Img 0386.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

To Uncle's Falls

 mg 1690.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

One of the most unique aspects of the Green River Preserve is that our campers get to hike every day. For the three hours between breakfast and lunch, mentors lead each cabin group on a unique hike to a new location. This week, I had the privilege of joining a group for a hike to Uncle’s Falls.

 mg 1675.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

We started out at 9 am, hiking clothes over swimsuits, towels and water shoes in our backpacks. The hike to the falls is relatively short, but relentlessly uphill. Still, it was a wonderfully peaceful walk. We made our way up with a quiet, happy determination. Most of the campers had made this trip before, and I could tell they were eager to reach our destination. We finally arrived, coming out onto a ledge overlooking the falls. We dropped our backpacks and put on our water shoes, and we walked down to the pool of water at the bottom of the falls.

Img 0364.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The seconds you spend in front of a waterfall, ankle deep in freezing cold water, steeling yourself to step under the falling sheet of water are like nothing else in the world. There is no “easing into” a waterfall. One moment you’re dry and nervous and overthinking. The next, everything is driven from your mind. Your senses are overwhelmed. It’s nothing short of exhilarating. You step out with a sense of vitality that’s not easily replicated.

 mg 1618.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

We made our way downstream, soaking wet, climbing over wet stone with ridiculous grins on our faces. We lined up at the entrance of a little stone tunnel to do the salamander crawl, a short, almost vertical climb through running water. We clambered between the edges of the stream, where still pools formed, and salamanders hid in the crevices between stones.

Img 0305 2.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Near the end of our time at Uncle’s, a couple girls asked if we could go into the salamander cave, pointing at what looked like a small nook to the left of the waterfall. I led the way up, shining a flashlight as one by one, we climbed up steep slick stone on our hands and knees. After a couple of feet, the little tunnel opened into a little cave, not quite tall enough for us to stand. Four of us sat on the angled stone, awestruck in this storybook location. Indirect sunlight filtered in through a crack between the overlapping slabs that made up the cave ceiling. Everywhere we shined the flashlight, we saw salamanders. We stayed in the little cave, whispering in excitement, until it was time to go. Then we climbed back down the tunnel, stepped under the falls one last time, and started to prepare for the hike back to base camp.

Story by Molly Watson with photos by Brandon S. Marshall