We have come to the South and discovered outdoor adventures that we never knew existed in our 67 years on the road. The 729’ Amicalola Falls in Georgia. Waterfall hikes in the Great Smokies of North Carolina. And today a trifecta of waterfalls saved by a magnificent woman near the Georgia border in North Carolina .
The town of Brevard bills itself as the gateway to waterfalls in North Carolina. With classic southern hospitality, Camy at the Brevard Visitor Center cues us into the many area choices of waterfalls we have. Selecting the ones of DuPont State Recreational Forest southeast of town, we use the map she gives us and take Route 276 nearly ten miles to Cascade Lake Road. From there it’s two miles to the trailhead parking.
Once inside the visitor center at DuPont State Recreational Forest, we learn the story of one determined and still vibrant woman, Aleen Steinberg. When a developer wanted to build million dollar homes near the waterfalls, Aleen fought tooth and nail to get the legislature to block that desecration. In her honor, the one-time development office was renamed the Aleen Steinberg Center.
At Aleen’s center, Volunteer Ruth Daniel tells us that among the 82 miles of hiking, biking, and horse riding trails and roads in the park, there are six waterfalls to choose from. With a fantastic map that she gives us, we settle on a roughly four mile loop to three of them.
As we head out in this second week of October, we immediately meet up with 15 seniors, one of six hiking groups from nearby Furman College’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). As one-time OLLI members ourselves at the University of Southern Maine, Hannah and I had access to classes, outings, and events for over-50 dudes and dudettes.
On this Friday of Columbus Day Weekend, the parking lot is filling up; by the time we are finished hiking today there will be no spaces left and cars will be lined up and down the nearby road.
The imported white stone trail leads us into the forest on a gently graded 12 foot wide path. Setting off for the Triple Falls less than a mile away, we hike on a tree-canopied trail. Descending to the base of Triple Falls on a series of wooden steps, we see couples, seniors, and families where the water has pooled. Viewing two of the three cascades of the 120’ Triple Falls, we learn that this was the setting for the Hunger Games (2012) and the Last of the Mohicans (1992). The 18 second video takes you there.
Reclimbing the wooden stairway, we have one final view of all three cascades of the Triple Falls before descending steeply on a still wide and accessible trail to Hooker Falls.
As we walk parallel to the river bottom, there is a second parking lot where we see the Baptist Church ladies disembark for a morning of heavenly waterfalling. It’s just 0.3 mile to the modest 12 foot Hooker Falls, our second of three waterfalls. Once the home to a grist mill (a mill for grinding grain) for the locals, these smaller falls and fewer people bring a sense of peace to our Friday morning.
Beneath the falls, there is a popular swimming hole that today welcomes a young family playing by the riverside as well providing a lunch time setting for two women deep in conversation. We do not disturb them, but I do shoot this brief second video.
From there we climb the wide rocky trail back past the Triple Falls onto the High Falls, our third waterfall of the morning, through a forest that is a week or two from peak foliage. A half mile side trail takes us to the base of the 120’ High Falls; a little easy rock scrambling gets us a better vantage point for some iPhone videotaping. This third video rocks these falls.
With our four miles of hiking over two hours nearly done, we take a side trail to a covered bridge. It seems to be the meeting place for mountain bikers heading off into the, well, mountains.
As we return we see a young man in his mid-twenties drop to one knee and propose to his gasping girlfriend, who immediately covers her cheeks with both hands. The mountain bikers join us in clapping and cheering for the couple who are lost in the moment.
In my 67 years I’ve never witnessed a proposal, of course other than my own to Hannah nearly 44 years ago in Tempe, Arizona. Young love! Senior love! Love is the answer.
Later, lunching across from three families with eleven kids and enjoying their good energy, we know how lucky we are to have had six hikes over the past week in the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina. With four hours of driving on to Atlanta, where we will fly home to Maine tomorrow, we know these Yankees will be back.