in my circle of friends growing up there was a period of time when everyone was buzzing about "the cliffs"
okay... as I had several circles of friends then as I do now it would more clear to say... in one of my many circles of friends there was a period of time when we were all buzzing about "the cliffs"
"the cliffs" were a big part of our mini fringe Bethesda subculture (which co-existed along side of so many mini-subcultures)
I am certain that "the cliffs" exist as a collection of strong memories for many people from this area... many's whose circles came before and after while never intersecting with any of my circles
yet... by a matter of situation and a matter of chance I will take credit for being the spawn of the introduction of "the cliffs" into the hearts and minds of the Bethesda skaters which then filtered on into the DC punk scene
not the genesis of jumping at "the cliffs"
but the genesis... of the interest, fascination, and passion of this cliff during this group during this era
as a preteen child I had seen people jump from these cliffs from the perspective of a two man kayak
the site and the sound were invigorating
I heard the sound of the jumpers shouting and I heard the sound of jumpers screaming
A few times I was excited to see someone jumping from "the cliffs" but it was more frequent that we only heard the sound when "the cliff" jumper connected the water
even though my dad told me that these people were being stupid and that their actions were dangerous
I thought it was cool
on hikes on the billy goat trail I tried to connect the dots where the cliff was from land versus where the cliffs were from water
I found the spot... I knew the paths to get there
I knew the most direct paths and I knew my favorite more technical paths
The Billy Goat Trail and the C&O Canal were my personal playground growing up
lots of hiking and fishing with family, friends, and alone
on my bicycle I would ride from home to the canal
growing most familiar with the section around Old Angler's Inn but also having some good memories of riding my bicycle to Swains Lock to either fish or canoe... we did not rent our boats from Swain's a friend of my mother's lived up that way and we would borrow his canoe
those were freer times
the canal stayed part of my life, but "the cilffs" did not really enter my curiosity
then years later as a teenager kayaking had pretty much left my life there was one time I joined my brother and some of his friends for a rogue kayaking mission
my brother being the only kayak-er in the bunch
I was in one of the two two person boats while my brother paddled around in his single
on this day after some paddling about we stopped at the base of this cliff
two of us scaled the wall of "the cliffs"
we each took a few jumps
it was a rush... I was all welled up with fear
adrenalin... pure adrenalin
it was matter of approaching and over coming fears
it was definitely a rush
it was cool... I had jumped "the cliffs"
it just happened that one time with no talk of going back
then... a few years later I was street skating with my friend Lawrence McDonald
we traversed the area on our skateboards looking for some fast rolling terrain that would give us a rush
from sleepy bethesda to downtown we went
in search of a natural high by riding our skateboards down various hills
no glancing at a map no thought on typography
straight and direct with the ambition of getting to the short narrow brick quarter pipes down by the C&O Canal behind what was then an Open Market but is now Dean and Deluca
Wisconsin Avenue took us downtown...
that road alone offered some excitement from the top of Georgetown all the way down to M Street
then on the way home it was an insane rush riding a skateboard down Wisconsin Avenue past the Animal Hut and the Round Table from Tenleytown to Friendship Heights
it was good clean fun... a tad dangerous... but good clean fun
one one of these hot summer nights Lawrence talked out loud about where he could fulfill his need to get this "natural high" only "higher"
it was then that I remembered "the cliffs"
we talked about the cliffs... Lawrence wanted to go to the cliffs that moment
I think we got on our bikes and went out there the next day
maybe I was old enough that we drove in the diesel rabbit that I shared with my brother marc
that particular day happened so fast that its memory is blurred under a stack of so many other memories
a short time after that we tried to stage a situation where once person fell in and then the other two people jumped in after to save him
no one was fooled
lawrence and I went to "the cliffs" bringing with us different people on various trips
after introducing Lawrence to "the cliffs" the word got out
the already adrenalin b-town skaters jumped on it
quickly there became a buzz
all sorts of people wanted to go to "the cliffs"
they might have well printed up flyers and hung them in The Sunshine House, Montgomery Donuts, and Little Tavern
people got possessive over the cliffs
I can recall friends\musicians Jason and Lawrence each talking about different photo concepts for future records involving "the cliffs"
each of them feeling greater ownership over "the cliffs"
but... honestly... I never felt that we owned the cliffs... no one owns "the cliffs"
I felt that this spot was more than likely a jumping spot for inhabitants of this area for centuries before we ever stumbled upon it
[feel free to insert the Bethesda Sunshine House Native American on horseback with the sunset and the channel which is the Potomac at the base of "the cliffs" that he is standing]
it was a healthy adventure that involved hiking, climbing, scrambling, and of course cliff jumping
it was simple and pure
potentially dangerous and thought to be frowned upon by "the man"
that may have heightened the excitement
which may have fueled the speed of the approach and departure
swimming in the Potomac and the C&O Canal had been known to be prohibited
these were laws that never made sense to me
I grew up riding my bike to the canal to go fishing
then when I got older we would take our dog swimming there
when the weather was right... we would swim... it only seemed natural
Wide Water by Old Angler's Inn was a popular place to swim
we would sun ourselves like snakes on the rocks... then swim out to the small rock islands
and then there were "the cliffs"
getting to the cliffs was one of those "the journey is the destination" sort of experiences
running and racing along The Billy Goat Trail was as much a part of the experience as jumping into the Potomac river
or at least for me... there were countless trips to "the cliffs" that did not involve me or my knowing
who went? I am not sure if it was a Bethesda version of that shampoo commercial where the women tells two friends... and so on... and so on... and so on
it more than likely... I will share this with you... but try to keep it a bit of a secret
the Bethesda skate crew that surrounded Marcus Wilcoxon and Jason Farrell and such latched onto "the cliffs"
large groups... well... groups larger than the usual three or four people... large groups of B-town skaters and their surrounding friends would rush out to the cliffs and attack things with the same competitive energy that they attacked the ramp
to me... it was about jumping
these guys... everyone was trying to outdo the others
backflips... ganors... diving... and then even swimming across the Potomac to the Virginia side where they scaled the wall to a point on the cliff where the numbers 69 is painted... and then they jumped from there
they definitely took things beyond what I had experienced at "the cliffs"
these cliffs sent them to Dickerson's Quarry where they made similar approaches to an even higher set of cliffs
it was not confirmed... but it was understood that these actions were not legal
this did not dissuade anyone from taking part
but... the thought that these actions may be illegal may have contributed to the intensity of the approach and the departure
no one wanted to get busted
no one even wanted to get into the conversation
it is best to avoid the conversation
usually we would arrive at the cliffs and we would have them to ourselves
on a few random occasions there would be an overlap of people taking on "the cliffs"
this was not a "boy only" activity... I can remember bringing an assortment of female friends
and seeing other women or knowing of other women who went to "the cliffs"
I think there may have been one case where a women had a ticket dropped under the premise that she was discriminated against as the only woman and the only person who got a ticket
or something to that effect
never on any of these adventures did anyone get seriously hurt... sure... my friend named Bridget got the wind knocked out of her... then Charlie a guy from Apple Courier told me he collapsed a lung landing wrong... another time I was trying an "one and a half" off a lower ledge and managed a one and a belly flop... but across the board... it was pretty controlled and pretty safe
it was not some point of no return
it was pretty much good clean fun
we never got in any trouble
we actually most of us never made contact with any rangers or park police
but legend and lore contains multiple tales of tickets and court dates
this was supposed to be a discussion about the law and totalitarianism
but the intro took over everything
there is not time... energy... or concern to try and get that diatribe out on the blog
the effort to protect us from ourselves
it is interesting how the Park Police can be so vigilant about some issues and slack about others
okay... yes... a mention of the lawlessness of the car
the bending... versus breaking of the law
the accepted parameters of flexing the law
come on... no frisbee on the beach? no football tossing on the beach?
I guess that they could not trust people to make the right decision
to understand that it is too crowded or that they could not keep it in control
so... they ban it and make it illegal
instead of expecting people to be safe and smart enough to exhibit some common sense and common courtesy
ice skating on the canal has a "play at own risk" label to it
but so does life in general
Jason Farrell and Swiz
Lawrence and Bells of
Bells of on the Gwadzilla Page
Jason Farrell on the Gwadzilla Page
I bet Hound-dog has so much shit on video that he could build an epic film like Spartacus or Ben Hur
this morning I got a number of comments about posts that made mention of a skateboard team from the area know as THE TOKE TEAM
since I was hardly a skater and definitely not a vert skater my documentation from the sideline may be a tad off
here are some previous posts on THE TOKE TEAM
decadent versus the B-Town squeaky clean
Gwadzilla Search for TOKE TEAM