Adventures Animals Childhood Family

Do go chasing waterfalls

As I stood at the base of the waterfall, the cool mist sprinkling over my face, I thought of the centuries of time that had passed as the waters flowed over these very rocks. I closed my eyes and reflected on the steady, relentless consistency of water, unfazed by time. And then I thought, “If I slip and fall here, I will have an incredibly bad day, as that water is really cold, there are lots of rocks out there, and my phone is in my pocket.”

Thanks, brain. Always there to drop a note of treacherous potential in the most serene moments. 

I tried to flush the slipping concern out of my head and get back to enjoying the waterfall. I was there with my son, and he was busy crawling around on rocks with a flashlight, looking into crevices trying to find salamanders. 

We were in North Carolina, where we had traveled for a couple of days to tromp around and look for salamanders and waterfalls. Yes, oddly specific.

My son loves finding critters, and keeps a “life list” of his animal finds. He is most proud of his reptile and amphibian list (current species total: a pretty impressive 145), and is always looking to expand that species count. He identified an area that is rich with salamanders, so we decided to set off to see what we could find.

We had a great time and found some wonderful waterfalls and super cool salamanders. But, of course, we also had some interactions with people. So, a few observations:

  • Why would anyone feel the need to yell at a waterfall? And I don’t mean yell while at a waterfall. I mean AT the waterfall. As in screaming directly to the waterfall to see if you could be louder than it. Yet, there they were, two college dudes, screaming. At a waterfall. They paused to share a laugh together. 
  • We have discussed this previously, but if you’re gonna bag your dog business, you’ve entered into the contract. Don’t leave your bag on the trail.
  • Apparently people travel to western North Carolina for Valentine’s. Who knew. Originally, we were going to stay at a friend’s cabin. But we ended up meandering around and wound up fairly far away after sunset. We were exhausted, and just wanted to find a place to crash. And nearly every hotel near us was booked. After the third, “We’re full” I asked if there was a festival or something. The woman at the hotel said, “Uh, it’s Valentine’s weekend.” Oh. I guess that’s a thing. I know what you’re thinking – my wife is one lucky gal.
  • There is a particular restaurant near the hotel we stayed at that has some serious drama going on. My son and I sat at the bar and quickly learned we were at Ground Zero for all the things going on in that place. It’s as if we were invisible, and the entire staff was congregating to talk about everything going on at work. And it was complex. I was texting my wife updates throughout dinner, up to and including when “Erica is doing the thing she always does,” to which the whole crew rolled their eyes. That’s just so Erica.
  • If you hike near places that have rocks, can you please do this one simple thing: Don’t. Stack. Rocks. I know you think it’s harmless. But there are tons of critters that live under those rocks. Even the small rocks. You’d be a little bummed if you came home and found out some giant had stacked eight houses in your neighborhood on top of each other, in particular if one of those homes was yours. So, you know. Be cool. Leave their homes alone.

All in all, we had a great trip and saw lots of beautiful things over two days. I am looking forward to our next field trip, so we can get out there and really take in the serenity that nature provides us. And hopefully not slipping into a creek.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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