Well, as it turns out, my elusive waterfall turned out to be not-so-elusive. We found it. However, we found it at the end of the hike when, as it turns out, had we turned right instead of left we would have found it at the beginning. The end was good, though. The waterfall was a great way to end an hour’s worth of hiking the ridge, as well as the valley behind it. If we’d found the waterfall first, we might have turned around and left before really doing some good exploring!
After seeing the lay of the land and the variation in trees and shrubs that it supports, I can only imagine what kind of elation I’ll feel when I walk through and see the wildflowers coming up in the spring. If the vast stands of native forest sedges and Christmas fern are any indication, the spring show should be stunning. In addition to the few herbaceous plants still bravely hanging ’round this late in the season there were also a fair number of unusual woody plants along the way. Some of the more uncommon ones included an excellent stand of Lindera benzoin (Spicebush), numerous Ostrya virginiana (American Hop Hornbeam) all along the streambank and an as-yet-unidentified native azalea. I’ll let you know what it is when it flowers in the spring.
The only problematic encounter we had was when we finally reached a point where the stream took a hard turn to the left and, on our side of the streambank, straight into a bluff. Our options were to turn back and re-hike the distance we had just come and the go back up to the top of the ridge or to go up from where we were. We chose the latter. The word “grueling” comes to mind, though not in an “I’d-never-do-it-again” sort of way. I’ll say this: I’d ONLY do it in the winter when anything legless and scaly was NOT out sunning itself on the rocks or hiding sneakily under the leaves. This is timber rattler territory if I’ve ever seen it. No, we won’t be scaling the cliffs in the summertime. Uh-uh. Not me. Sorry. I’m staying on flat ground and carrying a big stick.
Cliff-scaling aside, we had a fantastic afternoon. The weather was perfect (perfectly horrible for photography) with the sun coming down through the leafless trees and helping to warm us up just a bit. When we did find the waterfall, two problems posed themselves immediately: One, the weather. “Severe clear” as a photo friend of mine would describe it–washed out light and harsh shadow–not even good snapshot weather. And two, the best vantage point for shooting the waterfall is IN the creek. Seeing as it was 41 chilly degrees fahrenheit, my feet stayed on dry land. I snapped a few shots just to prove I was there, but the pretty shots will have to wait til summer. For the moment, though, I had found what I was looking for and it did not disappoint. Now I can’t wait for spring and all of its lush, green exuberance. The photos then will be spectacular! I’m sure of it!