Sometime time ago—back when spring was young, and all that—someone and I hiked out to see a 700-foot waterfall.
We made the hike twice, actually. The first time, we knew about a waterfall back in the woods somewhere, so we decided to mosey out and take a look. After all, a 700-foot falls ought to look impressive, even if it’s just a trickle.
After a mile or two along the road, we reached a trail and followed it uphill. We could see the river, and a waterfall, but it didn’t look like the falls we were expecting. Then, we found the trailhead, which told us that we were about four miles from our destination.
Neither of us had water, and we were in California, where the weather is hot even in early spring. So, thinking better of an eight-mile trip without supplies, we went back and plotted a trip for another day.
What we didn’t know was that the waterfall wasn’t just a falls, or even a double falls. It was a five-tiered waterfall. Where we started, near the foot of the hill, we could see a wild rush of water over rocks and logs.
Further up, the river mellowed into a fast-running stream. It changed again into a shorter falls, but still further on, we could see glimpses of the largest section, a 300-foot drop into the narrow crevice.
This time, we thought, that must really be it—not as tall as we’d thought, but an impressive white sheet of water falling through sunshine to disappear behind the rock. We climbed on, nearing the falls, while the path changed from woods and pine needles to rocky steps.
But, as we came around the corner, we found that the path went on, past the edge of the falls up to the foot of yet another waterfall.
And the steps climbed even past that fall. We thought that this must be the top. We could still see a low rim of hills above the top of the falls, but we had climbed almost two thousand feet already, and surely the river would level out just above this climb.
It did, but only for a short distance. And this time, we could see the final falls, coming down over a hillside of stone.
I mentioned in one of my early posts, a couple years ago, that hiking can be a lot like life at times. Maybe you start out with a good view of where you’re headed, but once you’re on the trail, it’s hard to see how far along you really are.
I’m the type of person who likes to look ahead and see what’s coming, but I’ve found over the years that life comes in sections like a waterfall. It might be nice to see the whole gorgeous downpour at once, but it’s often broken up into chunks—100 feet here, 150 there, with lots of rapids and shallows in between.
The last couple of summers, I worked in Alaska, in between tutoring and writing during the rest of the year. None of those were things I could have imagined just a couple years before. At one point, I was considering grad school, both because I like a particular type of literature, and because I was looking for something definite, something that would give me an idea what I was supposed to be doing and where I might be headed.
Grad school fell off my list, but I’ve passed different section of the falls recently. I met someone awesome and got married. (That trip back in the spring? We were on our honeymoon, down in Yosemite.)
I know there are still a lot of corners to turn. For now, though, I’ve gotten small glimpses of what the trail ahead might look like, and it's more than I could have guessed or imagined on my own.
Plus, it’s always fun to be on a hike with a friend.