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Monday, February 20, 2006

Hundred Dollar Falls

Well, my weekend looked a lot like a beginning plot for the fourteenth installment of everyone's favorite movie series: Final Destination. I narrowly escaped death. I pulled a Danny Stout (this is a reference to the near tragic-fall-to-the-death of SWU alum Danny Stout as he slid off the side of Table Rock and stood on a narrow ledge for hours waiting to be rescued). While my story is not as grand as his, I did manage to hit the ground and cause some bodily harm to myself. Let's start from the beginning... (*start dream sequence*)

I woke up early on yet another Saturday morning to spend my day in nature. All that time of sleeping in would be wasted away for...nay, exchanged for a great day of adventure. I packed up my hiking gear: pack, camera, water, snacks, compass, the BFK (for those of you who have never been hiking with me, this references the Big Friggin Knife), maps and a change of shoes and socks.

Andrew Pierce and I set out towards Walhalla about 9:15, stopping by McDonald's for a quick biscuit. Soon after 10:00 rolled around, we arrived at a parking area where several trucks were congregated. Some hunters had brought their kids out for an early morning rite of passage, their heads gleaming with orange that screamed of traffic cone CAUTION!

The mist was cool on our faces as we looked out towards adventure. We set out across the first of three large open fields, crossing the creek twice before entering the woods. The trail began quite easily, but soon was narrowing and turning uphill slightly. The slightest drops of rain touched our shoulders and caps.

The creek forked at one point and I suggested we go to the right. We hiked for about half a mile up steep ravine slopes and noticed that this seemed even more difficult than the "strenuous" rating that the websites had noted. We had taken a wrong turn. I'm really glad that we took the wrong turn, though.

We saw some of the nicest cascades that I've ever seen. One was probably a quarter mile long - an uninterupted flow over rocks...down they fell as up we climbed...

We finally decided to turn around and went back to the fork in the creek. This trail was much easier, but still had some technical hiking involved. Just as our directions had warned us, the terrain bacame quite rocky.

The boulders seemed to have been set in place by God's own hand. The near-perfect grace and beauty of the surrounding view was met with the strength and majesty of a stone landscape.

We were spellbound by the shear magnitude of what met our eyes. As we snaked our way through the granite labrynth, we looked high up the cove to see Lee Falls peeking between the oaks.

As we neared the plummeting water, the cove opened wide inviting us up and in.

The immense granduer of the craggy rock face caused the wall to look aged and worn, but still held our gaze. We were captivated like a children, hearing stories from a grandfather. Of course, this waterfall had to be conquered...we started the climb to the top...

The climbing was quite difficult and after several slips and slides, I decided we should try to traverse the wall over to the falls without climbing to the ridgeline. Andrew asked, "Do you think we should risk it?" Answered quickly by my confident, "OH YEAH!" At first it was much easier going across the slope rather than up, but then the walkable area became very narrow. At one point, I had to hold on to a root which was growing horizontally as the ground under my feet was only a few inches wide.

Before I could even tell what had happened, the leaves slid out from under my feet and my footing was gone. I felt like Chris Farley hanging by a root off the side of a mountain..."Hold on little root!!!" Sadly, the thick root held, but I let go. It looked like a poorly made action movie; my fingers slipping in seeming slow-motion from around the slick circumference. I turned myself over onto my back as my grip failed and the edge came sliding toward me faster and faster. I could not see the ground below me until I flew into weightless air.

Time, my heart and my breathing all stopped instantaneously. Fifteen feet below me the earth began to fly up. A fallen tree aimed its broken branches at me, reaching to impale me like a skewer. My foot instinctively moved down to brace my fall. I hit the tree only slightly off-center, which sent me into a flat spin onto my pack. Now I was sliding head first, on my back, down a sharp slope. Fifty feet later, I finally came to a stop.

I yelled up to Andrew, who was just coming into view. To his amazement, I was now 75 feet below the place where he had just seen me. I got up and checked myself over, one apendage at a time. When I got to my left arm, I noticed a large gash just above my elbow. I still do not know what I hit that caused that. I notified Andrew that it was time to go. Once he got down to me, his face changed from shock to disgust as he saw the gaping wound.

[Aren't you glad I didn't post that]

We stopped at a flat area to take pics of the wound, but totally forgot to take any shots of the place where I fell. We hurried back to the car and headed to Oconee Memorial's ER.

An hour and a half later, I had four staples in my arm, a hundred dollar co-pay and an awesome story to tell. I can't wait to go hiking again!

By the way, Andrew did not pass go, did not collect $200 and went straight to jail.


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