Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Story about Rainbow Falls on Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Sometime in 2002, I went on a solo hike on Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I decided that since I was by myself, it would be best to keep everything pretty tame and not take any chances. I planned to stick to the trails and just have an enjoyable time. That was my plan.

Middle Creek above Rainbow Falls
Then I came to the part where you have to ditch the trail to go down to Rainbow Falls, which wasn't really a big deal as it's not a treacherous descent. And once I got to the pool at the bottom of the falls, from which the creek recommences its cascade down Signal Mountain and eventually into the Tennessee River, I took a few minutes to soak in the scene.

But it didn't take me long to be ready to move on again, which led me to a decision point. I could either head back to the trail the boring old way that I came down, thus keeping my pledge to myself to adhere to the whims of caution, or I could climb up the rock face just to the side of where the falls spills over the rocks. And you already know which way that decision went.

I began to ascend the stone wall to the right of the falls, and only once I'd gotten about one-third of the way up did I realize that this really wasn't a particularly good idea. The rock was wetter than I had anticipated, and I wasn't going to be able to go back down; I was committed. I kept going another ten feet or so and realized that there were an awful lot of bees buzzing about me. Now I'm not necessarily scared of bees, but I do have a healthy respect for them and normally allow them to carry on their business without disturbing them. They also cause me sometimes to break out into spastic movements. This would not be an opportune time to react or to be stung. My feet started shaking. And I started praying, like we so many of us do when we get in a pickle.

Middle Creek below Rainbow Lake on Signal Mountain
So I started taking deep breaths and settling myself down again. Shortly thereafter I was able to resume my climb, chastising myself for my stupidity. That seemingly close call did quell my taste for adventure for the rest of that day, resulting in the rest of the hike being pretty uneventful, just as I had originally intended.

As it turns out, I don't have a descent photo of Rainbow Falls, but if you do a Google image search, you can see any number of them. Hopefully, I'll get back one day to take a worthy photograph of it.

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