by Luke Osteen
If you’ve ever made the long, winding trek from downtown Highlands to the almost preternaturally pastoral landscape of Horse Cove, you may have noticed, just off the side of the road, a narrow pipe with a steady stream of clear water shooting out and pooling in a mossy granite bowl at its base.
Of course, if you’re the one driving, you may have just as likely missed the site, since Horse Cove Road demands your full attention.
But if you’ve made the run enough times that you can dart your eyes from the road itself, or you have an alert passenger who can point it out to you, it behooves you to pull over at a safe spot and hike to this quiet, almost concealed landmark.
This is Moses Rock, and it’s been a little miracle since the earliest days of Highlands.
According to Ann Turner, it’s a feature that literally popped out of the mountainside in the latter part of the 19th century.
“Luther’s great-great grandfather, the first elected mayor of Highlands, Stanhope Walker Hill – Squire Hill is how everyone knew him – was helping Kelsey and Hutchinson (the men who literally put Highlands on the map) plan the town and was surveying the roads,” Ann explains. “We got this account from Luther’s grandmother, Helen Hill Norris, who in the 1960’s wrote a column used to write for The Highlander newspaper.
“One of the roads was Horse Cove Road, at the time just an Indian Trail. The Squire and his crew were working to expand the road so that a horse and buggy could get through. They blasted out a quarry on the trail for material to build the road.
“Well, one of the workers, The Squire’s right-hand man, Jim Henry, struck a glancing blow with his mattock against an outcrop of solid granite, and out poured in silvery brilliance, a spring of water.
“When the The Squire saw it, he said to Jim, ‘We’ll call it Moses Rock, because in the Old Testament, where Moses was leading the children of Israel, and they were tired and thirsty, somewhere it says that Moses smote the rock and there was water for all.’”
So for nearly 150 years, that little spring has been available for thirsty travelers. Some time along the way, someone placed the tiny ceramic ceramic statue of an angel to oversee this little spring and its visitors. Ann calls it The Angel of the Cove.
When my family lived in Whiteside Cove, we relied upon a deep well for our household water. During the summer of 1993, an extremely dry year, that well sputtered and died.
Moses Rock saved our family from disaster – you’d be surprised how quickly civilization collapses when you can’t take a shower, or make tea, or, worst of all, flush a toilet.
But thanks to regular visits armed with bottles and jugs, this little jewel got us through that long, hot summer.
Now there are some you, probably from somewhere far away, who are reading this and asking, “But Luke, how can you trust the purity of a spring pouring out of a mountain face?”
Well, I’ll give you the answer my son (who’s now all grown up and lives out in Portland) gave me when I mentioned that I was writing this: “Dad, the day you die drinking from Moses Rock is probably the day you want to die.”