’ with, “C’mere, Kitty.”
So off, I trudge,
back into the woods, with an open can of catfood, trying to lure this nature-loving free-spirit back to my large unnatural horseless-carriage. I don’t wanna mess with mother nature, but there’s gonna be a muther of a natural winter that’s gonna kill her, and she’d sure make my mother’s nature blossom.
So, I’m traipsing though the woods holding out this purple can of cat food, feeling quite gay, when I suddenly hear something and look to my left, and these big homophobic deer hunters jump me, but I go Haaa! and jab them with my mechanical pencil!
Gloosh, gloosh, glooshing I glop through the waterlogged underbrush that this stupid cat has run off into, as she’s sprinting up ahead and stopping to look back like actors always do in the movies before they start running again.
And I’m like, “Oh No! What next!? It’s got No Idea where it’s going,” as it gallops thru the forest to nowhere. “Ouu, fun! Let’s play Chase The Cat Thru The Mountains! This’ll be greaaat!”
After about a two-hour mini-series of brier adventures, I finally go, “Okay Kitty, if you want food, here it is, otherwise I’m goin’ home.” And of course then she immediately trots right up to the gay purple food-trough and starts slurping it up like a regular rube. All they do is bitch and play hard-to-get until you’re ready to leave, and then they wanna come with you. Animals are such people!
Then, in my best Sean-Connery-to-the-rescue, I swoop the damsel up with one arm, while dangling the food with the other so she can keep nibbling as I carry her, having to dole it out slowly so it lasts all the way back to the car . . .
It’s sorta puttin a damper on the old jump-out-of-the-car-and-check-out-a-waterfalls routine.
Plus, it kinda starts raining.
So we’re driving back, and since I’ve been calling her “kitty” all day, I have to get a name that sounds like that, even though I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl. but I have my suspicions. And just then “Casey Jones” comes on the dashboard jukebox, the good ol’ Grateful Dead singing in the Festival Express movie about their train trip to Winnipeg with some other very wild stray cats. Plus, my mom’s dad was a railroad engineer. And Casey would work for a boy or a girl. Then of course later I find out it’s an ancient Celtic name meaning brave and watchful!! and that’s certainly been her.
I begin to realize this is a very Big Cat, not the small kitty she appeared physically at the moment.
I’ve known a few cats in my day, but never met one who could go for hikes
and keep up with the likes
and so she became Casey Kimosabi Commando Kitty.
(or – thanks to Mr. Dressup — Casey-Finnegan, for short)
Believe it or not, we hit one more site before we went back – with me pullin out this “emergency” free plastic rain poncho made of way weaker material than toilet paper, and kitty’s going, “This guy’s crazier than I am!” as it watches from the car window while I voluntarily go flapping off into the forest in a rainy gale storm looking for some unmarked pile of rocks. And Kitty’s like, “I’m takin’ a nap. Freakin’ idiot.”
About ten minutes to noon we wheel into the hotel parking lot to mom happily waving on the balcony. I actually get momentarily choked up that this kitty came into our lives just when we needed it, and how it happened, and how it never hissed or scratched out at any point during the massive transition from forest to automobile. And how mom is gonna just love it, how she’ll have this sweet little furry lap pet after she so took to the mourning doves on the windowsill in the summer, and how a kitty is so self-sufficient and the purrfect pet for someone who doesn’t want to walk them or pick up after them or stare at them in a bowl of water.
So I pull a graceful John Belushi tumble out the passenger door, get mom, tell her I have a surprise, ask her to sit in the back seat, and she’s all excited, like, “What’s the surprise!?” as I sit beside her in the back waiting for it to naturally happen . . . the kitty to suddenly jump up from the front seat . . . like she’s been doing all day . . . any second now . . . I check my Basil Fawlty watch . . . any second . . . the kitty will . . . c’mere ga’dangit! and I finally pull up this Charlie Brown Christmas-tree-thin scraggly burr-covered rag-doll with no stuffing inside – and I shook it at her, and said, “This cat’s for you!”
“Gee, thanks for the . . . uh, present. Hope you didn’t spend too much,” as she dove out the window. but I caught her with my mechanical pencil and pulled her back in!
and we all lived happily ever after.
and there’s a bone fide epilogue!
so this scraggly, little, ugly-duckling, ball-of-burrs
u n f u r l s . . .
into this blazing 10-color-sunburst pure-bred best-in-show Norwegian Forest Cat!!
Turns out it’s a “she”, and is not only the most amazing adventure-cat I’ve ever met, but when I went to all these cat show websites where they have the qualities for judging prime Norwegian Forest Cats, and she’s got every single one of their unusual characteristics to a freakin “T” (not that we’re planning to show her) but she’s obviously a very pure strain: a distinctive double coat of fur — a thick wooly undercoat that comes & goes with the winter, plus a silky and water-repellent (!) overcoat. “It should appear elegant and majestic” – with a symmetrical coat, pronounced ruff at the chest and ‘lion’s-mane’ neck ruffle, green-gold eyes, strong chin, a long and muscular body, larger hind legs, matching knickerbockers, long tuffs of fur between the toes, a bushy tail that can reach to the back of the head, a thick drape of inner-ear hair to keep the snow out, and lynx-like antenna tuffs on top of the ears (in fact, these cats came from the Persian longhairs who arrived in Scandinavia via the Byzantine trading routes a thousand years ago, and then evolved in the same mountains as the Scandinavian lynx – so you tell me what happened).
“Hey, we were just trying to keep warm.”
Plus they have these amazing accordion bodies that scrunch up to less than a foot (to conserve body heat during winter), or can suddenly stretch up to two feet (for pouncing on prey . . . or hiking up gorgeous gorges).
From the gathered evidence, we’re guessing she was bought for an older family member, who then used something like a yardstick or cane to hit her, and she ran away.
Unfortunately for mom’s lap, she’s a bit more of an independent outdoor adventure-cat, than a come-hither-&-cuddle lap-cat, so I gotta go looking for a docile doggie at the next falls, which I fully expect little Casey Commando & I to be doing a lot of.
she’ll write more later.
she’s still a little shy,
but like any good writer or warrior . . .
she’s watching and learning.
and is strong like bull.
and then it turns out, Norwegian Forests may have been the first small felines in North America! coming over on the Viking ships, and then living here in the wild ever since. (outlasting those girly Viking pansies!) in fact, they’re pretty-much the St. Bernards of cats. Instead of the Alps, they evolved in the saber-toothed mountains of Norway, a splendid little frozen country, not unlike my own. Happy hockey homies. Tiny towns of half-crazed puckheads, with big furry cats to take care of things. The Norwegian Forests worked the farms, hunted down food, brought it back to the farm house, cooked it, and served it with aprons on to fat yodeling hockey players.
I think I’ve found my soulmate.
peace n purrs,
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For more Adventure Tales, you might enjoy . . .
or … the Setting A Record Driving up First Avenue in New York story.
or … the wild physical confrontation both Al Franken and I got caught up in at a Howard Dean rally in New Hampshire.
or … I jumped on the Pittsburgh Penguins team bus during the playoffs.
or … that whole Long Island Mansions Adventure with Steve Winwood, Sheryl Crow, Tom Cruise, Spielberg, Tim & Sarandon.
or … the time I scammed my way into the “On The Road” premiere in London in the courtyard of a palace,
or … snuck backstage at the world premiere of the new “On The Road” in Toronto and met up with Walter Salles,
or … there was the greatest single night in New York’s history — when Obama first got elected.
or … the worst single night — when John Lennon was murdered.
or … there was the time The Grateful Dead came to town and played my 30th birthday party.
or … the night I went out in the Village with Jack Kerouac’s old friend Henri Cru on his 70th birthday,
or … went running with the Olympic torch when Canada was hosting in 2010.
or … the time I snuck into Dr. John and ended up hangin with his whole band.
or … the time my mom and I got trapped in the worst hospital in Italy and barely escaped with our lives.
or … of course one of the great multi-day Adventures of all time — Obama’s first Inauguration.
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by Brian Hassett
karmacoupon@ gmail.com BrianHassett.com