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By Suzanne Cottrell
Millions of years ago, rocks shifted, buckled, and collided like derailed train cars. Wind and water ate away at rocks and created distinct waterfalls, “The Sisters.” The power of water intrigued me, so one May afternoon when a writers’ conference allocated some free time, I convinced Sarah to go hiking at DuPont State Recreational Forest, located halfway between Hendersonville and Brevard, North Carolina.
I have found hiking therapeutic and inspirational for my writing. As Sarah and I hiked to Triple Falls and High Falls, I reflected on the power of natural forces, as well as forces that have shaped my life. My conversation with Sarah was minimal and focused on our nature observations.
From the graveled parking lot near Hooker Falls, where the Little River stroked its bed and draped sheets of water over a twelve foot ledge, we strolled across a wooden plank, pedestrian bridge. The clear, mountain water allowed us to see assorted pebbles on the bottom and minnows that drifted in the shadows. A handful of people wearing pastel-colored shorts and tee shirts waded in shallow pools near the shoreline. The calm waters and waders reminded me of my carefree childhood. I spent many summer days at the Oxford, Ohio Municipal Pool. I glided on a canary float, splashed, and giggled with my friends.
Like the lower section of the Little River, my life flowed without significant obstacles or obtrusive forces until my mom said, “Your dad has accepted a new job. We’re moving to New York.”
“What? I’m not going!” I said.
“We’re all moving, young lady. This will be a new adventure.”
“How could you do this? I won’t know anyone. I can’t leave my friends. Why do we have to move now?”
“This is a wonderful opportunity, besides you’ve never had trouble making friends. We’ll be back to visit,” said my mom.
I balled my hands into fists and stomped off to my room. The move uprooted me at the beginning of seventh grade. I grumbled, but at my age, I had no choice but to go along with my parent’s decision.
The Little River rumbled, and the Blue Ridge Mountains conceded. Unharnessed waters churned and bashed against metamorphic rocks. The river cascaded down rocky tiers and pummeled granite slabs. We heard the thunder of Triple Falls before we could see them.
Like the Little River, I adapted and altered my course. While Sarah and I hiked the three-mile loop trail, we eventually saw water gush over, under, and around mammoth chunks of granite and fallen trees as the river followed the path of least resistance. I, a senior steam engine, chugged up the moderate, earthen path embedded with irregular tree root steps and trenches from repeated rains while younger and physically fit Sarah forged ahead. She waited for me to catch up. We stopped at an overlook and took several photographs of Triple Falls. Each distinct tier of the waterfall flowed in a different direction with the base chute at a right angle to the top cataract. I relished a moment’s rest.
No switchbacks to ease my exertion existed on the steep trail. On the next leg of the climb, I gasped, paused, sipped water, and wiped sweat from my forehead. My legs ached as I ascended the trail. The thick vegetation of flame azaleas, rhododendron, and mountain laurel occasionally obscured our view of the river and Triple Falls. I smelled the fruity fragrance of eastern sweet shrub blooms along with the mustiness of damp leaves. Recent afternoon thunderstorms empowered the river, a mighty locomotive, which roared through the valley. I equated the roar of Triple Falls with both reprimands and encouragement by my parents and high school teachers.
“You’re not going anywhere until your room is cleaned up.” My dad said.
“You’ll do fine on your French test. You’ve been studying all week,” said my mom.
“Why don’t you run for junior class president?” My American history teacher suggested.
My peers pushed and pulled me in different directions like strong currents. “Just take a sip,” said Joe holding a beer can.
“That tastes disgusting!” I said.
Mary said, “You should go out with Paul. He really likes you.”
“Really?” I asked.
Sometimes my adolescent pangs and emotional fluctuations kept me from making rational decisions. My life has continued to be a progression of choices. Sarah and I decided to descend the slick, wooden steps to access a better view of the middle and upper cataracts of Triple Falls. Once at the base of the stairs, we stepped cautiously onto a massive sun-baked rock shelf. We took several photographs of the magnificent view. Turbulent water rushed over striated stone. Colossal volumes of water plunged and pounded similar to choices that have overwhelmed me. I have welcomed decisions as I did the cool, refreshing mist off the falls. Prism droplets sparkled in the sunlight. The beauty of the cascades hypnotized me until a warbler flitted by and caught my attention. Tulip poplar and Sourwood boughs framed the waterfalls. After a brief respite, I drudged up the steps while Sarah jogged.
“Thanks for waiting.” I huffed and bent over my knees.
White, red, and purple trillium, phlox, and chickweed bordered the trail that wound to the apex of the 150 foot High Falls. For the next half mile, I swung my arms and strolled beside Sarah. The rush of the water over gigantic, bare rock protrusions created High Falls and represented my letting go of negative experiences. The water fanned across the rock face like a peacock’s tail, exposed my vulnerability. The untamed river split and spewed spray where a cluster of birch trees clung to a rock island ledge. My stable rock was my family encircled by currents of love and respect. The river converged below the rock formation as my family did on holidays and for special events.
A wooden, covered bridge, through which Buck Forest Road passed, straddled the Little River. From the bridge, we observed glassy waters with gentle ripples. The calmer water likened to my adulthood as I followed my career path. I, too, created new channels of business and social networks. My expenditure of energy and my accomplishment of reaching the apex of High Falls rejuvenated my spirit. The water and I shared an infinite potentiality. I reflected on the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man,” and “there is nothing permanent except change.”
Of the 86 miles of trails that accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians in DuPont State Recreational Forest, Sarah and I chose the three-mile loop to Triple Falls and High Falls that May afternoon. After our hike, I appreciated the beauty of the waterfalls and meaningful reflections.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.