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.


  1. Neat place. Haven't been here yet. I love my husband, and he is not as disagreeable about hiking as your spouse, but I endure many of the same things. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers says the Lord in His word. I should have listened closer. That applies to not only spiritual beliefs, but ALL areas of life and recreation. I'd have picked me a Christian man who is as mad about hiking as I am.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your wife and your 3rd anniversary. Next year she gets to drag you to a place she loves :-)