Yesterday my fiancé and I hiked to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the southeast. Lee Falls is located somewhere in the depths of Sumter National Forest, in Oconee County SC.
Getting to it takes a drive along a dirt road that has no name; one just has to remember on which dirt road to turn left. The path to the falls is not marked and only real visible during late spring and summer, where greenery surrounding the trail shows the way. The rule of thumb while walking along the trail is when you come to a creek, cross it. There are about six creek crossings necessary regardless of water height. Since this is not a maintained trail, rocks are not neatly placed for convenient crossing. Some require jumping, some take a log crossing, and some are a matter of just getting your feet wet and walking through the water.
Once the crossings are complete, the rest of the hike is a matter of navigating through thick forest, rocky paths, and boulders along the trail. Using hands to grab and pull yourself to the next section is necessary. A few spots and many on the return trip usually require sitting and sliding down a rock or two to avoid a fast forward plunge down the cliff side. But when you get there, to the end of the trail, the view is worth all of the effort.
A magnificent waterfall plunging off the side of a mountain is the prize. The coolness of the mist drops the temperature at least 10 degrees, and provides the right climate for growth of moss and ferns. The rhythmic sound is calming. The sun flashes through mountaintop trees and gives sparkle to sections of the water cascading through the air. It is a peaceful and beautiful view. I could sit there for hours.
This was the perfect place for my fiancé and I to hike just days before our wedding. As I sat on a boulder watching and listening to water rush over the edge and plunge nearly 100 feet to the bottom, I reflected on how much my wedding to an amazing man is just as fitting a prize to my challenging journey, as is this view to such a challenging hike.
When faced with a challenge, whether it’s something great or something small, often there are a few choices. Usually there is a path of least resistance, a path not taken, a path others suggest because they may have been there, a path that leads to nowhere, and then the option many take; turn around and go back. There have been times in my life when I couldn’t do any of those things. I just stood there. I was afraid to make a choice, I might choose wrong. I stayed stuck and just stood there.
Life passed me by while I stood waiting. I couldn’t imagine the magnificent view at the end of the trail. I thought it wasn’t something I could reach. I considered that I would choose wrong anyway and didn’t want to find out what was at the end of that trail. Turning back wasn’t an option, I had come too far. So I stayed stuck and just stood there.
I don’t know if there was a defining moment when I finally moved forward, but I do know that it was my own personal decision to do so. I knew that I had to trust myself to explore what was in front of me if I was to ever truly feel alive. Instead of focusing on the end of the trail, I focused on the journey and accepted that no matter which path I took, there would be obstacles in the form of challenges and choices that I would have to face. I would decide what to do when faced with those challenges and choices, trusting myself to know what was best for me at that time.
I met my fiancé along that journey, at a time he was facing much of the same as I. The path was unknown to us, and often scary, but we navigated it together. We reached out a hand whether needed or not; we even carried each other a few times. We never left the other behind. And when one of us needed time to just stand still in contemplation, the other stood too, waiting patiently.
When we reached the pinnacle of this trail, there was no doubt in our minds that the journey was worth it. The view at the top is magnificent. Two people who had lost hope of ever knowing a deep and caring love now sit together taking it in. It’s a peaceful and beautiful feeling. We can sit here for years.