Never the most flexible person, at least I had a great sense of balance, thanks to my low center of gravity. I was sorely tested — tested and found wanting — last weekend when I found myself crammed in a car for a little jaunt up the road to hike to a waterfall tucked away somewhere out of Berea.
Of course I was up for it, especially after my buddy assured us that the waterfall was really just a short walk from the road, really about “from here to about there.” he said, pointing out to the curb. It’s never just “from here to there,” is it?
After driving along winding roads for half an hour, and after a great lunch at Opal’s, off the square at McKee, we arrived at Flat Lick Falls, in Jackson County. We parked in a small meadow with ten other cars. We followed the little path disappearing into the woods, and soon we encountered a rocky and root-infested obstacle course.
To give five you an idea, here is the description taken from the website, “American Byways”:
“Flat Lick Falls is quite scenic, nestled within a narrow valley and accessible by a wild trail that involves walking across streams and down steep embankments. At the base of the 30-foot Flat Lick Falls is a small swimming hole.”
Ah, yes, the wild trail. He forgot to mention that.
But the trail was nothing compared to the boulders and rocks we scurried down to reach the stream and waterfall. We arrived to the sounds of rushing water, kids laughing and the image of young men and women taking flying leaps off the ledge of a 30 foot cliff and disappearing from sight. Each jumper made a splash, a big one or a little one, and a cheer went up from the swimmers in the pool below.
The waterfall rushed and sent an imperceptible mist up to cool the hot day. We weren’t jumping of course, but there was a rocky path leading down to the swimming hole, and we took off for that.
I went about 10 feet until it narrowed to barely a foot-width, dropping off to a craggy and certain death. I had stumbled already a few times just getting to the falls and I spooked myself looking at that tiny ledge, and was aware that I lack the agility to catch myself if I make a misstep and I didn’t fancy spending the rest the next two hours dangling from a basket dropped by a rescue helicopter while my friends photographed it and posted it on Facebook.
My pals picked their way down the rocky path and spent a delightful hour playing in the water, walking under the falls and exploring the creek bed. I stayed topside and chatted with some men who have been coming to the falls since they were kids. Older now, they weren’t tempted to jump off the cliff, although they said they did that plenty as boys.
One guy was solid and sure when his buddies asked him if he were going to jump.
“Of course not,” he said, folding his arms like Buddha. This didn’t keep him from egging on the others, though, especially the one fellow who spent a half hour mustering the courage to go over the side. He over-thought it, walking to the edge, shaking his arms, walking back. He finally threw his t-shirt into the drink so now there was nothing to do but go after it.
Which he did.
When my pals returned they told me that, really, I would have been just fine had I joined them, that even if I had fallen off that little ledge, I would only have dropped about five feet, not all the way down. They are reassuring that way.
I wanted to have joined them, but more than that I wanted to feel like I might have been able to join them, to feel steady on my feet, strong, agile enough for such an adventure.
Because, as adventures go, it was a small one. I was happy enough on my own, a stream to wade and birdsong, but for the first time I got a glimpse of not being able to do, and I didn’t like it. Didn’t like it at all. Perhaps I’ll take up yoga, or tai chi. Something. I don’t want to be sitting on a safe rock or bench while my friends are about their adventures.