There are few things I love more than waterfalls. Not just looking at them, but hiking to them then getting right under them, no matter how cold they are, or so I thought before today.
I feel blessed that I’ve passed this particular joy on to my daughter, Heather. Yesterday, Heather and I got under the coldest waterfall I’ve ever experienced. I could tell we were in for it the moment I put my feet into the shallow plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. It was seriously, bone chilling, ice water cold.
It was a warm spring day and we’d been hiking for hours down a long and at times very steep trail. I was going under the falls no matter how cold and Heather decided to join me. What happened next was hilarious, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
This past weekend, Teresa, Heather, Brian and I took advantage of a very hot Spring day in Sydney and, rather than heading to the beach, we drove up to the Blue Mountains. Our destination was a challenging hike, especially for Brian, down to Vera Falls.
The kids and I, fresh off of our recent “Epic Hike” adventure were raring to get Teresa on the trail for a family hike. To make it happen, I was up super early to make my famous, made from scratch, blueberry pancakes to start our day and get us out the door early. We did just that and arrived mid morning in the town of Wentworth Falls to begin our hike in the Blue Mountains National Park.
The trail to Vera Falls begins at the Conservation Hut in Wentworth Falls, NSW and ends far below, at Vera Falls. Total distance and elevation for this walk in the woods is 3.8 K (2.4 miles) distance and 1144 meters (3756 feet) in elevation change. For anyone, that’s a good effort. For a four year old, that’s an awful lot to expect. Did Brian make it all the way on his own two feet? Read on to find out.
Our trail follows the popular Valley of the Waters Trail, passing many waterfalls along the way. As we descend we leave all the other hikers behind, as they mostly, either stop at the base of Empress Falls, or turn off shortly thereafter onto the popular National Pass trail. We continue our descent past the Wentworth Pass trail intersection (furthest I’d ever come down here).
At this point we start to see warning signs, letting us know that we are now in “Experienced Adventurers Only” territory. Is that us? You betcha.
From this point, the going gets tougher, for sure. There are fallen trees across the, at times, very steep, very narrow trail with long, steep drops just beside the trail. Heather and Brain get lots of encouragement to stay away from the edge as we hike down, and for Brian, the occasional “Hold my hand through here, Buddy”. He only had one misstep where I had to catch him before he slipped down a steep slope next to the trail.
A few times we came to intersections that weren’t marked but we managed to get there after finding the nearly hidden last intersection. Arriving at the base of Vera falls we are greeted by a lovely long waterfall with a shallow, sandy plunge pool at the base and not another soul in sight. We had the area all to ourselves for the hour we spent there. To me, one of the many joys of taking the path less traveled is having it either to yourself, or at least sharing it, at times, with like minded people.
So, the kids and I get ready and head to the plunge pool at the base of the falls. Teresa opts out of the experience and volunteers to record it for posterity. I’m so glad she did. This was the coldest waterfall I’ve ever been under. Wow! Words can only dimly describe what this was like. My voice became, what I’d describe as “Primal”. You’ll need to see the video for this one, below.
The greatest gift my parents gave me is a priceless one, my love for the outdoors and nature. I can only hope that when my children are grown that it turns out I’ve shared the same lesson with them. That the best things in life, truly are free. Just turn off the screen, go outside, breathe the fresh air and look at the beauty around you. If you are in a city, get to the countryside for a day and if you are able, go for a hike and take in the sights, sounds and refreshing smells that nature has in abundance.
Brian has made it all the way down on his own two feet. We’ve come a long way downhill and have a long way to head back up. Our break is over, we head back up. Rough going, again, until we reach the maintained trails. Many breaks are had and a lot of high energy snacks and water are consumed along the way. Brian asks me for a fireman’s carry. I figure he can do it, so I encourage him to keep going. He heads up to where his mum is, hoping she’s a soft touch, and asks again. More encouragement! I volunteer to carry his pack, making him lighter and he’s happy with that. Believe me, at this point, I’d love to get carried up myself.
Breathing heavily as we trudged our way up the steep trail, I’m reminded of a hike I did with my mom and dad back in the States, long ago. During the hike, we passed a water pumping station along a small lake, nestled between mountains. As we passed it, the pump was fairly loud, ca-chunk, ca-chunk, ca-chunk. On we go and up the next mountain. As we pause for a break far up the peak, my dad says something like, “I can still hear that pumping station quite clearly.” I couldn’t and said so. It took a few moments for my dad to realize it was his heart beating that he was hearing. Well, Dad, I heard the pumping station loud and clear yesterday. I also shared that story with Heather as we hiked along and got her to stop and listen. She could hear it too.
To me, sharing moments like these with your children are priceless. To get out and experience and appreciate the beauty of nature and the world we live in, much of which many of us never see, is a gift. I feel blessed that my parents shared this with me and I hope that Heather and Brian get the chance to do the same someday.
So, tired and sore, we all made it back to the top of hike under our own power! Well done all, especially Brian!
Love to all,