WalkOutside: This One River

This post documents a class assignment from Spring 2020. We had recently been dismissed from campus, and School of Art professors were restructuring the rest of the semester for remote-learning. WalkOutside was a casual class exercise where we documented the walks we took wherever we were. This series documents the Charlie Major Nature Trail and Skaneateles River.

I started with the intention of documenting this nature trail in my town. The trail used to be a Short Line that supplied materials to factories along the 3 mile stretch between 1840 until 1981. I wanted to document some of the more interesting remnants of these old industrial structures.

Taking the time to document this place that I had grown so familiar with, I was taken back to when my friends used to come here a lot, mostly in middle school. I decided to continue up the river as it meanders through our town, visiting other spots we spent a lot of time skating at.

Starting at what was the end of the river for us – we never really thought to follow the river into the woods beyond this bridge, and so this is as far as it reaches.
This wall is the first structure you see walking from the north end of the trail. These “Tree Sweaters” you’ll see along the trail appeared last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were made from acrylic yarn.
This bridge was originally part of the Skaneateles Short Line.
From here I meandered away from the walking path to take pictures of some of the other bridges and brickwork on this side of the river – you can see the previous bridge on the right, and the next bridge on the left.
As I was walking through this area I was struck how the snow obscures and partially “erases” the present chaos of the natural landscape. This seemed to emphasize the regularities in these deteriorating human-made structures. It made me think of the effect of missing data from our photogrammetry workshop. The slight irregularities in the deteriorating structures seem to match the irregularities of the blank snow, enforcing the cohesiveness of this illusion.
I thought about how the river’s movement was probably the most striking disruption of the blank snow canvas – cutting through it so violently in some parts and tepidly in others.
This waterfall is iconic. This bench is iconic.
I paused here to think about how it took hundreds of years for these stone structures to be deteriorated by entropy and reclaimed to the extent that they have by organic materials. It took less than a decade for this bench to be claimed by the organic material of a shit head with a lighter.
I know who did this – he beat me up before soccer practice in 8th grade. Knowing him, I honestly see this as an act of neuroticism more than an act of vandalism – but there may be an inherent connection between the two.
View from the bench.
Natural properties of a filter. This is where Doug found the frisbee.
An interesting feature of these woods is these rows of support pillars that used to hold up mills. They are always arranged in straight lines that seem to cut through the landscape at weird angles – directions that used to disappear seamlessly and intentionally.
The bottom of this area and the next is actually a concrete platform. In the Summer the river dries up and only continues below the platform, letting us walk across to poke around inside these buildings.
The Dock
Another bridge along the Skaneateles Short Line. This is the southern-most bridge of the nature trail.
This is where the river leaves the nature trail and cuts under roads and behind houses into the village.
Creekside
We used to skate a lot in these parking lots behind CVS.
This bank was real nice to skate when there weren’t trucks blocking it and people telling us to leave. The river is back there on the left in this picture.
Old Stone Creamery. We clocked a lot of hours behind here in the Summer. I remember the water being pretty gross here but you could jump off the dock and then lay out on that metal pipe that got ripping hot sitting in the sun all day. This is where my friend lost his frisbee. When we saw Doug with it, he said it couldn’t be ours because he found it at the nature trail.
If you go down this hole you can wander through the sewer system beneath the village.
This is the other side of that filter shown in the previous pics. There’s usually a landmass of gunk and trash here in the summer.
The first bridge that the river crosses from the lake.
It was pretty common to run and jump off this boat house in the summer.
Where the river begins.

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