Posted by: JennyRain | August 14, 2007

The Continued Journey (Part 5)

My most recent hike to Amicalola Falls has remained almost too sacred to share, so I have rested on its wisdom since August 4th when I actually finished the journey. 

 

Link to Part 1 of the hike: First Day Back… Zambia 2007
Link to Part 2 of the hike: The Continued Journey (Part 2)
Link to Part 3 of the hike: The Continued Journey (Part 3)
Link to Part 4 of the hike: The Continued Journey (Part 4)

 


Amicalola Falls: Saturday, August 4

With my shoes in their properly rested and cleaned condition, I attempted to set out early one Saturday morning for a day of hiking. I actually departed my house closer to noon. My emotions remained unflappable because I had already settled in my mind that this hike would not become a marathon to conquer but a reflective journey to the top of Amicalola Falls.

I had set my sights on Amicalola Falls a year prior and was not about to allow anything to derail my enjoyment of one of Georgia’s most beautiful and popular hiking sites. Amicalola is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “tumbling waters” and it represents a 729-foot falls structure which is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

The journey nearing Amicalola Falls wound me through quaint country towns as well as shiny tourist traps. Signs along the way kept me intrigued as they beckoned me forward with subdivision names such as:

Hannah’s crossing, Rain Hill, and Providence

And churches named: New Life and another that read New Hope

I was taken by a sign that said “Why Wait?” followed by another with a picture of an eagle and began wondering if the signs were trying to tell me something.  

 

The Creek Trail…

Map: Hiking Map of Amicalola Falls

 

I followed the yellow-blazed Creek Trail along the side of the falls. The introduction to the Creek Trail was marked with a sign that read:

 
Hurricane Opal on October 4, 1995.
It has taken one year to clean up the damage, but scars will remain.

Being in the middle of a healing journey myself, I could completely relate. On various places throughout the trail that day, I saw areas of land and forest that would never be the same as they had been before the hurricane, though nature had tried valiantly to repair itself.

I chose not to don my trusty Mp3 player that day, being strangely comforted by the consistency of the tumbling waters all around me. Even when I was not near enough to catch sight of the magnificent falling waters, their sound was always within reach. The resonating crash of the living water surrounding me was extraordinarily comforting.


The Creek Trail was a quarter mile of hiking uphill and just under 800 steps straight to the top of the falls. There was a footbridge between the land hike and the stairs that allowed for some rejuvenation and rest. This bridge crossed over the mid-point of the falls and allowed you to step into the midst of the falling water and feel its gentle spray before ascending the 800 steps to the top.


The stairs did not allow for many rest spots though they were littered with people attempting to catch their breath as well as others who had given up their trek half-way to the top. I continued on with echoes of my failed attempt at Coosa still whispering in my subconscious.

As I neared my 700th step water-logged with sweat and unable to wipe my forehead with my arm because my arm was just as soaked as the rest of me, a perfectly makeup-clad and infuriatingly non-irrigated young woman perkily told me to “keep going because you are almost to the top!” Though I resented her obvious lack of exertion during the up-climb of her own hike, I did appreciate her encouragement.

Reaching the Top…
 
The main overlook at the top of the falls was busy with tourists so I took a side trail that was less traveled. I stepped out on the trail and my breath caught in my chest as I watched the caped swoop of a large bird into the crevasse of the mountain range. It ascended later to dance and float above the mountain ranges until it finally soared out of sight. I was not close enough to see if it was an eagle, but I know that it moved like one. Majestic. Confident. Trusting of the wind to carry it. It was magnificent.

I followed its trail and my eyes beheld a mountain range that stretched expansively beyond where eye could travel.


The falls had enticed me but the mountain range enthralled me and captured my sense of wonder. Their purple and blue hues alighted my senses and laid out a color palette that only nature could create. Wherever I hiked on this rim-trail I could view the mountain range so I spent a great deal of time simply enjoying the view. Time and distance evaporated into a distant memory as I relished the beauty of the top. The sound of the falls continued to caress my senses into perfect serenity.

Several trails veered off from the approach trail. One led to the Appalachian Trail, one led to the Hike Inn, a cabin that you can only reach through a backpacking trail, and others led around the park. Though I was curious about all of the trails I felt compelled to take none, so I simply rested, enjoying the fact that I could take any one of the trails if I had wanted to.

The view of Amicalola Falls from the top is a breathtaking expanse of a vertical drop of water that opens into a magnificent view of the mountainous valley behind it. The sound of the falls is not the powerful thundering that you hear from the mid-point, but rather a constant humming shoosh-shoosh-shoosh sound as the droplets climb and toss their way over the rocky ledge.


I descended with the sound of the falls and the vision of the mountain range firmly implanted in my heart and mind and my feet miraculously free of the blisters that had plagued me for the first four hikes. The sweet spot of rest and calm that I had found at the top of the falls would stay with me for days following…

all writings copyrighted by author 8.13.2007 (c)

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