I love waterfalls. They have always felt so purifying and renewing. Recently, I got a letter from a past student who said that taking her to a waterfall made all her fears go away and changed her into a new person. When I read this, my eyes welled with tears because this young 6th grader, one of my students, said everything I ever felt about waterfalls in one perfect statement. There is something about rinsing yourself in fresh, clean, ever flowing water that washes away any stresses or negativity, as if you’re starting anew.
Since I am called to waterfalls, I had to find the one I had been seeing pictures of in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which covers most of southern Utah. The cascading falls of Lower Calf Creek seemed to flow down from a window in the sky and it was something I just had to see in person. But, I had no idea where to find it. When we looked at maps, the monument seemed to cover every centimeter of the southern part of Utah. Even Bryce and Zion were part of its expansive presence. So we stopped at an information center in the tiny little town of Escalante. When we walked inside, we met a little old man who had the answer to every single question we could possibly imagine, before we even had the chance to answer them or even think of them. He spoke a mile a minute, as if his speech was not only given every day, but was a very part of who he was.
He told us how the staircase is something you cannot see in one glance. It is not something you can take a photo of or walk up as if it were a flight in an apartment building. But rather it covered millions of acres. An enormous staircase of which Zion and Bryce were each their own, single stair. He said that these levels, from the bottom to the top, covered a history of 250 million years. The geography and the mountains came into being some time between then and now, present when the dinosaurs left their marks on the earth.
When heading to the waterfall, driving through winding, red and tan mountains, I could think of nothing else but the incredible fact that through our journey, we were experiencing the world as it was anywhere from 250 million years ago until now. We parked at the entry to the hike for Lower Calf Creek Falls and I could feel the energy around us. We hiked 3 miles into canyons that towered over us, red dust swirling around our beings while the sun beat down on us. There weren’t many people here compared to other stops and it felt as if we were walking through a piece of wild history. Before cars and technology, before humans. I felt as if I was seeing it through the eyes of a dinosaur. Imagining what life would be like 250 million years ago and thinking that though it might be brutal, it would be incredible.
The trail was full of soft sand that followed along a bubbling creek. We stopped at points to take off our shoes, dip our feet in and feel the freedom in walking as our ancestors did. As the creek became louder and the greenery started to become more lush, we went from heat projecting, red rocks to the cooling air of water grown plants that replenished our waning energy. Our pace quickened as we could hear the rushing of the waters we had been anticipating. The top of the waterfall started to peek above the tree line and I’m pretty sure we started running. The freezing water was falling through a hole in the sky created by the surrounding canyons. It was as if we were standing in our own personal dome, our own mini world, cohabiting with a waterfall and other awe stricken adventurers like ourselves.
There was so much laughter and excitement. Dogs running from every direction to jump into the cleansing waters, and people doing the same. We dipped our toes in and it was as if they froze to the bone in an instant. I love feeling the water under waterfalls, but I’ll admit, jumping completely in those freezing waters was something I couldn’t bring myself to do. But to see others diving head first into an icy pool just to get closer to nature was inspiring. Little children swimming across the undulating waters just to feel the strength of the falls.
I find that nature makes us do things we never thought we could. It makes us put away our fears, or act regardless of them, and it makes us test our limits. It pushes us past scary heights to see incredible views. Makes us sleep in cold temperatures just so we can stay among the trees. It makes us relinquish control just so we can find the best, free spot to stay right before it gets dark. It pushes us past the point of being uncomfortable, just so we can gain the rejuvenating powers of a freezing cold waterfall.