It's Brady!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Takin the long way...

Saturday, I went hiking with Andrew Pierce, Jason Williams and Jarred Mann. What a day! We left at 9 am, with anticipation brimming. After a thirty minute drive passing through Seneca and Walhalla, we arrived at the Yellow Branch Nature Area. The entrace to the park is almost directly across from the entrance to Stumphouse and Issaqueena.

Our hike began on a simple .2 mile loop, but split off and headed uphill. We crossed Tamassee Creek a few times on stepping stones, a few times without stones and a few times on wooden bridges. The trail began to get narrower as we went, the hillside slowly dropping away to deep ravines.

As we walked on the trail, the wind was furiously howling above us on the ridgeline. At one point a tree which had fallen onto another tree broke in half about 50 yards ahead of us. A twenty-five foot section of the mammoth tree crashed violently to the earth below. We stood in amazement and slight fear on the trail, not moving for a couple of minutes. There were fallen trees all along the trail; at least thirty across the path. We could be in the path of a rogue, rotten, hiker-slaying oak.

Finally, we arrived at the destination of our interest. As we rounded the last turn, I could just barely see the falls peeking through the trees. Yellow Branch Falls was calling our names and begging us to come closer. We jogged the last 100 yards to the base and stood in utter awe of the incredible beauty.

The falls stand a solid 75 feet high and form a perfect end to the valley in which we stood. The most amazing thing is how wide the falls are. The top stretches around in a half-circle, at least 40 feet. The table-top ledge spilled water down ten feet where the rocks are craggy and several small ledges redirect the flow. At some places, the water slides down smooth faces through dark moss, creating a foam that ripples and seems to slow time in its ginger pace down the rocks.

All the surrounding rocks in the area trickle water, making for difficult climbing. One large boulder sits on one side of the creek looking directly at the middle of the falls. A large crevice is created by another boulder behind it, making for photo opportunities and fun climbing.

Can any guy at a waterfall resist climbing to the top. Taking the long way around, we hiked up the right side of the falls and followed the ridgeline through thick brush and down steep terrain. Finally we found a creek and followed it to where it dropped off in a thin ribbon. We knew we were close. The last fifty yards was filled with anticipation, but the view from the right side at the top left us wanting. We crossed the creek and stepped near the edge. WOW! Incredible is all that can be said.

We stayed on top for about an hour, climbing down to the many levels of the falls. Hanging precariously at times to reach the ledges, we stood where few men have been. The sun kissed our faces for the first time that day as we sat with the wind in our hair. The warmth was met with a chill, but we could care less if it was hot or cold. We breathed in God's presence as if it were the oxygen in our lungs. Nature whispered to us through the howling wind, "Do you see it. Do you feel it." We saw it and we felt it. The wonder of God's awesome creation was filling our senses.

The hike back down was a little easier. The well-used trail delivered us without incident (other than Jason's muddy rear from sliding) to the bottom of the falls only feet from where we originally entered the area. The twenty-minute hike up the falls was followed by the three-minute hike down. I rather liked the difficulty of the first and was proud to have taken the harder route, simply because it was harder.

The hike back was uneventful, but offered a time of reflection on what we had experienced. We felt as though we had stood on top of the world in the hand of our Creator. It felt like it was the best-spent six hours of our lives. Now we look forward to the next hike, the next waterfall, the next bonding experience, the next glimpse of God.

The day was capped off with a six-man trip to Peppino's. Abram Rampey, Jason Williams, Jarred Mann, Tyler Lewis, Russell Purvis and I had a grease-filled evening. And then my day was over...