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Sad News Over Breakfast, Adirondack Climber Falls to Death

We’ve had guests this week, which always tends to put us in a bit of a media and web blackout. So it wasn’t until we were leaving the Noonmark Diner yesterday morning, after enjoying a goodbye breakfast with our parents, that I caught the headline out of the corner of my eye. It was in a newspaper box, on the front page of the Press-Republican. “Skilled Placid Climber Falls to Death”.

I thought I recognized the small photo that accompanied the story, so I immediately asked for quarters, pulled the newspaper out of the box and confirmed my fears. I handed the front page to Jess, and the look on her face and the “Oh no” was further confirmation that this was someone we knew.

Well, to say that we “knew” Dennis Murphy is a bit of a stretch. But when you are new to an area, especially an area of small towns, the people you meet and enjoy a conversation with tend to stick with you. This was the case with Dennis, and learning that he slipped and fell from the top of Washbowl Cliffs (opposite Chapel Pond, on Rt 73 in Keene Valley) was hard for us to digest.

An accident like this raises all sorts of questions. How did it happen, why, could it have been prevented, etc. But I will leave that to others. Instead, as I think about this tragedy, I can’t help but think back to the night we met Dennis.

It was not long after we moved here. At the time we could count on two hands the number of local residents we had engaged in lengthy conversation… and on one hand, the number that were around our age. So spending several hours that night with Dennis was something of a treat for us. We shared a few drinks, and talked about music, climbing, and about living in the Adirondacks. When it came to the outdoors, and life in general, he seemed to have what I can only describe as a calm passion about it all.

A quality I envy.

Jess and I tend to fret about “getting the most out of life” – about finding that work-life balance. But when the conversation turned to this, Dennis had a very simple, very honest take on it. He said that now that we live here, it should be easy. Just get out and do something every day. It doesn’t have to be epic, or even planned – but just get out each day and do something to enjoy our new home. We’ll be happier if we do.

And, of course, he was right.

I’m heartbroken for Dennis’ friends and family, and sad that we will not get the chance to know him better. But as I sit at my desk on this gorgeous summer day – remembering my short encounter with him – I feel even more compelled than usual to heed his advice. I think I’ll take the puppy out for a hike, and will try to enjoy this wonderful place… day by day… the way Dennis clearly did.

Those wishing to make a memorial contribution in Dennis’ memory may do so to the Champlain Valley Search and Rescue K-9 Unit, 27 Beach Street, Keeseville, NY 12944 (

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