I 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.One 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.Cedar 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. Hearing 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.Then 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.When 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.
I’m proud to be published with friend Eric Scowden in the beautiful Do South Magazine. If you enjoy waterfalls, you’ll like our article that gives detailed information to find nine beauties in our area of Arkansas. The following links take you to the web version of the article.
Digital magazine format with article beginning on p 58:
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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.
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.
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.
I heard a yell from down in the valley and immediately realize my error. The voice was my father’s, and it wasn’t a happy sound. I had paused to pick up rocks and throw them into woods down a steep embankment. It was fun to watch them bounce their way down through the trees. I didn’t realize my father had hiked down below, and evidently one of the rocks hit him on the shoulder. When he got up to the piece of trail I was on, he emphasized that I shouldn’t do that again. It was a good lesson to learn at twelve years old. Now while hiking I occasionally stop younger hikers from throwing rocks down hillsides and this always reminds me of my father.
While visiting my Uncle Reese in Arteaga, Mexico, years later in the 1990s, I did a little desert hiking with my dad. I stared at Arteaga Mountain through my uncle’s second floor window and thought it looked like an easy climb with little in the way of vegetation or challenge. My dad, sister, and her son were up for it. We consulted with one of Reese’s neighbors who had a topographic map of the area, determined a route, and drove to the foot of this “smooth little mountain.”
We were surprised at the steepness of the climbs and the thickness of prickly vegetation. Cactus plants were everywhere and had a way of reaching out and touching you.
Another surprise was the deceptiveness of the climb. After reaching one rise, there would be a dip before rising even higher. We hiked up, then down and then up even more. This pattern repeated over and over. We finally reached the peak and enjoyed the view back down on Arteaga. Rather than return by the up and down route, we chose a drainage to scramble down and walked back to the car. A souvenir from that hike was a century plant stalk that my father found and used as a hiking stick. It was light and strong and still works today.
A few years ago my father and I visited Petit Jean State Park where we’d spent many family vacations when I was a child. We got in late and set up camp in the dark. Early the next morning we hiked down the Cedar Falls Trail. Robins were everywhere, and water flowed in small drainages along the trail. A flood of memories came over me as I thought of the many times I’d walked that trail as a child. The house-sized boulders in front of me sat exactly as they did when I was a child. Although there had been gradual changes over centuries from water, ice, and wind, the changes were imperceptible to me.
We were both growing older in a world that seemed to change a breakneck speed. The world we worked in had seen tremendous changes in technology and professional practices, yet here along these rocky trails, time seemed frozen. There was something comforting about the stability of these scenes remembered from childhood. The little drainages still flowed across familiar rock piles. Cedar Falls still roared with power. Deep green moss still clung to the tops of vine-covered rocks. Bright orange and yellow lichen still caught my eye as we descended the trail.
As I watched my father hike down the trail, I thought about his years of commitment to my mother and our family. He’d worked hard to provide for us and make it possible for us to explore the beauty of the world and learn new things. He always had an eye for the beauty of nature, and I was pleased to think I received that tendency as a gift from him. He took pride in his children and grandchildren, but I knew that he had made sacrifices to provide for us and make our needs more important than his own.
The few hikes I had with my father became special memories. He is the true long-distance hiking partner, having traveled with me for more than fifty years. I’m thankful for his many lessons, some verbal but most taught in silence through example. He showed me how to walk a path with integrity. Out of respect for my father and his example, I hope to walk as he walked.