A few years ago, I wrote this story, managing to get it published many times. I’m hopeful you will enjoy the story as much as I did writing it, and hiking at Grotto Falls. If you are ever in Gatlinburg, treat yourself to this fabulous hike.
Hiking My Dreams at Grotto Falls:
In June 2005, I kissed the corporate world of America goodbye. Tired of planning and coordinating events, answering to corporate rules and schedules, I decided it was time to follow my dreams.
So, off my husband and I go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where I’ve scheduled my first research trip for my new career as a travel writer. While driving through the mountains, we discover a sign. Grotto Falls just ahead. I tap Phil on the shoulders. “Let’s stop and take a hike. Phil looks at my feet, still embraced in sandals. “Don’t you think you should change your shoes?” He asked.
Reluctantly, I rush to the back seat to get my socks and sneakers, furious that he is still telling me what to do. His controlling nature is about to get the best of me, but I take it in my stride. With digital cameras ready, we stroll up the mountain as a slight rain kisses our faces with raindrops. At first, we could stand under the trees and not get wet. The more we plunge into the falls, the wetter we get. Taking our time while gasping for breath, I shoot several photographs, continuing our ‘easy’ hike. Decaying trees, fungus and moss, along with the thickness of the woods make interesting images revealing a story my fingers itch to write.
Our first tease of a waterfall at Grotto Falls.
What seems to be an endless walk going nowhere takes us at least an hour just to see the first tease of the falls! Stopping at this trickle of water, we are revitalized. With this first tease of rushing water, the falls can’t be much further! Now, the rain isn’t just kissing my face, I’m drowning, at least my face is, and I look more like a raccoon with blackened eyes than a human. When we started this excursion, rain was only a slight mist, refreshing and cool, now my hair is sopping wet and sticky from hair spray. I must look like a squirrel, but I dare not ask my husband. I wipe the rain pouring down my face. My hands are covered with black mascara. Phil stops to remind me to be careful; he was concerned I might fall. He knows what a clumsy woman I am walking on hardwood floors, or simply walking. My knees are weak from years of dancing on stage, but I was determined to show him, and I finally snapped if he didn’t hush, I’d make certain he fell, or slipped, or something—! Breathless, but determined, I refuse to go back. I enjoy a nice hike, but this was almost torture, not to mention, what would happen IF one of us fell, or managed to get bitten by wild animals on the prowl! My dream was to see a bear in the woods. We never saw any wildlife!
A family of hikers, dressed with back packs, sticks and bottles of water in their hands meet us on the narrow, slippery path. I look at the tiny boy drinking from a bottle riding on his father’s shoulders. I can almost taste the moistness as he gulps the water bottle dry. “Hello,” I say, wishing they’d offer us a bottle of water. We move closer to the edge. The softness of the path moves under my feet. I look down, thinking if I fell, the doorways of Hell would open up and swallow me.
The second “tease” of an upcoming waterfall — or — is THIS the waterfall?
That’s when I realize rules are made for a reason, and some rules should be followed, like the rules of hiking. Be prepared – we were not. Carry equipment – like first aid kits, bottled water, and wear good hiking shoes. Sneakers are comfortable and they certainly beat sandals during a hike, but some rules should be followed! What would happen if Phil or I were bitten by a snake, or if my spaghetti like ankles give out? What if I broke a leg? Some rules, even those made by the Corporate World, should be followed!
Phil nods to the family asking, “How much longer?” The small boy atop his father’s shoulders whimpers, “A long, long, LONG ways!” His father snickers.
“Thanks,” I say, sarcasm spilling over. “Appreciate that.”
Phil scrutinizes me as I lean on a tree stump. “You okay?”
Huffing and puffing, wishing I had my inhaler I nod. “OK. Let’s go.”
“Take a break,” he responds, listening to the wheezing in my chest. “You’ve got your inhaler with you. Right?”
My look says it all. Knowing me as he does, I can almost read his mind. I’m certain he’s thinking, ‘Your inhaler is in the car. You should’ve remembered it!’
Furious with him, I think about the edge of the cliff, wishing to move him closer. The sarcasm returns to my voice and I ask, ‘Did you remember your cell phone?’
He pats his hip, removes the cell phone. “No service.”
“Great. Just what will we do if I fall, or get bitten by a bear?”
The endless path to nowhere continues as we plunge our bodies forward.
“I think someone lied to us,” Phil says cynically. There’s nothing ahead.”
“I’m not stopping. If there’s a waterfall here, I intend to find it.”
Another ‘trickle’ of a waterfall
Phil grows more irritated with me every moment. Perhaps he doesn’t like this determined woman I am now. Corporate America has changed me for the better in many ways.
I think about the conversation I had with the girls at the office on my last day of work. Phil had called numerous times that day, and I threatened to throw him overboard when we rode the rapids.
“Look over here,” I said, leaning over a bit. “If someone wanted to get rid of somebody, this would be the perfect place. I bet it goes all the way down to Hell. Who’d know?”
“Eventually it would smell. You trying to tell me something?” He asks, lifting his eyebrows suspiciously at me.
“No, just thinking out loud. Suppose it’s the writer inside me, asking those what if questions.”
“Whatever. Let’s go. Time’s wasting.”
Reluctantly I stretch my aching legs.
“You wanna go back to the car?” He smirks.
Another group of hikers meets us. I’m in hopes they found the falls. One of the ladies in this group holds a wooden stick.
“You’ve got a while still,” she says, inhaling deep. “About two more miles.”
The guy next to her punches her on the shoulder.
“You are kidding, aren’t you?” I ask.
The group laughs.
Phil and I continue the pursuit. Now, he’s gasping for breath too as we climb steeper, placing our feet carefully along the slippery mud puddles. The rain is torrential now, as if someone turned a water faucet on high. My hair no longer feels like cotton candy with syrup on it. It is soft, as if the rain has washed all chemicals and mousse away.
What seems to take forever, a stroll all the way to the Heavens feels like it was hours away. My arthritic knees ache, but I am determined. I will not be defeated, even if it is the last adventure I complete in my lifetime. I inhale, exhale, stretch my legs, and plunge higher. I hear the sound of water. “It’s just the rain running down the mountain,” I say to Phil. We hear the sounds of falling water and move closer. The falls are just ahead. I feel a sense of accomplishment! Glancing at my sneakers, I discover my legs, socks, and sneakers are covered with mud.
“Thank goodness we have a washer and dryer at the cabin,” I said. “My socks and shoes were white this morning.”
Startled at my determination, Phil sees the new and improved me standing before him. Excited to see the world as a new adventure, I’m energized, like the non-stop Energizer bunny. I grab my camera, zooming in to capture the pure, flowing, sparkling falls. This is heaven. I wipe the splashing water from my eyes, unaware if it is rain, or my tears.
Our first view of Grotto Falls, Gatlinburg, TN
Beautiful, breathtaking Grotto Falls, Gatlinburg, TN
IF YOU GO:
- Don’t break hiking rules. Carry a backpack with supplies, first aid.
- Be prepared for steep hills, slippery rocks, and tree roots.
- Wear hiking shoes. Sneakers work, but hiking boots recommended.
- Carry a camera. The view is well worth the hike.
- Bottled water recommended. You will get thirsty as you climb higher!
For more information about Grotto Falls, visit the web site: www.southeasternoutdoors.com/public-lands/national-parks/smoky-mountains/grotto-falls.html
Photo credit: Barbie Perkins-Cooper
Barbie Perkins Cooper is a talented, award-winning writer of travel guides, screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and numerous articles for regional, trade and travel publications. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, boat riding, relaxing on the beaches of South Carolina, and listening to good music, especially jazz and hiking.