Forbidden Falls: How Not to Play It Safe

A Sunday afternoon errand led to a spontaneous detour to an area I had not visited in a few years. Even though the authorities fenced it off, you obviously can’t keep people away from this place:

Broken fence

Broken fence

A short walk into the woods leads to this magical swimming hole:

Swimming hole

Swimming hole

Two men in the water ask me to take their picture and to publish it “in the paper.” They even tell me their names and where they are from. The water was ice-cold, one of them said.

two guys in water

I follow the water past the swimming hole:

Where the water leads

Where the water leads

Without hesitation, the clear, cold water flows over the edge; simply disappears. I can hear roaring and crashing down below but cannot see past the drop-off point. I wonder how close I can get to the edge and still be safe.

Over the edge

Over the edge

A long way down

A long way down

I want to get to the bottom of things. I was grateful that I had exchanged my sandals for an old pair of walking shoes before I left my car behind. I find the little rocky path I remembered from before:

Down a rocky path

Down a rocky path

The path stops suddenly where the hillside has been smothered with large rocks. Did they really think this rock wall would keep determined folks from finding their way down? I am annoyed and I do hesitate – if I fall or twist my ankle, there won’t be any easy way to get back up.

Boulders

Boulders

I sling my camera over my shoulder and carefully test each rock I step on. Some are loose; some are fairly large so that I have to scoot down on my butt. I meet a millipede on the way:

millipede

millipede

And when I am almost at the bottom, I see that I am not alone:

a young couple

a young couple

I watch this young couple climb up the bottom of the falls and disappear behind the water fall:

Climbing behind the falls

Climbing behind the falls

Bottom of falls

Bottom of falls

I climb down a little further but am so close now to the falls that I have to protect my camera from the water spray. Jewelweed is growing waist-high here and collecting water beads on its leaves. The waterfall is simply glorious, unselfconsciously magnificent:

Waterfall in full glory

Waterfall in full glory

I am tempted by that place behind the curtain of water, where green moss is growing and everything is glistening with moisture:

What lays behind

What lays behind

But not today and not by myself… Now, to climb back up the wall of boulders. Relieved, I realize that it is actually easier to climb up than down. When I am almost at the top,

Almost up

Almost up

I notice what I had totally missed on the way down. I was so busy looking down finding safe passage for my feet that I did not see what was hanging ABOVE my head:

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

My heart skips a beat and for the first time I feel a little scared. I can see a few large wasps at the entrance of the hanging nest. Did I actually slide down the rocks underneath that thing? Maybe I was moving so slowly that the wasps didn’t consider me a threat…. I remember a story my husband tells of climbing a rock wall and being stung by several hornets who did not like his face so close to their lofty nest. Unlike him, I don’t think I could calmly take the pain without swatting and possibly losing my balance.
“Please ignore me, dear wasps, I am no threat to you. Pretend I am not there.” If there was a wasp god, I was praying to him while giving this pendulous nest the widest berth possible.
I feel very relieved when my feet stumble over the final large boulder and find that little rocky path again. I escape with only a few mosquito bites.

Back at the top, outside the damaged fence, I decide to walk the brief distance to the safe overlook where I am “supposed” to take photos from and take this parting shot:

Waterfall from overlook

Waterfall from overlook

P.S. I’ve had this funny feeling that the wasp nest represented some kind of warning. Today, two days after the waterfall visit, I accidentally ran the lawnmower over the entrance of an underground yellow jackets nest and got stung twice – on my ankle and in my armpit. Both places are sporting huge swellings, each as big as my whole hand placed over it! They really got my attention now…

About Beauty Along the Road

My name is Annette. I am passionate about nature, health, simplicity, self-reliance, truth, and life-long learning. Originally from Germany, I now live in Virginia, USA. I am a therapist, health coach, writer, photographer, and organic gardener.
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41 Responses to Forbidden Falls: How Not to Play It Safe

  1. Wonderful Annette, we seem to write mirror posts quite often🙂 I think however your adventure was more adrenaline fuelled than mine, and your falls more dramatic. I love the look of the swimming hole, so refreshing.
    In the 14 th shot ( 4th from the end) there is a quite destinctive skull face in the mossy rock beside/ behind the falls🙂 Really loved tagging along on your adventure past the wasps.

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    • I am not an adrenaline junkie, so I would have preferred your scenic route….but sometimes the camera seems to dictate my path🙂
      You are right about that rock face – it does look sinister – had not noticed that before.

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  2. Leigh says:

    What a lovely experience, Annette! This is one of the main reasons I miss the mountains….And yet, I am grateful that there is such beauty to be enjoyed just about anywhere, from the dandelion in the sidewalk to the progress of a storm moving toward the Chesapeake. If there’s anything I’d change, in fact, it would be us: to increase the sensitivity of our beauty receptors! Kindest to you!

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  3. Chas Spain says:

    Hi Annette -the shot from the base of the waterfall was really worth the trek

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  4. indacampo says:

    Gorgeous. The only word that is required. 🙂

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    • Thanks – as much as I yearn for the tropics (where you are), I do find a lot of beauty and satisfaction in our mountainous climate here. As much rain as we’ve had this spring and summer, I am beginning to call our area a “temperate rainforest.”

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  5. Barneysday says:

    Incredibly beautiful pictures and what appears to be an idyllic setting. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure.

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    • Idyllic, yes, just a little difficult to access🙂

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      • Barneysday says:

        The best always are. There was a stream and wonderful, deep swimming hole in my youth that was accessed by a walk along a narrow path, deep into the woods. It was also a great, trout stream. Very few actually knew about it.

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        • The fewer people know of a place like that, the better. I almost stepped into a broken beer bottle on my way to the swimming hole. People probably go there for drinking parties… I shudder to think of someone losing their balance while drunkenly looking over the edge of the waterfall…

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  6. mpejovic says:

    Wow, what a beautiful area! I can see why they want to preserve it and fence it off though. As for the insect stings, I feel for you. That wasp nest looks very scary.

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  7. Liana says:

    I feel refreshed by this post…wow love LOVE it!

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  8. Brilliant photos, what an enchanting place. I can’t stand wasps though. Ever since I was stung between the toes while I slept. Little gits, what is the point of them anyway?

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    • Hi Danny – thanks for stopping by and commenting. As much as I dislike wasps now that I discovered I am highly allergic to them, they do have a place in the order of things. They are predators for other pesky insects and I think they are also pollinators (but not 100% sure about that).

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  9. Thank you for this beautiful post. Your photos and descriptions are so lovely I feel like I got to come along for your adventurous walk. And wasps? Yikes! I’ve been stung three times in my life and I remember them all vividly. While I love nature and spend a LOT of time in my gardens, I still nearly scream when one hovers to ‘look’ at me. Best wishes for a speedy recovery from your 2 owies (but better in your yard than near a cliff far from home).
    Cheers, Gina

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    • Hi Gina – things actually got worse later that day – the poison from the wasp stings spread thru my body and I was covered in red welts, head to toe. It was itching so badly I felt like jumping out of my skin. Luckily, an herbalist friend told me what to take and my skin totally cleared up by the next day. What a relief…. I will be highly vigilant now when it comes to wasps, don’t want to repeat that experience again.

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      • Leigh says:

        Hi, Annette and Gina.
        Annette — I am glad you have an herbalist friend to consult. I would have suggested immediate use of plantain as a spit poutice, because it’s a great drawing agent for stings and bites (ants and mosquitoes). It still always amazes me how quickly plants work! I had some young students last week and was showing them plantain when one got bitten by a mosquito. He crushed the plantain and applied it to the bite and the swelling receded quickly. Such a simple, almost nondescript plant — yet so powerful!

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        • Leigh – yes, my herbalist friend said the same thing to me. I had resorted to my trusty jewelweed lotion to soothe the stings and it stopped the itching for a while but did not prevent the poison from doing what it did. I will definitely go with plantain on the next opportunity!
          Years ago, I did an experiment once with a friend who had both of her forearms covered with poison ivy rashes. Her doctor had given her some kind of a salve to apply. She put the salve on one arm and, with her good-natured permission, I put a plantain poultice on her other arm. The next day, the clear winner in speedier healing was the plantain! Plants have been our healing friends for as long as we’ve been on this planet!

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          • Leigh says:

            What a neat story, Annette! One thing it’s important NOT to do is put something oily on a rash that is, in poison ivy’s case, caused by oil (urushiol). Instead, it helps to astringe it, which is why baking soda also can help (think of the effect of using baking soda on a greasy pan).Jewelweed is a fine plant, too, BTW! And sometimes, when we ask plants for their help, they can help with things they are not known to help with.

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      • Oh my gosh that is awful! Well thank heavens for having a herbalist as a friend and that it got better quickly after that. Now I feel even more validated when the occasional scream does ‘pop out’ when a wasp suddenly appears near my face! Stay safe, and I look forward to your ongoing (and safe!) adventures.🙂

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  10. Lush, chilly, vivid pictures, especially of the waterfalls, swimming holes, etc. Delightful!

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  11. utesmile says:

    I would like to give you some awards, if you do them, please accept it. If not, take it as a compliment!
    http://utesmile.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2603&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

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  12. asqfish says:

    Salaams my friend, I loved how you captured the essence of the place! Your photography is outstanding mashallah! It reminded me of a place a went to with my son in Argentina in the middle of the rainforest. Thank you!

    Like

  13. Bastet says:

    I love waterfalls, and we don’t really have any so beautiful around here. Sorry about your getting stung, hope all is well now.🙂

    Like

  14. Pingback: Oh, The Places You’ll Go: My first blogging year in review | The Beauty Along the Road

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