Dec. 7, 2003

I touched it, I leaned on it, I peered up into its heights. Reader, I confess. I hugged it. Junie and I made our way down to the giant sycamore tree in Falling Rock Hollow on Sunday and got a close look at it and at the waterfall close by.

The tree flares to about six feet in diameter at its base and quickly tapers to about four feet, its lowest branch is maybe 60 or 70 feet up, and all told it seems to be better than a hundred feet tall. The next time I'm headed that way, I'm hoping to remember to bring the optical rangefinder I have that measures out to 100 feet, which should give me a better idea just how goofy my guesses are.

The waterfall was just dribbling then, but it was about 20 feet high and about 15 feet wide, and the rock around and under it was green and mossy, and there were necklace ferns still alive here and there. Also growing on the bluff were plants of the kind pictured above, which I photographed in spring of 2002 on Devil's Fork not far from Twin Falls. I don't know the name, but I've often seen it in similar locations. Of course the ones I saw on Sunday (that would be December 7, Pearl Harbor day), were dull green with brownish edges, but then December often does that to me, too.

On the off-chance that the falls haven't been named yet, I'm calling them the Debra Ann King Falls, Debbie Falls for short. Oh, I know, the world will little note nor long remember, but you and I, dear reader, will know.

Saturday what I needed was a trail hike, because I was sore from a back strain and wanted to see how well the old vertebrae were going to take all that banging and clanging together. So a couple hours out and a couple hours back and a little sit-down in the middle were in order, and if by chance there was a some scenery along the way, that would be fine, too.

Oh yes, there was scenery. If you go to the Steel Creek campground and walk east on the Buffalo River Trail, within a couple miles you will make your way up and over bluffs on the river and encounter no less than three overlooks, two looking back down on the campground and Roark's Bluff and points west as well as downriver to the northwest, and the other one with a great view of Big Bluff and the broad loop in the river that flows around it.

At the second overlook I met a group of backpackers going the other way, honest to Muir real backpackers with big packs and everything, unlike yours truly with my little daypack with half a liter of water and some candy in it. They were a group of four or five teenagers, and one of them complimented me on my walking stick, which, I must confess, is a fine piece of work and which was given to me a few years ago by my brother and his wife (thanks, bro' and sis). It's long and sturdy (which gives me a lot of reach, unlike those little toothpicky jobs you see a lot of), and it still has its natural bark, except where it's been peeled off in a spiral pattern from top to bottom.

So when one of the kids said my walking stick was "cool", I managed to mumble some thanks and say something like, "It's kind of like a barber pole." Small talk is not something I do, as you can see. But when that was met with silence and uncomprehending looks, it occurred to me that these people might be young enough that they've never seen a barber pole, and come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I noticed one, either. Has the world really come to this? First the Beatles break up, and now no more barber poles?