A couple of weeks ago I met up with some people at
, about thirty miles from where I live, for a day hike. I’d done the hike many times before. It’s a steep and strenuous climb up 425 wooden steps to the top of the falls, but that’s part of the experience for me. I like to go up slowly, stopping at the wooden platforms to take pictures of the rainbows in the water and of wildflowers and anything else I might encounter. The return hike is much easier of course and follows a trail through the forest, past a large Native American trail tree, which I always like seeing and which is something of an old friend. On this particular Saturday, we hiked up the forest trail rather than down, which was an interesting if unintentional shift and offered a new way of seeing the still-brown rhododendron tangles and interplay of fallen and standing trees. I had to hurry to keep up with these hikers, though. I am not sure if they noticed the trail tree or not. I called it to the attention of a couple of hikers near me. I am always a little reluctant to do that kind of thing. I don’t want to be one of those people who shows off what they know and gets in the way of other people’s authentic experience. At any rate, we walked down the wooden stairs, not up, which was fine with me. I stopped to take lots of pictures, mainly of trillium and spiderwebs. I couldn’t believe how much trillium there was. Every time I run across it I am freshly amazed at its beauty. Its heart seems split open, vulnerable, green and crimson to the sun. Some of the trillium at Amicalola was dusted with catkins and some of it connected to trees and rocks with thin skeins of what I took to be spiderweb. Between lying on the ground and trying to catch the light as it came through both petal and web and taking pictures of other hikers and their kids for them, I got left behind by the hikers I was with. This bothered me not at all, but of course I met up with a few of them not far from the end of the hike, returning to make sure I hadn’t gotten lost somehow. It’s hard to get lost at Amicalola, but I suppose people have done it. I felt badly that the hikers had worried about me; I should have known they would have. I am not ever going to be one of those hikers who competes in races as they hurry over trails with backpacks. That’s all right with me. I have some fine pictures of trillium and trail trees to show for my slowness. Amicalola Falls
After the hike, I sat at a wooden picnic table near the AT trailhead and read and wrote for awhile. Annie Dillard would understand about being distracted by trillium. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she writes, “I live in tranquility and trembling. Sometimes I dream. I am interested in
Alice mainly when she eats the cooky that makes her smaller. I would pare myself or be pared that I too might pass through the merest crack, a gap I know is there in the sky. I am looking just now for the cooky. Sometimes I open, pried like a fruit. Or I am porous as old bone, or translucent, a tinted condensation of the air like a watercolor wash, and I gaze around me in bewilderment, fancying I cast no shadow. Sometimes I hide a bucking faith while one hand grips and the other flails the air, and like any daredevil I gouge with my heels for blood, for a wilder ride, for more.”
For me, the wilder ride means falling behind faster hikers while I lose myself in the heartspires of trillium and the capriciousness of web and light between stones.