March 28, 2012- We woke up Wednesday morning and decided to hike through the campground to see Mooney Falls, which was located just past the lower end of the campground. We were then going to hike on towards Beaver Falls, 3 miles further downstream.
I don’t think that there are enough ‘amazing’ words to describe this sight…….Mooney Falls is a spectacular 200 foot falls, emptying into a cathedral like basin. And the colors……
After enjoying the falls from the top, we noticed that the trail that we were planning to hike started out by descending to the bottom to the falls. We had visited with several people who had hiked out to Beaver Falls. One man told us that it was great, but getting to the bottom of Mooney Falls was “not for the faint hearted”. Another fellow that we talked with told us that the bottom of the falls….and the amazing ‘cathedral’…. was one of the most beautiful sights that he had ever seen. He left us with this parting note….”The way down is not as bad as it first looks”.
From what I could see…it looked pretty steep. But, we have hiked down worse things……For those off you who know me, you know that I have a real fear of heights. The problem was….if we stopped now, we would not get to Beaver Falls, and really would not have any more hiking and exploring that we could do. It seemed a shame to let this obstacle stop us.
So…..we started down…….
You know….our first warning should have been the “Descend at your own risk” sign. But, we figured that it was probably just some ‘legal liability thing’.
Just past those first set of steps, the path down seemed to lead to this tunnel. I kept saying “No way….I am sure that is not right”. So, Fred told me to stay put while he checked it out. I held the camera….and decided to snap one last picture of Fred….in case he didn’t make it back out of that tunnel!
Indeed, that was the way……Fred reported “ There is a tunnel, one person wide, then an open spot that has a chain railing, then another tunnel”. The second tip-off should have been the sign that noted “exercise extreme caution”.
Just past the second tunnel, the ‘trail’ led to a series of vertical rock climbs, with footholds occasionally cut into the rock face, and chains to hold onto.
I was scared….but I was following Fred down….and I didn’t want to be the one who gave up and had to climb back up….leading the way! I’ll say it again….I was scared….my legs were shaking……but I kept going. I should note here that this was challenging even for Fred, but he never gets as rattled by heights as I do.
We made this descent backing down, facing the rock. Fred would take a step, then he would tell me where to put my foot, then, I would step down. There were chains the whole way down that we held on to as we stepped from one rock outcropping to another. As we got closer to the bottom, the spray from the falls had gotten the rocks and the chains wet…..and a bit muddy. I held tight and stayed focused and kept climbing down.
When Fred told me that we had come to a ladder….my first thought was “Great, at least the footing will be more secure and predictable”. I knew that I could climb a ladder…. One ladder, a bit more climbing, then a second ladder. After what had seemed like an eternity, but was only about 15 minutes,we made it to the bottom! With a flood of relief….and a real sense of accomplishment….I stepped off that last rung of the ladder….
I had a couple of minutes of the ‘shakes’ and a few tears (all from the excess adrenalin), then was able to really appreciate the awesome beauty of Mooney Falls.
I know that I had said that I like to pick my own challenges. Some challenges you can plan and prepare for…..other times, you just find yourself in the middle of something, and I guess…. the challenge just picks you…….