I’m sure the web pages I saw described the trail up to Falls Creek Falls as an easy hike for the entire family. Just over a mile and a half each way. You could walk it or bike it. And the payoff at the end of the trail was a spectacular multi-tiered waterfall.


That’s what I read. That’s what we were expecting when we left the cabin and drove to the trailhead. And judging by the number of people we saw who were walking with little children wearing flipflops and babies in backpacks, we weren’t the only people who had read those pages.

But those pages were wrong!

Oh, we didn’t know it at first. The trail lulled us in. At the beginning, it was broad enough for us to walk two abreast. Smooth. Shady. Sloping gently upward. We could hear Falls Creek chattering alongside us, see it here and there through the trees. It was so very, very pretty.

And the people coming down the Fall Creek Falls trail looked so very, very tired. Especially the ones carrying toddlers in their arms and pre-schoolers on their backs.

But we strolled on uphill. We stopped to admire spiders that made fabulous domed webs. We guessed the ages of enormous trees. We walked down side trails to viewpoints.

Dome spider webs near Fall Creek Falls

I’d never seen dome-shaped spider webs before. But they were everywhere in the forest!

A Challenging Hike and Sensible Hikers

Here and there, the trail was steep and narrow. And the farther we went, the steeper and narrower it got. By the time we got to the suspension bridge at the halfway point, we knew we’d been had. Those people who said it was an easy hike – they weren’t like us. They probably walked to work five miles uphill both ways every day.

We had to admit that it wasn’t an easy hike. But it was a beautiful hike. And there was that promise of the waterfall at the end. So we kept going.

Onward and upward. Falls Creek got louder. We saw fewer young children. Perhaps the families decided that they were better off turning back without seeing the falls. That would have been sad, but sensible.

We crossed a second bridge. Crossed a scree field. Walked on narrow paths that were tilted at crazy angles, just asking us to slide down the side of the hill. Climbed up and up, down, and up some more.

And then we were there.

Falls Creek Falls

Falls Creek Falls was as beautiful, as breath-taking, as amazing as we could have hoped. Pictures never do justice to a waterfall. You have to hear the sound, see the motion, feel the mist in the air.

Falls Creek Falls is about 250 feet tall.

Falls Creek Falls is a three-tiered waterfall. This picture shows the lower two tiers. There wasn’t a good place to get a picture of all three tiers.

We sat in the cool shade, resting and watching the falls, the way you watch a campfire on a starry night. And looking down from the viewpoint, I saw a ledge, large and flat, at the edge of a cliff that plunged down to the hole that the waterfall had carved.

I wanted to get down to that ledge.

There were other hikers that had gone. I watched them, looked at the paths they took. It looked like it would be a challenge – but I could do it. I had gotten to the waterfall. I knew could get down to the ledge, where I could have a perfect view.

I could get down. But could I get back up?

The hikers going down and scrambling back up were mostly the age of my children. One or two were my age, or thereabouts. One looked like he probably lived on trails. The other – she needed help to get back up.

That was it. I decided not to go down to the ledge. That was sad, but sensible.

And I really was sad, for a bit. I wondered whether I was short-changing myself, by choosing to stay within safe limits. Did I need to push myself harder? Take more chances?

Wasn’t that climb to the top hard enough?

Mountain Unicycles

And then the unicyclists arrived. Seriously. I didn’t know, before that moment, that there was such a thing as a mountain unicycle. But there is, and a small group of people had come to the waterfall by unicycle. That was a feat I would never, ever be able to do. And I would never, ever even want to try! That wasn’t sad. It was simply a real and honest assessment of what I could do and what I would do. Mountain unicycles aren’t for me.

And that ledge wasn’t for me, either.

The Fathers warn us about trying to go beyond our spiritual abilities. I think their advice probably applies to our physical abilities as well.

I don’t always want to hear those warnings. But it’s good for me to listen.

Read More

Three Days off the Grid: There’s a rhythm to life. We experience it in the life of the Church, of course. But we also live it in the lives of our families, in the things we do year after year.

New Year’s Resolutions: I don’t make resolutions. Keeping them is beyond my spiritual abilities. But there are ways to make the changes I need to make.

Times and Seasons: We experience sunset, and autumn, and death as endings. The Church tells us otherwise.

Charlotte Riggle, author of Catherine's Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
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