(272): Memories of a Hidden River Waterfall in Alabama, Long Ago

Pearsons Falls, Saluda, NC. Photo by Jim Reeves.

No, the photo to the left is not in Alabama. It is, in fact, in North Carolina. But…it was a photo prompt taken by Jim Reeves and posted for our benefit, to stir creativity. (And Jim is so good at getting creative stuff out of the rest of us! You know it’s true!)

Anyway, this photo made me pull an image and a short snippet of memory out of a long-dormant corner of my brain — concerning a beautiful hidden place in Auburn, Alabama called Chewacla State Park. There was the main park, where you pay to get in and see the carefully curated and maintained sights, and then there is the hidden part, a right turn on a dirt road just short of the park entrance. The part you only know about if you ask someone who has been there. You just have to know where to park along the dirt road. Then you disappear into thick trees and brush, down a sloping rocky path at a nearly 40 degree angle (I have broken my foot treading this path, which is not really a path at all).

What greets the intrepid explorer after this short journey is a moderately wide river with several small rapids areas, the highest of which takes the water down about a 5 foot drop (to my memory) into a calm bowl where people like to swim. But above that, is an area in the river studded with rocks on which algae grows thick, like a carpet. Rocks everywhere, often creating little stepwise islands by which one can walk across the river.

A somewhat different area at Chewacla State Park, Auburn, Alabama. Image by John David Johnson via Flickr. (Image cropped). License.

The water flows quickly in rivulets over small banks of these rocks in several places. One of these nooks is shaped almost exactly like a chair and has a nice soft green algae covering so that one could theoretically relax there for as long as one would like. The only problem (not really a problem) with that is the super cold water that flows over it. That is why we dubbed the rock chair spot Cheyne-Stokes Falls, as in the fast phase of Cheyne-Stokes respiration. That’s because if you try to sit there, you won’t be able to for very long unless you force yourself into this sort of fast breathing for a while. After that, you’ll acclimatize and then fall into comfortable reverie.

It was the site of many happy afternoons and now occupies a spot of honor in my memory palace. There is no sunshine that is quite so bright and sparkling as the sun reflected off the water at this lovely hidden place, a panoply of small rivulets that create natural music. Sitting in the algae chair and listening to the moving water…this is what the picture of Pearsons Falls reminded me of. An embodiment of relaxation. Thanks for helping me dredge up that memory, Jim!


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