Armchair Peregrinations

Dec. 25, 2004

There are few things in Nature so exquisite as waterfalls. If I had my dream vacation, it would be to find a nice cabin in the mountains for rent, stay for two weeks, and do nothing but travel back roads searching for waterfalls and hiking to them. The dream is probably out of reach for now because I would need to go with someone else or a group who have a similar love of waterfalls. I can't do those things by myself like I did years ago. Sad in a way, but it would just be too unsafe.

I keep thinking there is some outfitter in the S.C. or N.C. mountains who takes people on waterfall trips, overnight camping including, as well as expert guide services. Food, campfires, comraderie -- ahhh.. what an experience that would be.

Some waterfalls are very difficult to find and hike to, many without good, marked trails, so going with knowledgeable people is a good idea. There are many easily accessible waterfalls, and some of these I try to find whenever I am in the mountains.

In the meantime, I will content myself with finding good photos of waterfalls on the Internet. There is no shortage of them, but one of the finest I have ever come across is found here. Go to the index link for the complete list, but the main page has all the updated and added waterfalls.

Treasure the Earth and her beauty. Waterfalls, to me, epitomize how sublime and miraculous the natural world is.

Dec. 19, 2004

There is not much in the way of bold autumn colors here in the Charleston area each fall, but one tree, few in number here, unfortunately, provides a lovely, golden yellow glimpse of what autumn leaf change looks like in higher elevations.

I spotted a few small hickory trees while driving around the area recently, and what a memorable sight! It always takes me back to the year I returned to Columbia and got an apartment surrounded by woods -- a bit off the beaten track -- and those woods were full of hickory trees. They always changed color in November.

The autumn of 1979 was special for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that I was starting over with my life after a terrible period of personal loss and tragedy. That's the way I describe it many years later, but, as is often the case with the deepest moments of sorrow, there comes the light of dawn, and the autumn of that year marked a rebirth, in just about every way imaginable.

I remember that November sitting out on my balcony over looking this view of "my" hickories in full autumnal blaze. The leaves were almost golden in the brilliant afternoon sunlight. I will never forget that apartment in the corner of a complex. It was quiet and peaceful and one would never imagine it was at the edge of a large metropolitan area. I felt like I was in the country. Many introspective hours were spent overlooking the trees and watching them in all seasons.

I lived there for four years. I was happy for the most part, and I think it shows in the photo of me taken that fall. I was 28. Life was good.

Dec. 16, 2004

Some people like to make a little garden out of life and walk down a path.

-  Jean Anouilh

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday.

- John Burroughs

The winding path approaches the secluded and peaceful place.

-  Huang Binhong

What a relaxed life is that which flees the worldly clamour, and follows the hidden path down which have gone the few wise men there have been in the world.

- Fray Luis De Leon

Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road,
healthy, free, the world before me...

- Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

I combed through a dozen or so photo albums from road trips I have taken over the past 20 years, looking for something familiar and which I return to over and over again on my journey to step back and photoraph. It may be a picture of the path ahead of me along a stream or creek as I am walking downstream. It might be a dirt road I have been traversing in a national forest, a desert out West, or a well known road in the ACE Basin near Charleston. In every instance, this road allows me to take a comforting and quiet trip in my car, windows down and wind coming in gently, in search of something I am never able to define or describe as I wish I could. Yet I know I must keep seeking it.

I often take photos of a path or road I am walking or traveling along because I want to both remember more clearly where I have been, looking back years later, but also to be able to look at that path and think about the setting, the landscape, the scenery, and the mental and spiritual state of mind I was in during that brief period in my life.

Those paths and roads have all, with only a very few exceptions, been traveled or walked alone, free of distractions, but also with a heart weary at times from loneliness.

The prospect of being alone on long journeys has never impeded my quests over the years. Nor does it now. I may travel infrequently, but nowadays I have fewer destinations to seek out, and the ones which I do seek, I return to over and over again, such as the nature preserve and sanctuary 15 miles from where I live, and light years from the noise and stress of the city. In that most familiar and comforting sanctuary, I am content to walk the same paths and trails every time I go there, knowing, as Burroughs observed, that I will discover new things each time. That learning, that seeking of answers lasts a lifetime, as I am discovering anew each day.

I have posted a collection of photos of paths, spanning those 20 years of travel, both near and far, that I mentioned earlier, and they can be found here

Dec. 7, 2004

This time of year and spring are just about perfect for hiking and enjoying Nature at The Sanctuary I have written about so much here. It's formal name is the Caw Caw County Park, 600 acres of away-from-it-all bliss light years from the urban bustle of Charleston.

This past Saturday I was there walking, with almost the whole place to myself, as always. I saw hawks soaring above me on warm air thermals; autumn color throughout the park (surprisingly colorful this time of year and in this part of the country); a large alligator; beautiful high clouds; reflections on water; and late afternoon sunlight on trees in the woods I passed through.

There is such a variety of scenery here. It's truly a cornucopia of sights, sounds and impressions. I always come away restored and renewed. In autumn and winter I try to get out there twice a month. Even in winter, it's a magical place. Trees are bare, the wind is cold over the wetlands and marshes, and leaves crunch underfoot on the trails.

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