Back to Nature (Published on - July 21, 2005)
Hiking the Tallulah Gorge
Photo by Rick Tremmel
The magnificent Tallulah Gorge represents powerful peace.
A morning fog slowly lifts as the sun’s warmth steals its moisture in preparation for an afternoon thunderstorm. Like ballroom dancers the pink and white blossoms of mountain laurel shake the dew from their petticoats, as spiders knit repairs to finely spun webs.

In the distance we can hear the distinct drumming of waterfalls upon limestone. The air is scented with sweet pine and aromatic cedar. Chattering chickadees flutter back and forth like bees on nearby branches.

Beyond our senses the well worn path offers only a few clues to what awaits us below upon our steep descent. Our goal is to hike down to the Tallulah River, the artist of the gorge. We can just barely make out the winding curves of this tenacious river hundreds of feet below. As we continue to hike we’re delighted to venture upon open rock overhangs to view the majestic vista.

As midday draws near the sun becomes hot and unforgiving. We soak our hats in a thin stream of cold water and sip long, cold drinks from our packs. We move quickly from open areas back into the shaded trail. Underneath a wide, rock outcropping we take a break in an oasis of shaded, damp stone, cool moss and lichen. A dragonfly shares our refuge. The air is clean.

From our perch we observe a large, dark vulture riding the zephyrs against a blue sky. It seems remarkable that there are no sounds of traffic or machinery. Instead we hear the sound of industrious bees as they carry their loads of pollen back to their hives, the continuous trickle of water upon the cliff face, and the wind as it rushes up from the valley through the trees.

Butterflies sip nectar upon wildflowers in oranges, purples, hot pinks, soft whites, reds and stunning blues. Vines cling to the ridges and cracks of the steep rock walls overshadowing the narrowing path, but deep to our right the mountain descends in dark greens and dappled light.

Along our way we come upon a tree that has fallen to the forest floor, deteriorating she becomes a “mother”... a place where seeds may germinate, is nesting material and a place where insects burrow providing food to the forest animals and birds.

“Mother” is the birthplace for future life.

Midway on the trail we reach a long, swinging bridge that spans the Tallulah Gorge. What a few hours before seemed an indistinct sliver now below us is a river flowing with a forceful, humbling power. Instantly we recognize and understand how, through this force and energy, Tallulah Gorge was formed.

Standing like birds on a wire suspended in motion, we are in admiration and respect. There is peace here in the violent water swirls and falls. There is a simple calm in the magnitude of this power. The majesty is awe-inspiring.

We are humbled.

As afternoon shadows fall, we make our ascent toward the top of the gorge and watch storm clouds gather above us. As we look around we realize we are insignificant in this place. We are but dots upon a swinging bridge or specks upon a trail and yet unlike an imposing row of concrete high rises towering above, these walls of sandstone and granite, these misting falls, these raging flows prepare the earth for the roots of the trees, nurture the wild flowers for the bees and butterflies, they are the dew upon the leaves, and are the warm winds upon our cheeks.

Therein is a revelation that through this magnificence, through this power and grand scale of nature that we, great and small, are all relatives back to nature.

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