Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Halley, John, and I get together, the adventure factor is always high. Lately we've all been booked with other commitments and haven't hiked as a group but I wanted to share a day we spent in North Carolina a few months ago with you all.
Ginseng along the trail to Crabtree Falls.
John at Crabtree Falls.

Halley served as host for our outing and John and I met her at the Ingles near Spruce Pine before traveling a short distance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. She had brought along two other hikers she had met through her photography business, both Craig and Eric were seasoned outdoorsmen but had yet to do any Carolina hiking. Our first stop of the day was Crabtree Falls, a beautiful 60ft waterfall right off the parkway. I've visited there several times before but never miss an opportunity to take in it's beauty and I was excited to be with my friends again. The hike down to the falls is a loop, with the right loop taking a shorter, steeper path to the base of the waterfall. I've always hiked it since I've tried visiting as many waterfalls as I can while I'm in town. Halley suggested taking the left loop so I was going to get to see some new trail. The left side of the loop was easy and steady as it swung around the ridges picking up a small creek. All of us were lost in conversation and the wildflowers were blooming nicely along the trails. We arrived at a large cliff above the waterfall but with the trees you couldn't see it from there only hear it. The scramble down to the base was pretty easy and I was excited to see that our group was one of only a few people there. We all dispersed taking pictures and enjoying the waterfall. When it came time to hike out we took the right loop so we could get back quicker. The steep climb seemed to get to Craig's legs and he asked how many more stops we would be making because he didn't want to be tired at work the next day. Eric was the oldest of our group but was a beast of a hiker only stopping to let the rest of us catch him. He rested at the intersection of the two trails and I spotted some ginseng in the woods. It was a cool find and I wondered how many people walk by without even noticing it. The group was moving much slower hiking out so I took the time to photograph wildflowers, at times I was crawling through the forest floor trying to get just the right angle. John and I had seen a four leafed trillium on the hike in and I was so pumped to get some shots of it that I left my camera bag laying in the weeds next to where we spotted it. I only realized my bag was missing when we got back to the parking lot and had to run back the half mile to retrieve it! When I got back, Halley informed us that she was taking Craig and Eric back to their car in Spruce Pine and they might join us later in the day. She also gave John and I directions to Grassy Creek Falls, a waterfall a short distance off the parkway. As John and I packed up, we left my tripod sitting in the parking lot and didn't realize it until we arrived at Grassy Creek's parking area. I couldn't believe that I had been so forgetful already and as we rushed back I was praying that someone hadn't took it. Luckily someone had left it on the sidewalk to keep it from getting ran over and John and I were back on the road to Grassy Creek Falls.
Downstream from Crabtree Falls.
Unusual Trillium where I forgot my camera bag!
Grassy Creek Falls.

The parking situation at Grassy Creek is a little sketchy. The state maintenance ends and private property signs begin. A couple of residential driveways split off of the main road and a small sign indicates that hikers are welcome down the gravel road that leads to the falls. It's a steep downhill grade and along the way there are signs with various nature quotes that John and I enjoyed reading as we hiked by. Eventually there is a small pull off on the left side of the road and a road on the right with a rope over it and a sign indicating that the waterfalls are down the way. When we reached the top of the waterfall I couldn't believe how far it tumbled down the gorge. We took the steep scramble down the bank and arrived at the upper drop seeing that we could hike behind it! I was in love with this waterfall, It was incredibly photogenic and you could walk down the side of it around each drop making it bigger and bigger in all of your photographs. I knew we had some time before Halley caught up with us so I took my time shooting long exposures while John explored and photographed the waterfall also. SUDDENLY, Halley came walking out of the woods. I was stunned she could hike so fast but was glad she was back with us and we continued to take pictures and hang around the falls. When we finished I was really dreading the hike back up to the truck on that long grade. As we reached the spur road I could see Halley's car and I was so relieved my hiking up that road was over! My relief was short lived however when I noticed her mirrors were folded in and her windshield wipers were raised. She noticed it about the same time and let out her trademark "what the heck!" I turned looking up the gravel road and saw a old pick up truck parked sideways blocking us in. I checked the truck and no one was in it and the doors were locked. We were pinned in! The road was at such and angle that the three of us probably could have pushed the truck out of the way but it would end up rolling down the valley. Halley said it was obvious whoever done it lived at the end of the road so we loaded up and started down the gravel road not knowing what to expect. When we started winding around a ridge I saw what looked like an abandoned electric company substation with a porch and a very angry looking older man standing there waiting to greet us. He appeared to be unarmed and to be alone so I wasn't quite terrified. He approached the car as we reached his house and Halley jumped out to greet him. She tried using her charm but he was having none of it only stating that he had her license plate number and never wanted to see her again in there. He had to backtrack when she said she knew the owner of the land she had parked on and that he had always let her park there without problems. He agreed to move his truck and let us go but we had to give him a lift  back to his vehicle. When he got in the backseat with John it was immediately evident that he had been smoking marijuana all day, maybe even for weeks. The interior of Halley's car filled with the smell and he sat in silence even though John and I tried to engage him in conversation. When we dropped him off and the truck was safely out of our way we all erupted with laughter. John said he had a contact buzz and needed snacks! Although we didn't get his name, we had one for him, Willie!
John looking for just the right angle.
Further downstream on Grassy Creek. There are more drops behind me.
My favorite shot of the waterfall.
Halley and John behind the upper drop of Grassy Creek Falls.

After laughing ourselves into side-splitting pain, we noticed the cloud cover was still kind of thick if we wanted any views off of Mt. Mitchell and instead opted to head over near the South Toe River and some hiking at Roaring Fork Falls and Setrock Falls. We weren't going to let our encounter with Willie ruin our day of hiking, in fact, we were just getting started...to be continued...

Friday, October 3, 2014

After seeing the disasterous results of the forest service placing signs to help hikers find the Devil's Bathtub in Scott County, Virginia, I've been more reluctant to share directions and information about my hiking destinations. On one particular hike, me and one of my hiking buddies carried out three full bags of trash from what was once a pristine and private swimming hole. I place a lot of blame on myself for the current situation there. I've shared pictures and took groups of people with me who have undoubtedly told others until now it's overrun and less desirable for everyone who visits, so lesson learned.

Another relatively obscure hiking destination in Tennessee is the area known as Rocky Fork. With the Devil's Bathtub fiasco and the fact Governor Bill Haslam recenty named Rocky Fork as a future state park, I wanted to get there ahead of the crowds and the piles of trash that await. For years, I've pointed out cliffs that are visible from Interstate 26 and wondered what the view would be like from the top of them. I didn't know their name, if a trail went to them, if it was public land or private, I just wanted to be there.
Panoramic view from Whitehouse Mountain.

The internet has made the world a much smaller place and I've made a lot of connections with fellow hikers leading to my introduction to Randy Tarpley, also known as Rat. In my opinion, he is the Northeast Tennessee Godfather of hiking and has blazed many of the current trails I hike on. During one of our discussions about hiking, he told me the cliffs were known as Whitehouse Mountain Cliffs, a part of the Rocky Fork property, and that he had been there and wrote a blog about his trip. From the blog, I gathered some basic directions and decided I had to go for myself when I could find the time.

On Tuesday morning, I hiked with Jeff Forrester and his cousin, David from Missouri. We spent our morning hiking on Unaka Mountain taking in some of the early fall color and visiting Red Fork Falls. I had a great time playing in the woods and it was even better to be recovered from a cold and some back problems that have had me sidelined for a few weeks from the trails. Jeff and David wanted to hike to the Devil's Bathtub in the afternoon and I decided I would go home, satisfied with my morning adventure. As the weather improved throughout the afternoon, I couldn't resist the urge to head out for a solo hike and those magnificent cliffs in Rocky Fork.
Acorns are everywhere on the way to Whitehouse Mountain.
Climbing up the steep trail to the summit.

I arrived at the trail head and the blue gate I had read about in Rat's blog. The hike up Rocky Fork is flat and easy to follow on the old logging road. The creek is full of nice cascades and one particularly deep swimming hole. Although I was alone, I felt completely at ease and peace with my surroundings. I think sometimes it's better hiking alone because there are no distractions and I tend to pay more attention to what I'm doing. I found the trail for Whitehouse Mountain and began the climb around the ridge. The trail is overgrown and faint at times but the occasional piece of flagging tape or cut limb kept me on track. I've become good at tracking routes through the wilderness even finding some of Rat's infamous "ninja trails"  The climb was unrelenting and my feet were wet as the trail passed through a muddy creek bed a few times as it went up the valley. The surrounding slopes were steep on both sides of me and I started seeing forest boundary signs every so often marking the future parks borders. Eventually the trail comes to a saddle in the ridge line and I noticed it took a hard right to climb at a even steeper climb! I was sweating pretty good so I took a moment to rest on the forest floor in the middle of the trail. There was a slight breeze and acorns were falling everywhere. I was sure one would eventually crack me in the head but somehow it never happened. I made my way back to my feet and continued to hike climbing toward the tree line and blue sky that always seemed just one more step away. When I made it to the top of the ridge I was disappointed to see that the trail made another sharp right turn and the climbing was the most ferocious yet. At times, I was hiking on my toes the terrain was so steep and I had to make several rest stops up the increasingly narrow ridge spine. I started seeing large rocks and a few views between downed trees. The trail almost completely vanishes and it becomes taking the path of least resistance the remainder of the way. I was soon on the very top of Whitehouse Mountain. The fall color was fantastic to be early in the season and as I crested the mountain the views really opened up. To my left I could see all of Interstate 26 from the time it leaves Erwin until it crests the mountain at Sam's Gap and the North Carolina line. Cars looked like ants and I thought of all the times I had been from their vantage point being wanting to be where I was now. To my right was just mountain after mountain and more flaming fall color on the high ridges above me, but most intriguing was what lied directly in front of me. Whitehouse Mountain drops off even steeper than the climb I had just endured and is littered with rocky boulders various sizes. Further down the ridge out of sight was the tops of the cliffs. I sat on top of the mountain and took in the view and took some pictures excited to see what awaited me on down the mountain.
The first views off the mountain near the summit.
Interstate 26 on far right of picture.
Whitehouse Mountain summit looking into North Carolina.
I made it! Took this one with the Gopro.
Another Gopro picture.

I started climbing down the ridge through the boulder field and found the loose rock difficult to keep my footing. At one point I got a good look at both of my feet with the sky as a back drop as I did, you guessed it, a back drop. Luckily the loose rock broke my fall and skidded me down the mountain side a few feet in some thorn bushes. I sat up and dusted off plucking the thorns from legs and realized it was a bad idea to go any further alone.  I was a little disappointed I wouldn't be on the cliffs that day but I knew I would be back and would have something to look forward to. I scurried back up to the top of the mountain and took some more pictures and a short video of the view. I used my Gopro for a selfie to prove I was there and packed up for the easy downhill hike out.
The Tennessee Welcome Center is the clearing on the distant ridge.
Fall color starting to pop up on the highest peaks.
One last shot. I had worked up a little bit of a sweat!

My first trip to Rocky Fork will definitely not be my last. It's beautiful and pristine just the way nature is intended to be. The future of the area remains cloudy with the state park destination but it will be at least a few years until anything is done there, so enjoy it while it lasts. Until then, happy trails.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Earlier today I finally stopped laughing over Justin losing his tooth on our camping trip a few weeks ago. There's a perfectly good reason they call it the wilderness, wild things seem to always happen. It's instances like what happened to him that also got me to thinking of how dangerous it really is out on the trails. There's plenty of pitfalls to befall the casual hiker. Bees, bears, ticks, poison ivy, and stinging nettle to name a few. Snakes, breaks, twists, ands sprains all await with one wrong move. Take all those things in to consideration before heading out and don't forget to check the weather too.  Sadly, there's always a press release that emerges each year where someone got too close to the edge of a cliff or is swept over a waterfall when they lose their footing. How do you avoid becoming that person, or worse than that (according to John Forbes) be the one that survives and takes a rescue ride in the basket below a helicopter? Why risk it? Why put your neck on the line when you could sit at home and look at everyone elses adventures through the safety of your computer screen or television? Because no matter how wonderful someone else can capture a moment, there's nothing like living in it. Pushing the envelope, taking it to the next level, call it whatever you want, but it's that aspect that I find most enjoyable, especially on my recent outings.
Above the clouds near the Devil's Courthouse off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Lower waterfall on Sam's Branch. The steel cable on the left of picture is from the railway that used to run through the area that now serves as the trail.
Steve at the brink of the lower waterfall.
One of the first waterfalls we reached above the lower falls. This one was nice being around 20ft high.

Last Thursday, I had the good fortune of hiking with my friend Steve. It was one of the few times we've had the opportunity to hike together this year and he wanted to go somewhere that provided a little danger, some adventure, and plenty of fun. I researched my hiking bible, Kevin Adam's North Carolina Waterfall Guide Book, and became fixated on a creek off the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Brevard called Sam's Branch. Sam's Branch flows off the steep slopes of the mountain above Waynesville and forms plenty of waterfalls along the journey. The most intriguing part for me was the difficulty involved in accessing the waterfalls upstream from the trail that intersects the lower waterfall on Sam's Branch and leads on to the falls on Wash Hollow. I have been to the falls there several times and never thought to hike upstream or really had the time considering I've often been on one of my marathon waterfall days. Remember the 23 waterfalls in one day entry? I told Steve of the potential to see waterfalls that only a handful of people have ever seen and he was immediately convinced as well, we were off to Sam's Branch.
Heading upstream. This was took above one of the waterfalls looking downstream.
This little cascade was very photogenic.
Putting some distance on civilization.
Not much of a trail. Just keep moving upstream. That was our motto.
This picture does little to represent how tough of a climb this was. I had to crawl on my knees here up the crack of the rock to get any traction.
The route we took is somewhere down in the lower portion of the picture. This was our first full view of the cliff on the opposite side of the creek.

The two hour drive to North Carolina is never bothersome as our conversation kept my mind off the miles. We arrived at the trail head off of NC 215 shortly after 10am and began the climb up the bank to meet the old railroad bed that serves as the trail. It had rained the night before and every tree limb I brushed dropped cold water down my back. I brought all my camera gear including the gopro and my tripod. Adam's description warned of climbing and needing your hands free to negotiate the terrain but I figured we could toss the equipment to one another as we made our way up the mountain. Steve was stoked and had me almost in a run as we curved around the ridge toward the roar of water. The rain had also gave us some prime flow for the normally peaceful creek. I took us down a small side path that gave me my first view of the lower waterfall from it's base. Sam's Branch stair steps up the mountain for as far as you can see and I started taking pictures right away, taking advantage of the overcast sky and good lighting. Steve turned over any rock he could budge in search of snakes or salamanders waiting patiently for me to finish. We climbed back to the main trail and a short distance later it arrives at the midpoint of the lower waterfall.
This is the best kind of hiking.
This waterfall was close to 25ft high and was also very photogenic.
This large waterfall made our efforts seem worthwhile. I wanted to swim here but I knew we were pressed for time so we had to hike back into the woods. There wasn't a safe way to climb over this one at creek level.

From our vantage point we could see downstream to the base and upstream to more and more drops of the falls. As promised in the description, we found the sloped rock on the opposite side and began our climb beside the waterfall. The trail is immediately steep and overgrown as many people don't go upstream. It was slick as well, with water running over exposed rock faces, we were forced to grab onto anything we could to keep going upward. Steve had to climb with one hand because the other was carrying the gopro and tripod but we soon found a trail above us higher on the bank and bushwhacked up to meet it and keep a little distance from the slick bedrock along the waterfall. The trail soon leveled and so did the creek. We worked our way back down toward the top of the falls and met the creek there. A large boulder hangs over the creek at the brink and a deep pool lies beneath it. Upstream was about a 20ft sliding waterfall and more smaller falls as I could see a good distance past it. Most of the rocks were covered in bright green moss and already you could get the feeling that this area wasn't visited very often. In the guidebook, it suggests crossing to the right of the creek and making your way upstream as best you can. I seen what appeared to be a disturbance in the leaves along the bank and suggested we should take that route since it looked like the beginnings of were someone or something else had walked. Climbing up the rock was difficult but once we got in the woods there was plenty of laurel to hold onto. The laurel were so thick that we had to crawl and twist our bodies to get through and keep trying to follow what we now determined was a small game path. I grew frustrated quickly and retreated back to the creek and waded and rock hopped along more small waterfalls. I took time to take some pics of a few that were over 10ft high and Steve joined me in the water to keep heading onward looking for the largest waterfall on the creek. I had downloaded a picture on my phone of the only image I could find from the base of the upper waterfall so I had an idea of what we were looking for. Continuing up the creek I started noticing a large rock cliff hanging over the left side of the creek. I could already tell we were gaining elevation and although it was slow going there was so much to see I couldn't wait to turn the next corner.
Crawling through the woods is hard on your laundry.
Standing on top of another waterfall.
Steve pondering our next move. Look how deep that water is! This was about waterfall number six or seven.

Soon we were above the shade of the massive cliff and I could see the top of the rock looking downstream. What a view it must be to sit up there! We arrived at another waterfall, this one being around 25ft high and hidden by large rocks above and below it. We rested there while I took some pictures and as I packed my camera back up, the rain began to fall. The last three hikes we've been on it's rained, so we weren't concerned and tried to reenter the woods to have a little shelter. The climbing was horrendous with laurel and rock walls cutting us off and we were having to back track and try new routes. We found the best way to continue on was to crawl to miss much of the laurel branches and it wasn't long before I could hear another waterfall. Steve went down to the creek first and called for me to come see for myself. I came out of the brush to see a 50ft waterfall with lots of small cascades and a long deep pool at it's base. Even more surprising was there was no mention in the book or photo of any of the waterfalls that we had seen so far. There was no sign of human intervention either. No trail, no trash, no disturbances of any kind. I carefully surveyed both sides of the creek bank but not a single leaf was turned over.  I just didn't see any way someone had been there before. I mentioned it to Steve and he agreed, the rocks we were sitting on had moss as thick as a couch cushion on them. The rain had let up for the time being and we could see the skies were full of threatening clouds but we now both were soaked so our hike continued on.
As I rounded the corner, The massive upper waterfall of Sam's Branch came into view. This is only half of the waterfall.
The upper portions of the waterfall. There's still a long way to the top. I had crawled up a sloped slick rock for this view. The rock drops sharply on the opposite side of this hiding more cascading water.

Steve never complains when we go out, but the constant crawling and ducking under obstacles was starting to hurt his back. I brought some water and trail mix and at the base of another falls along the way we rested and started doubting we would find what we were after. Steve needed to be home around 6pm and it was now past 130pm and he seemed more and more hesitant to head further up the mountain. The forest closed around the creek making it almost dark with the rain clouds and above the falls it leveled out heading out of our sight. Had we somehow passed the upper waterfall? I told him we would hike up around the level area to see what was there. I stayed in the creek and put a good distance between us rounding the corner to find just more of the same. I could see that the creek took a sharp turn to the left on upstream and I told myself that if I didn't see anything past that point we would head home.

I rounded the corner and was greeted with a decent size waterfall and lots of boulders on either side of the creek. I climbed on top of one and could see that the lower waterfall was only a portion of a roughly 100ft high waterfall! WE HAD FOUND IT! I grabbed my phone to take some pictures and looked at the saved image of the upper waterfall. At first it seemed that it wasn't the right place but I noticed a distinct rock that separated the stream at the upper drop and knew we had succeeded. Eventually my elation and heart rate settled and I started taking pictures. The boulders kept me from seeing the whole waterfall unobstructed and the rain had started falling again. Steve joined me at the base and used his foot as a step to let me climb over more rocks and see the drops hidden behind each rock. For more than a mile we had seen no sign of any other humans and now we were crawling over slick rocks taking pictures in the rain. Once I was satisfied I had enough pictures to tell the story the reality of the danger set in.
The upper waterfall on Sam's Branch. Only the second photo I've ever seen of it. The person who hiked here before us had stayed in the woods passing much of what we saw along the creek up the mountain and explaining why there wasn't a trail or any disturbances of any kind. I was standing on a rock that had stinging nettle growing on it to take this picture. I would estimate a little over a mile separates the lower and upper falls but it's some tough no trail hiking!

Only half of our hike was complete. We now had to get off the mountain in the rain, around the cliffs, and through the laurel. There are so many obstacles that separated us from dry clothes and a ride home it was a little discouraging. Many times I've took vicious falls on the way back due to not paying attention. We didn't have the luxury of getting hurt because I knew no one could get to us any time soon so we agreed to take our time and work together and started back to the truck. Although we had twisted all over the creek and mountain on the way up we followed our tracks back rather easily. I opted to stay in the creek for as long as I could and when we would arrive at a brink of a falls we would crawl back through the laurel and slide down to the base and continue on down the creek. A couple of hours later and we were safely back at the truck.

On the ride home, Steve and I talked about the danger involved in what we do and the lines that seem to get pushed further and further by an ever growing hiking community The Sam's Branch hike had lived up to the hype. It was everything I could ask for with at least seven waterfalls that I had never seen pictures of. That being said, it's not a hike for everyone. There's no trails or signs of any kind, so if you get hurt or lost, you're on your own. I consider myself very fortunate to be healthy enough and experienced enough to get out and do the things I do, but I know that all it takes it was one wrong step and I could end up being one of those press releases. It keeps me honest and hungry for more adventure, hopefully, for years to come! Until next time, happy trails!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amber hates hiking. She tells me this every time I ask her to join me. It's always too hot or too cold, too steep or too dangerous, too far or most times, just simply, "NO!" Despite her hatred for the trails, she's a really good hiker. It always starts out the same, arguing the entire way to the trail, followed by cursing me on the hike in, loving the moment when she arrives at the destination, then back to cursing me on the hike out. On the drive home she raves about how wonderful it was and it wasn't nearly as bad as she thought it would be, but she will never, EVER, do it again!

Enter Alabama.

My college roommate and good friend, Ben Ezell moved to Alabama with his wife Carrie and their collection of animals to reside in one of the finest lake houses I've ever laid eyes on. When Amber and I planned our vacation I suggested we visit The Ezell's for some late summer fun on the water and of course the slightest chance of a tiny, short, easy, smooth hike. After confirming with Ben and Carrie, we were on our way to Bama for a week of relaxation.

On the drive into Alabama we took a lazy stretch of four lane known as Highway 72. I spotted a brown forest service sign indicating a point of interest and in bold print was "WALLS OF JERICHO 25 Miles." I first heard of the Walls of Jericho on a road side in North Carolina. I met author Mark Morrision who is from Georgia and said it was a must see if I ever found myself in Alabama. He cautioned us to visit the walls in times of good rain preferably the spring or fall since the creeks in the gorge can dry up easily. As fate would have it, as we passed the forest service sign it was also raining as hard as I can ever remember! I told Amber that it was a sign that God wants us to see the Walls of Jericho. A quick "NO" and we scooted on down the road to the intersection with Interstate 65. Soon we were meeting Ben outside of Cullman, Alabama and on our way to the lake house. The rain was relentless, it continued the entire drive and well after we were in the comfort of our residence for the next few days. God was giving me the water I needed to see the Walls of Jericho.

Further compounding my chances of seeing a trail on my vacation was the fact that it was also our three year wedding anniversary, Wednesday to be exact, the only day that Ben could possibly join me on a hike. Late Tuesday night after a long day of lake fun, I made a final plea to Amber, and miraculously, she agreed we could hike on our anniversary!
Amber and Ben starting down the trail.
The footbridge across the creek.
Climbing through the gorge.
The drainage from the main falls leaving a cave.

The next morning Amber, Ben, and I made the two hour drive back to the Walls of Jericho near the Tennessee border. We arrived at the trail head around 10am and started hiking the 2.5 miles to the main waterfall in the gorge. The hike really is easy going in, traveling downhill the majority of the way and Amber stayed in good spirits well into the first mile before realizing we had to return the same route. Switch backs lowered us further into the gorge and we began passing some sink holes. I began hearing water and could see a creek further down and we hiked along it's banks reaching a long wooden foot bridge. The trail turned muddy and it was challenging trying to keep our feet clean. Ben and Amber got along really well and we all stayed together as we crossed the creek near a cemetery for the final half mile of the hike. The trail continues upstream and with every weed laid over for about a 25ft stretch on either side of the creek, Monday's rain had caused some serious flash flooding. The flow had backed down a lot but was still a little cloudy, without that rain the creek would have been completely dry! I was first to see the lower falls in the gorge and thought is this all there is? Amber was behind me and said, "Is this ALL it is?" There were two other hikers swimming in the bright green water hole and I asked how much further to the main falls and was a little surprised when they told me only a couple hundred yards. The walls of the gorge were gray rock cliffs with water springing from seemingly ever crack and crevice. We climbed over the ledges finding deep stagnant pools and small waterfalls leaving from caves. Amber took the lead and I helped over a steep ledge continuing to climb upstream. Before I could join her, she returned to the edge and said, "Jason, there's nothing up here but more rock!" I felt like I would possibly die on my anniversary if there was nothing else to see, so I jumped up and climbed over another ledge and there in a large hole worn out by water was a beautiful 35ft high waterfall. Truthfully, I've seen better waterfalls but with the overall scene was fantastic! Amber and Ben joined me on the brink of the gorge and Ben and I climbed down the piles of rock to reach the base of the falls. The waterfall doesn't flow away like it would on most creeks but instead pools deeply and drains through underground caves reemerging downstream above the lower waterfall. Eventually I coaxed Amber down to join us and it was a great feeling having my wife with me at such a wonderful place at the exact time she was walking down the aisle three years earlier!
Ben and Amber on the edge of the gorge.
Main waterfall at the Walls of Jericho.
Wide angle shot of the waterfall taken with my Gopro.
Ben and Amber on the cliff above the waterfall. This helps with telling the size of the waterfall. Ben is 6'9".
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! It's around 2:10pm in this picture, exactly three years later from Amber walking down the aisle to me!
Amber and I under the Walls of Jericho and on our way out!
Ben and I cooling off for the hike out in 52 degree cave fed creek water!

The conversation on the hike out can't be put in print here, but Amber struggled. We took several breaks and around an hour and half later were making the final approach to the car. To her credit, Amber handled it well considering the heat was above 90 degrees and the humidity was equally brutal. The two hour drive back to Ben's went by quick and we still were spared with enough time to play in the lake. I even got to watch the sun set over the water from the comfort of a jet ski. To me, our anniversary was perfect. Having Amber with me was all I wanted and for her to be willing to do it showed a lot of love on her part. She even has started speaking to me again, and something tells me I will soon have a hefty bill from her favorite cake decorating supply store. Until next time, happy trails!

Amber shortly before her mood deteriorated.