A Walk to the Falls

Waterfall, nothing can harm me at all,
My worries seem so very small
With my waterfall.

Jimi Hendrix, May This Be Love (Waterfall)

It was the Sunday afternoon of Arts Fest, and that could only mean one thing: it was time for our annual family reunion, or "Grandma's party," as we have always called it, as that's how it all began. For many years, we - my father and his immediate family and their offspring - have gathered together to celebrate Grandma's birthday, even though Grandma is in heaven now and so cannot be there herself. (By coincidence, this event always coincides with our local Arts Fest.)

The party involves lots of food, and it occurs at a local camp my father and brother belong to called the Lost Creek Rod & Gun Club. Before the meal (or sometimes after), those of us kids who feel up to the excursion make the hike through the woods and up to see the waterfalls on Lost Creek, in Juniata County.

"The Falls," as it was always simply known, is a local treasure. The walk is a moderate hike up a hill, across several rickety wooden bridges. It features a number of smaller waterfalls along the way, leading to the largest falls that you see in the upper left of this photo.

On this day, I made the hike with several relatives, including my little 9-year-old niece, Kaylee, who made the hike in flip-flops. My one cousin has a camera just like mine, and we have lots of fun trying to outdo each other with the photos we take, and the physical manipulations we get our bodies into to take them. ("Anything for the shot!" exclaimed my cousin, as she clung from the side of a slippery rock, leaning out over the water with her camera, pointing it at one of the falls. Gee, I can tell we're related!)

The trail was damp and muddy from all of our recent rains, but I didn't see a single amphibian or reptile. Rats! I am always hoping for a snake. Why does everybody but me get to see them? We had just time enough to make the hike up and back before it was time for our meal, so we proceeded at a rather speedy clip, so as not to miss the food. (Priorities, we can has them!)

I usually make something myself to take. But this year, I was not sure I was going. My oldest sister is in a rehab hospital in the Harrisburg area, and I had thought I might try to visit her over the weekend when her therapy schedule is less busy. But she has asked for "no visitors," at least for right now, as she is trying to spend "150 percent" of her efforts on getting well and "getting the h*ll out of this place!" (her words, not mine).

So at the last minute, it looked like we were going to the reunion. And so I picked up a few last-minute quarts of chili at Eat 'n Park and stuck them in a crockpot. Some shredded cheddar and crackers on the side, and - voila, my contribution to the feast! But I digress . . .

The trail to the waterfalls in this photo is within walking distance of the house where I grew up, on Shade Mountain. And so I have happy memories of walking this trail at almost all times of year, except usually not in winter. When I was a little girl, it seemed like such a long, long walk. Today, not so much.

I have walked this trail many times with family and friends. I might even throw in the fact that young (and not-so-young) lovers sometimes find these woods a romantic setting for some canoodling. Have I myself as a young lady spent any time kissing and/or canoodling with a young man in these fine, fair woods? Indeed, friends, I must admit I have.

And when we reach the top, and the major waterfall of the hike, OFF go the shoes, and into the water go the hot, steamy toes! I would also suggest that if you are photographing scenes on or near the water, sometimes standing barefoot in the middle of the creek is the best vantage point for getting some of the (literally) coolest shots.

We enjoyed our visit to the falls, took lots of pictures, and then made a speedy retreat down the mountain and back to the party (and the food). And after the meal, we got to visit for a short while with my parents and a few relatives there.

And I swiped some green beans from my father's garden, and some of my mother's awesome baked ham to go with them. And I played with my little niece's newest dolls (dolls are SO MUCH better nowadays than any that we had). And suddenly the visit was over and we were on our way home, with nothing left of the event but a few leftovers, a whole lot of pictures, and happy memories to share.

A sidebar to this story is my oldest sister's tale. Last year, my sister wrecked her car on the way to the family reunion. The year before, she got woozy from low blood sugar and fell face-down into the creek! One year a few years back, her dog died and she could not come.

My sister swore after last year's wreck that she would no longer attend the event, as it seems to bring her, personally, bad luck. However, a bit of time in the hospital has changed her perspective. On the phone last week, my sister swore she was leaving the hospital and attending "Grandma's party."

My sister is making great progress in rehab and reports feeling better than she has in a LONG time. And my husband and I agreed that we wouldn't put it past her to rise up out of her hospital bed and do whatever she wants. But the event wore on, and then ended, and my sister did not appear. However, I spoke with her on the phone the next morning to tell her all about it. I have to admit that her words surprised me.

"Grandma's been talking to me," my sister said. And I responded with some puzzlement (but allowed that I leave room in my beliefs for things in heaven and earth that I have not yet experienced yet), so she continued: "Yes, 64 years old and I've never been in the hospital before." (She was not even born in one; my oldest sister was born in my mother's parents' house.) "But Grandma's been keeping me company these days, and she's been talking to me," she said. "On Sunday morning, she told me to stay here, as I have work to do; but she said that SHE was going to go and ENJOY HER PARTY!!!"

The song to accompany this image is the tune whose partial lyrics appear above: May This Be Love (Waterfall) by Jimi Hendrix. I have to admit I had NO IDEA this was his song originally, as the first version I ever heard and fell in love with was the marvelous Emmylou Harris cover of the tune from her excellent CD, Wrecking Ball. (If you adore Emmylou, you absolutely MUST buy this CD!) But I did not know that it was originally included on Jimi Hendrix' first album, Are You Experienced (which my husband owns, by the way). So here are two versions of the song, one by Emmylou (with guitar assist by Daniel Lanois), and the other by Jimi. Enjoy!

For the woods lovers, here are a few bonus links to prior years' blips from the family reunion, featuring the Lost Creek environs:

Caution: Ent Crossing! (2012)
My Father and His Two Sisters, Laughing (2013)
Cool and Green and Shady (2014)

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