Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beauty Worth Saving

This post is a photo log of my recent hike to Cummins Falls. Although this post is more about nature and photography than painting and drawing, there is still some connection with art. For about a year, this dazzling spectacle was in danger of getting sold to a real estate developer. The entire area was potentially going to be the site of a subdivision. By now the TN Parks and Greenways Foundation has secured the funds needed to purchase the property, which will become a protected state park. Some of those funds came from art sold by my local painting organization, The Chestnut Group. (So there's one bit of connection between this blog post and art!) Also, there's a good chance I'll eventually create some studio paintings based on some of these photos. So for now, I hope you'll enjoy just the photos! I took all of the photos except the ones showing me hiking, and those were taken by my friend Xiaolun.

Thank you to all patrons who donated money to protect the Falls, to Governor Haslam for the generous grant that made the purchase possible, and of course a huge thank you to the TN Parks and Greenways Foundation.

Click any photo to enlarge.

 A view of Cummins Falls from the edge of the gorge.
Now this is a swimming hole!

The rope tied around the tree is for hikers to rappel into the gorge…
 …like this.
The alternate route is to take a longer hike that zigzags down into the gorge. Then you follow the river along the gorge, either wading in the water, or walking on the bank.
It's a longer way to get to the falls, but very scenic.

Getting close…

Looks like paradise!

This was a MUCH easier hike than the time I hiked to the Falls in February, when there was snow on the ground, and too many pounds of paint gear on my back. If you haven't already seen that post, you can read it here.

 I'll include a verbal account of getting up-close to the waterfall, since it was way to wet to take my camera that close.

We sat on one of the lower tiers, on an otherworldly "couch," with the back made of rushing water, and the seat made of rushing arcs of water as well. We then moved further up to sit on another foaming, thundering white "couch," staring goggle-eyed as it exploded around us in curling, furious white foam, rushing down from our legs and creating the sensation were racing down a raging white current—yet we were unmoving. 

We eventually arose and continued up the cascade steps of the waterfall, reaching the high, mossy wall of the gorge, over which the main mass of the waterfall was endlessly plunging. We had to pass under a skinny sheet of sprinkling water to stand against the wall, but those "sprinkles" nailed the skin like bullets. I tried to touch the white, main body of the waterfall, but I couldn't. Even the sparser edges of the waterfall were hard and driving, and I felt like I would lose my fingers or break my arm if I reached any further in. So we stayed near the stinging rivulets that flanked the central waterfall, sitting on a dark, mossy rock shelf, and looking out at the gorge through the misty curtain.

I decided that even if I couldn't get under the main body of the waterfall, I could at least get behind it. I started sliding along the rock "bench" carved into the wall, getting scarily closer to the roaring wall of white, very careful not to touch it, until I was completely behind it. All I could see in front of me was streaking white; water moving so fast that it was a constant, dangerous blur. At that time Xiaolun decided to go back to the swimming hole area, so I remained alone in this roaring chamber of cool mist until I had my fill.