July 29, 2012
A simple, half-hour drive from my apartment in Blacksburg brought me, my roommate Brittany, and a thrilled dog, Riva to a small town with seemingly only a gas station and a church. The road that brought us there began as a highway but had sincle slowly melted into a gentle two lane road, winding through the mountains that towered above us. I had kind of looked up directions, but the signs off the side of the road were obvious enough: Cascade falls this way. We made a right next to the gas station and drove past houses that turned to trailer parks that turned to forest. We quickly lost interest in attempting to understand the parking fee rules and hoped that my national parks passport displayed on the dashboard would do.
The air outside smelled wonderful. Civilization most often smells of nothing – maybe there are wafts of chemical flavors sprayed in mists throughout the house, or sterile hospitals, or cooking food, or public transportation – but most often, nothing noticeable, absolutely nothing. Outside was suddenly more refreshing and invigorating with every single breath – a feeling I didn’t know I missed until I was immersed in it. The hike to the falls was as effortless and quick as the drive to them. Wide paths strecthed beside a stream, allowing for the periodic herd of hikers to pass through without conflict. It was a popular trail: summer campers in matching t-shirts, young couples overly zealous in their laughter, families of all shapes and sizes and wardrobe choices, some even with strollers – yes, strollers on this unpaved path.
Riva, I soon learned, does not like water. Just below the falls was deep enough to serve as a pool for the brave canines and children willing to stand the frigid water. But twenty feet beyond that, the water simply skimmed the surface of the bedrock. Riva would not have any of it. She used a log like the rest of the humans to navigate over the deeper sections of water and then kept to the small patches of dry land the water hadn’t been able to reach that day. This was quite hilarious at first as Riva would run off to play with other dogs and then screech to a halt at the edge of the water, turning around to come find us again. When Brittany or I went off to try and snap a few pictures, the other would have to hold Riva in a safer zone.
The three of us sat on a log together for a while, periodically sipping from our water bottles but mostly people watching. As the afternoon began to turn into the evening, we ambled back down the path and drove toward home, pleased with this addition to our summer afternoon.