Sunday, June 8, 1952

There is, Too, a Pokey-Moonshine Falls

By Bill Cartwright

Rochester, How do you lose a waterfall? Where does it go? What happens to it? And how do you go about finding it again? These are just a few of the questions which have been facing this correspondent recently. And the problem, I can assure you, is a tough one.

It all started a couple of years ago when in connection with a story I wrote on outstanding waterfalls in western New York State, I mentioned Pokey-Moonshine Fails near Dansville, which I had visited some years earlier. The story appeared in the Travel Section, and I forgot it until a letter arrived from the Institute for Advanced Research at Princeton University. A reader there noted that he had read my story while in the Pokey-Moonshine area and decided to take a look at the falls but nobody in the vicinity knew the location. He had asked farmer, stopped at gasoline stations inured of chance acquaintance and come up against a blank wall. Was there, he asked, really Pokey-Moonshine Falls after all? That didnít faze me. After all Iíd been there. Whatís more, I had seen a color picture of the falls in a New York State booklet just a few weeks before. Writing to the puzzled reader I referred to the booklet, described my own visit and suggested that he get touch with the state for further information.

Persistent Inquiry

Very shortly another letter arrived from Princeton. The state, so my reader informed me, had tried. They had looked, burrowed through files and flopped. They couldnít tell him who had taken the picture, or where the falls were located. But, they assured him there were such falls. Definitely.

My readerís persistence amazed me. He reported that he was writing to Chambers of Commerce at Dansville and near-by towns. He subsequently wrote me that such inquiries had drawn a blank. But, he was going to keep trying. Some of his wifeís relatives lived in the, vicinity and when he visited them he would continue his search. I began to envision an endless; quest. So I called up the people who had introduced us to Pokey-Moonshine on that long ago picnic. Could they tell me, please, just how to find the spot. Well, they said, you drive through a village, went a mile or two, turned off on a dirt road, plunged down into a little clump of woods, passed over a rustic bridge and there you were. Just beyond the bridge a little turn-off to the left led down to a slight drop and a grassy spot where you could park your car. A clean, clear bubbling brook raced past. And, there on the shore of the brook, someone had built a rustic cabin many years before. Its walls were made from flat stones and mortar. The roof was beamed with railroad rails and made solid with stones and mortar. There was a big fireplace on the outside, and a slab and mortar stone table and several benches.

Difference of Opinion

Yes, we agreed, it was one of the prettiest little spots we had ever visited. But our friends were in complete disagreement as to its whereabouts. The husband claimed it was near this spot. The wife was sure it was nearer that! We reported back to our reader, and vowed to make the trip ourselves again someday, and, of course, pass on our findings. We saw ourselves tossing a contemptuous forelock at Albany, sneering collectively at Chambers of Commerce, and striding off in the wilderness, puttees cocked rakishly, and the phrase, "Pokey-Moonshine, I presume," ready behind clenched lips.

But time crept up on us. There were things to do around the house, and the weather was never right. But then we made a mistake and mentioned the situation to our editor, who replied, "Go find Pokey-Moonshine Falls. Will take story as soon as you can get it." So we called our friends again. Could they give us general directions, conflicting though might be? "Go down the road between Wayland and Dansville," they advised, "and explore the little roads that run off to the north. It should be somewhere in the general area around there." So one morning the car rolled. It was lovely driving south from Rochester along Route 15A. The flatlands soon gave way to the hills. And the hills shaped themselves into the beautiful countryside so typical of this Finger Lakes region. Our car rose to the heights above the east shore of Hemlock Lake. It dipped down into Springwater and ran through the pretty fields approaching Wayland. At Wayland we turned west on Routes 63 and 245, and the zest of the chase began. We ran up the road about two miles. The countryside started to look familiar. We turned up one country road, drove a couple of miles, and decided that wasnít it. We backtracked, turned west again, and found ourselves heading downhill into the outskirts of Dansville. We backtracked again and looked things over more carefully. And, then we spotted what seemed to be a private lane. But it wasnít. We turned into it and drove up the little dirt road. A clump of woods appeared and we began to feel hopeful. And as the road turned and plunged downhill into a wilderness of unspoiled forest we suddenly felt quite sure.† In less than two minutes we came to the bridge over the creek. In less than three minutes the car was parked in the glade beside the brook. And there it was. The little stone and mortar house with its big outside fireplace was still standing. The rough slab picnic table and benches were still in their old place And the brook tumbled and raced clear and sparkling as before down through the forest.

Down to the Falls

We climbed from the car. I left my wife to take care of our small ones and pushed my way through the woods beside the brook, downstream some four or five hundred feet. The noise of the falls came to me again. I took off my shoes and waded through the brook, climbed around and over a little knoll, and then saw my waterfall. Itís still a beauty. The brook at that point spreads out, drops over a little cascade, and, without pausing, it splashes out and down and down. The falls are about thirty feet wide and seventy-five feet high, and they are beautiful, well worth seeking out and enjoying. If you didnít know how to find them and didnít know they were there, you could go through life never guessing, never knowing. But, now that you know, you ought to take a look at them. Theyíre quite a sight.

This is the way to get there: go to Wayland, N. Y., and start at the traffic light at Main and Maples Streets. Drive west on Routes 63 and 245 for 3.2 miles toward Dansville. At that point, running off to the north, or right, there is a little dirt road. It has no name, and about the only way you can identify it is by a sign that advises travelers that Peterís Cabins are located some seventeen miles ahead.† Turn north on that road, and in about four-tenths of a mile youíll come to the rude bridge that arches Pokey-Moonshineís flood. You can take it from there.