The day after Christmas dawned cold and clear with thin skins of ice on puddles and the grass crunchy with frost. The sky was cloud-free and unendingly blue.
A perfect day for hiking.
My brother, his wife and I decided to take a trip to DuPont State Recreational Park near Hendersonville since none of us had been there before and all of us were eager to get outdoors for a day. It was a great time to go. Traffic was light and the air so clear. The first view of those mountains in the west, thrusting their blue shadowy heads above the horizon, never fails to impress me. Unlike the majestic Rockies, these are more akin to giant hills with armies of skeletal trees marching up and over their crests. Towering evergreens add some color among the winter browns. Along the way, we saw a small herd of deer munching on the tawny grass by the side of the highway. Another group dashed across among all the traffic, safely making it to the other side.
Once at the park, we started out on a gravel path toward Triple Falls. It was cold enough to see your breath hover in the air and periodically, sheets of ice covered the path from where spring water had frozen on its trip back towards the river. On the dirt banks beside the trail, delicate filaments of frost grew in clusters, as fine as strands of hair. Once we got moving, however, I warmed up pretty quickly. I love hiking in winter; the cool, fresh air is so much more pleasant than stifling heat.
The journey to the falls was mostly downhill, but there are some fairly steep uphill hikes as well. Long before we reached the river, we could hear the muted roar of a waterfall, like the distant sound of heavy traffic. A screen of evergreen trees hides the falls from view until you take the wooden steps down to the rocky shelf below the falls. It is a truly spectacular sight. The sound of the water pounding down the drop, which occurs in three stages, hence the name, is overwhelming and sends a mist of spray into the air. It was cold enough to cause the spray to freeze on surrounding trees, coating them in a fine white layer of ice. It was beautiful.
After snapping a few pictures, we hiked back up the steps and headed to Hooker Falls, which has a more gentle grandeur than the showy Triple or High Falls. Hooker Falls is one long curtain of water falling a short drop to the river below. A man was casting his fishing line into the water with his son and a few people rested on some giant rocks that were scattered on the banks of the river.
And, just when I thought the river had surely yielded enough lovely scenery, we arrived at High Falls, a huge waterfall with a dizzyingly long drop. It’s a pretty spectacular sight.
We probably spent about an hour or an hour and a half hiking. All three falls are a pretty short distance from each other and easily accessed. Lots of great photo opportunities!
In between the waterfalls, the river is mostly calm and cool and green as jade. Strands of pale green moss grow on the trees bordering the water and various hardy plants still grow in the woods. I was struck by how quiet it was in the forest, a quiet not even interrupted by birdsong.
I’ll have to return in the spring to see the fourth and final falls – Bridal Veil Falls. There are also a few lakes on the 10,400 acres of state forest property.
It’s definitely a sight worth seeing for the waterfalls alone.