Special Times and Place: Petit Jean State Park

img_8089rrI may have been 10 or 12 years old the first time I approached this breezeway. Today as my dog and I began our short trek to Cedar Falls, I was reminded of how this view of the valley took my breath away.img_8091rrOne morning many years ago I stood transfixed by the rock wall on the far side of the valley. Sunlight reflected colors in the lichen-covered rock as light crept slowly down the wall in response to the rising sun. This was a unique experience for a teenager who rarely focused his attention on anything. There was no sun this morning, but I looked forward to an early morning hike with cool, moist air and soft light.img_8104rrCedar Creek was flowing gently, and I began to anticipate Cedar Falls farther upstream. My patient hiking buddy let me tether her to a tree limb in case other hikers approached so I could take a photo of the creek. img_8106rrHearing the soft roar of Cedar Falls caused my pace to quicken. As the falls first came into view, I stopped and found a rock in the creek for my little tripod. I wanted to get low next to the water.img_8111rrThen I raised the camera using a very high-tech technique – I crawled up higher on the boulder with my flexible little tripod. The higher perch allowed me to capture the reflection of the falls in a quiet pool upstream. Thanks to my friend and creative photographer, Eric Scowden. I’ve admired a photo he did with reflections in this pool and wanted to try it myself.img_8138rrWhen we arrived at the falls, I enjoyed a few more photos while Hiker-dog waited leashed to a nearby tree. She seemed to understand that I needed this time. She also appeared to understand that this was a special place and quietly absorbed the scene. img_8148rr

Memory Falls on Father’s Day

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls

I enjoyed the short hike down to Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park, remembering many hikes with my father and friends on this trail I’ve traveled since childhood. Passing a large boulder or pressing my hand across the intricate patterns of erosion on a rock wall might prompt memories I hadn’t thought of for years.

My father is unable to hike this trail now, but I’m thankful for the time we spent together on this and other trails over the years. He had an appreciation for nature and that was one of many gifts he passed down to me.

After I spent a few minutes with Cedar Falls, a father and son duo approached. I enjoyed catching a few shots of their enjoyment at the base of the falls and wondered if this place would become a memory bank for them as it had for me. IMG_1351rr

While hiking away from the falls, I waded out into the creek with my camera and tripod for the following shot. The warm water felt good as reflections danced off rock surfaces. I did happen to think about the snake I saw a few minutes earlier that slipped from the trail into the water but figured he wouldn’t mind my short visit into Cedar Creek.

Cedar Creek below the falls.

Cedar Creek below the falls.

After hiking back up to Mather Lodge, I looked out across the Cedar Creek valley and thought of the times I’d spent there with family. I thought about one daughter’s soft singing as she and her older sister and my wife and I stared at the stars from this bluff one night. I thought of a family photo we took on the bench close by. I thought of how, as a child, I used to stand and stare at the rock walls on the other side, wondering how the flow of water over time could form such beauty.

I felt thankfulness for my daughters though miles sometimes separate us. I felt thankfulness for my parents who are still able to experience trails through the photos I share. I’m thankful to have my father and thankful to be a father. Happy Father’s Day from Cedar Falls Trail.

View from Mather Lodge

View of Cedar Creek valley from Mather Lodge

Daddy and mother at Petit Jean State Park during the 1980s.

My parents on a Petit Jean State Park trail during the 1980s.