So fellow travelers, the end of the trail is finally in sight. Thanks to my readers who have patiently waited for the series to run its course, a pace which slowed when I went back to work after Labor Day and we hit the beginning of Marching Band Season. If you want to catch the story from its beginning, you’ll find the trailhead here.
My new hiking friends and I were no longer concerned with staying dry. Watching huge logs and even a full sized tree roll downstream rendered the threat of lightning inconsequential. Our younger hiker had asked if someone fell in could they possibly swim to the shore. Her aunt assured her the chances of survival in the rolling currents would be slim. The river now raged with enough force and volume to easily move a car. Fortunately within a quarter mile, the trail began to rise away from the river and the concern of being swept off the trail lessen.
To keep her niece’s mind off the dangers of the rising river, my new hiking friend talked about a few of her Florida kayaking adventures. Her story of an alligator encounter made me think of my friend and fellow Bedlam Collective Blogger Jennifer Bowman. Soon we were laughing as we made our way carefully along the rain soaked trail. We could hear the roar of the river to our right and often came within view of the white capped latte brown swells but the thunder was receding and rainfall was slowing down to a gentler summer shower.
Along steeper parts of the trail, I would proceed first and my friend’s niece would back track to bring my hiking stick to her aunt, whose knees, like mine, were beginning to feel the effect of the extended hours of hiking. By now, the storm had held us on the upper trail for over an hour and a half. I had sent a text to my friends back at camp, to let them know I was sheltered and safe, but lacking a signal I knew they probably had not received it until we began our decent down the trail. In fact just about the halfway point, I heard my phone “ping.” I suspected Lisa or Mark were replying to my text. It dawned on me how glad I was I chose to leave Sammy back at camp. Lisa would have been beside herself with worry. They later told me she thought about contacting the park office to let them know I was up on the trail in the storm. Mark assured her I had a rain jacket, food, water and my cellphone safely wrapped in double ziplock bags and would call for help if need be. Those double ziplocks were a good precaution, because by now I was soaked to the skin and I knew anything in my pack that wasn’t wrapped up would be just as wet.
We arrived at the base of the trail just as one of the park staff was coming to close the main gate to the trail. He asked if anyone else was up on the trail. We told them about the Indian family that had headed to the upper end of the Rim Trail and the younger couple that had come down the gorge trail before us. He said they had made it back about a half hour ago. The main park area would be closing because the access roads were beginning to flood. I asked if I could still get to the swimming area to take some photos and he said if I kept my distance from the lower falls and stayed on the walkway I would be fine. So my friends and I parted ways at the parking lot after some very wet hugs.
Before walking to the lower falls, I ducked into a picnic shelter to change into a dry pair of socks. My shoes were so full of water they sloshed with every step and I knew the socks would not stay dry for very long. However, my feet were very cold and I could feel blisters beginning to take hold in a few spots. Dry socks even for the short walk to the lower falls would be a comfort. I also checked my phone and replied to the text from my friends. Yes, I decided I would need a ride back to camp because the access path across the river by the lower falls which usually looks like this
now looked like this…
No, there would be no crossing at either this or the access path further down the river.
I could hear the falls long before I saw them, a roar not unlike the sound of Niagara Falls from a distance.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw….
The staff who were closing up the area would not let me get any closer than the very edge of the swimming area. The water thundering over the falls extended right out to the end of the diving board and was pouring water right over the upper stone patio. Remember, the shot I took by the falls before the storm looked like this…
The mist was so heavy I was getting drenched all over again even standing as far back as I was. One ranger said he had never seen the falls like this and he had been working at Treman for over twenty five years. I was suddenly very tired, cold and more than a little overwhelmed by what I had seen. I felt very fortunate to be walking back to the parking lot where, within a few minutes, Mark arrived to get me back to our campsites.
Less than an hour later, now in warm dry clothes, with a mug of hot tea I sat by the roaring fire Mark had conjured up from our stack of rather damp firewood. As I described the adventures of the day, it dawned on me that my “chance” encounter with the other hikers was surely the bit of good fortune that kept my mind from straying onto a sidetrack of panic.
Thank goodness for friends well met on the trail.
Thanks for walking this trail adventure with me and remember….
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.