Body & Mind Extras Things to do

Chasing Waterfalls and Wonderment in the Woods 

BY: Raen Parker Washington

A city girl, grieving the loss of her mother, finds solace in chasing waterfalls, and woods while encountering wonderment. Amid TLC’s cautionary Waterfalls song, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to….” I found my way to the waters, literally and figuratively.

Lake Hartwell at the SC-GA line is where I first walked my rescue cocker spaniel, Zora. We were both amusingly clumsy as we passed a row of buzzards. It’s here where I learned that not all rock-bottom spots are bad. Here’s where I occasionally walked and talked on the phone with my brother, hundreds of miles away. Near yellow and black signs: Road Ends In Water. That day. The lake shimmered, and the wind lightly stirred. We shared a few mellow memories. In between, figuring out the next steps for her long-term care and my return the following week. That day. A short time later Siri announced a call. 

I entered the shower wrapped in sorrow, feeling the waters fall over me.

Chasing waterfalls while grieving my mama, my bestie, and queen is tougher than the terrain encountered. It’s Lake Hartwell, Issaquena Falls (Walhalla), a return to Tallulah Falls in Georgia that took me to travel the roads and trails along parts of Appalachian apexes to heal and celebrate nature’s gems. Those perfect names and pearl-clutching views, L’Eau D’or Falls (Golden Waters) in Tallulah Falls. From those hidden and missed trailheads Reedy Branch Falls Long Creek(Mountain Rest, SC) and Falls Park on the Reedy (Greenville). Or Toccoa Falls (Toccoa, GA). It’s here where I heard the gently flowing waters pass along the shortest trail length. I remembered whispering, “God is in That!” There was the tallest and truest wonderment of my journeys. This was beautiful as the name Toccoa implies.  One of those meeting-the-moment moments when you turn around quickly, walk away, and then turn to recapture it. Yes, everything stood still as I stood back. And climbed rocks to get closer. And did. Mist mixed with sweat, sunscreen, joy, and dampened eyes. A silent moment. For Mama and me. Glad I chased that waterfall!

While exploring Toccoa, I crossed a wooden troll bridge over a flowing stream that led me to Henderson Falls within its named park. The water cascaded briskly into a lagoon-like pool. Sounds of giggles and splashes were heard. From the staircase, I noticed a pony-tailed girl with a gap-toothed smile—she was a shorts and a tie-dyed shirt-wearing mermaid. She gifted me a stone from her collection on the lagoon’s stairwell platform. After engaging with the mermaid’s family, who were sunning on an overlook, and learning about more lagoons, haunted houses, and additional waterfalls, I had to eat beyond my chosen road snacks of blueberries and green tea. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to eat. I just knew it would be Soul or Southern. M & J Home Cooking Country Buffet (Toccoa) was a butter bean eater’s beacon. Their fried fish and strawberry cobbler are a must-try. Afterward, I stretched and walked around the gravel parking lot. Homeward.

Water’s healing properties are a part of these natural experiences. Whether crawling over rocks or stepping upon stones into nature to revel in human nature in nature is life changing. Meeting people atop an overlook or near the gorge or along the trails—I was moved by fist-bumps from motorcyclists met at area falls and couples celebrating tank aways, MeMa’s waiting out fun time and families of varied hues and ethnicities hovering and discovering fascinations with the smallest of creatures from unknown insect trilling to wee dragons digging to being shown slithering things in trees to beauteous, bodacious butterflies floating—a reminder to embrace simpler and such lovely things. My waterfalls quest continues. South. North. Steps. Rims. Sunnies on. City girl chasing waterfalls. Road Ends In Water.

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