Dreaming of the falls in autumn

The air today is crinkly crisp; it seems fall has arrived at last. The warm days of early October lulled me into thinking it might be a long slow autumn that, if I crossed my fingers and wished hard enough, might ward off wintertime. I’m not a cold-weather person.

Though there are few things I love more than wearing boots, I’m apt to dig in my heels and resist the coming of winter. I look at friends who live up North, slack-jawed with disbelief that they can actually survive, for months on end, enveloped in gloves, hats, scarves and great-big galumphy overshoe looking boots (or worse yet, Uggs). In fact, I make it my mission every year when the cold weather hits to go absolutely as long as I possibly can without putting on gloves. A truly triumphant year is one where I don’t pull them out of my pockets, at all.

So you see why today I started looking through pictures I shot in July of our vacation to Cumberland Falls.

Look at the green. Look at the smiles. Look at the humidity-induced exhaustion. The day I took this photo we were on a hike to Eagle Falls, located on a tributary to the Cumberland River, below the actual falls. It’s a strenuous hike, and a strange one too in that you go uphill and downhill quite sharply both ways. At any rate, what you probably can’t see in this picture is that it was so humid Tras’s glasses were fogged up. Mine too. Man, it was hot.

Man, I wish it were that hot now.

Look at this.

This was yesterday. This is totally unacceptable. No, not the fact that Trassie’s out there playing soccer and — here we document the earth-shattering news — yesterday HE MADE A GOAL! (Insert wild cheering, squealing and the pounding of proud parental feet.)

No, what’s unacceptable is the fact that I had to wear a coat, ear muffs, boots (well, that part was OK) and gloves. Yes you heard me. I’ve burned the whole No Gloves this Winter thing before we’ve even hit Halloween.

This is more my speed.

Kayaking. In addition to viewing the lovely falls, hiking, general meandering around and a little swimming, we took a day trip down the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.

It was simply wonderful. Claire, Christopher and I each had our own kayak, while Tras took Trassie in a longer double kayak which was less maneuverable but safer for the tot. The river wasn’t particularly deep, the section they turned us loose on had a slow current and there were four or so gentle rapids to keep the adrenaline flowing if things threatened to get too relaxing. I counted dozens of kingfishers along the banks, though I never spotted one actually fishing. We passed beneath several abandoned bridges, stopped to do some swimming and generally felt like we were the last people on the planet.

The day was warm but not too hot; the following day it rained, which was the source of the humidity along our Eagle Falls hike.

Our week at Cumberland was just the type of vacation such breaks from the routine were meant to be. As I sat listening to the roar of the falls, the quiet lap of water against my kayak or the sounds of my children’s voices, I was storing up peace that would carry me through stressful times in the coming year. Whenever office politics or other irritants lurch into my life, I can draw strength from this and other breaks from the ordinary that, by virtue of their effect on me, became extraordinary.

Swimming and skipping rocks. Hiking, paddling, listening to the sounds of nature. Finding hidden treasures along the path.

Not every moment was soaked in the pleasures of the out-of-doors. The lodge at Cumberland Falls has some small duplexes that, while smaller than a cabin, are larger than a hotel room and come equipped with a mini-kitchen. Trassie dubbed our room the “Little-Tel,” and just hanging around our room proved also to be time well-spent. Whether one is equipped with electronic devices or not.

When a mid-October frost bites my gloveless hand, it’s a source of warmth to remember the falls in autumn. They used to call it the “Niagara of the South.” I’d like to go on record as saying I’m damn glad that there is a Niagara — emphasis on South — that can take away the chill.

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