Having landed in western North Carolina for a week of hiking (mostly), it was the siren call of waterfalls that had us on the road at dawn on our very first day. We entered the Pisgah National Forest via Gorges State Park, and we had the hushed woods to ourselves for miles. The trail undulates for some time in a downward direction, before starting to rise as the Horsepasture River nears the trail, and then suddenly crests as you catch your first glimpse of Rainbow Falls:
Side trails deliver multiple viewpoints of the powerful falls, each one more enchanting than the last:
After finally sating ourselves at Rainbow Falls, we continued up the trail to Turtleback Falls, a smaller and more sedate falls with an intimate, murmuring voice:
The damp leaves underfoot and the misty air also supported the habitat of an inquisitive snail and its progeny:
We retraced our steps out of the forest and headed northward to Dupont State Forest (a filming location for The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games). Just a short way down the trail we were treated to High Falls:
Even more impressive was Triple Falls, seen here from a distance:
And from closer up (only two of the drops can be captured from this vantage point):
The last stop of the hike was Hooker Falls, a wide cascade with a shorter drop:
Our cup overflowing, we headed northward to our rented cabin for the evening. It is not easy to say what is so mesmerizing about the falling of water. It’s a multisensory experience, to be sure, and a powerful demonstration of water’s relentless ability to go around every obstacle that it cannot get through (until it finally does, of course, no matter how many centuries it takes). There’s something less easily described, though, that happens when you stare at a waterfall: look at it long enough, and it may start to seem as though you can see individual droplets in suspended motion for just a millisecond before the inevitable plunge. Give your consciousness over, and you can start to control your perceptions of individual droplets versus powerful singular flow, alternating between them at will.
It’s all in there–everything we think we know, everything we wish we could. Downward flows this day, and down the river floats the day that has passed. In the dark crevices of the rocks above is the night that is to come, and that night too will float away. And what the waterfall reminds us is that none of it was ever separate in the first place: there are no boundaries, no droplets suspended in time, no day, and no night. It was all only ever one.