Fahnestock Memorial State Park

by Norman Muller

On my way back to New Jersey from Burlington, Vermont, I stopped off at Fahnestock Memorial State Park in New York, just off the Taconic Parkway, where I met Rob Buchanan and a friend of his. We hiked clockwise around the base of a rocky hill adjacent to the Taconic Parkway, and on the way we passed by two boulders connected by a short wall. ( Fig. 1 ) To the right was a split filled boulder. As I got closer to the wall, I noticed that the right part of it climbed up a bit of the boulder to the right ( Fig. 2 ), which I found unusual and rather amusing.

Fig 1
Fig 2

A bit further on the path, we passed by another split-filled boulder ( Fig. 3 ), and shortly beyond this were two huge boulders overlooking the Taconic Parkway, the one on the right being connected to the one on the left by a stone fill. This didn't look like much from above, but as I climbed down the slope to the right of it, the impressive fill made a real impact ( Fig. 4 ).

Fig 3
Fig 4

A closer view shows that a large section of the boulder split off, creating a small cave on the left side ( Fig. 5 ), which could be the reason for the stone fill in the first place. This large stone fill between two boulders reminds me of a similar construction in Rochester, Vermont ( Fig. 6 ), wherein the view from the east is very impressive, but that from the back or west is not.

Fig 5
Fig 6

By far, the most awesome feature was a huge boulder just below the summit of the hill. Fig 7 shows the approach to the boulder from the back, or north, looking down on it. It really doesn't look like much from this angle, but as one goes around it to the left, one begins to see the full extent of the stonework. This begins with a large fill between two sections of the large boulder, the space between them having been filled with some large stones ( Fig. 8 ); this reminds me of the stone fill from Rochester illustrated above ( Fig. 6 )

Fig 7
Fig 8

Fig. 9 is just another view of this fill from down below. Then as one goes around the boulder closewise, or to the left, one comes across a curious triangular standing stone leaning against one side of a flat topped boulder ( Fig. 10 ).

Fig 9
Fig 10

This kind of accent is found in many locations throughout the New England area. I photographed one of these "manitou" or godstones at a site in Rochester, VT, last week ( Fig. 11). On top of the flat boulder was a loose collection of stones, obviously donations, in the center of which was a quartz cobble. This can be seen directly above the tip of the manitou stone in Fig.10. It was the only quartz cobble I saw that day, and it was obviously placed to mark the boulder in front of it as a sacred spot.

Fig 11

But the major attractionwas the incredible vertical filled split, some seven feet tall (Fig. 12 and Fig. 13 ).

Fig 12
Fig 13
Fig 14

I have seen only one other split like this and that was in Newfane, VT. (Fig. 14 ), another major cairn site. But the oneat the Fahnestock State Parkis by far the most impressive. Undoubtedly it was the phenomenalaspects of this boulder -- in other words, its physical presence, and its unusual characteristics -- that attracted such attention. The entire hill was accented withcrack filled boulders: most of them small and probably not very impressive by most people's standards, but fascinating to me. There were very few if any cairns to speak of. I chuckled to myself that archaeologists would have a hard time explaining the one boulder with the vertical fill and all the others I saw that afternoon as thework of colonial farmers, particularly since the entire hill is rocky and hardly condusive for farming of any kind.

Copyright 2007 by Norman E. Muller