My First Hiking Experience
September 12, 2019 | Permalink
The drive was short, less than an hour and a half from downtown Nashville. Our vehicle crept through the park's entrance slowly. I didn't know what to expect. My shy feet crushed against the cold pavement, as we walked towards the trailhead. A sign read Burgess Falls State Natural Area and warned that the hike to the falls would be moderately strenuous. I could feel my stomach drop at the thought of what would lie ahead, but I pushed on.
I made my way slowly up the trail, mindful of every pebble in my path as I trailed behind my companions. The sound of the wind in the trees gave way to the roaring of the first waterfall. The air seemed to hum with energy, causing my breath to catch in my throat. The powerful sound of the waterfall was frightening, but it also intrigued me. As the noise grew louder, we approached the first overlook. To my dismay, I saw that it was blocked off with fencing. A sign explained the park was forced to close it due to flood damage. I peaked through the trees, trying to get a good look at the first waterfall I had ever seen. My companions told me that another waterfall and overlook waited just up the trail, so I led the way, more sure of each footstep.
I began to notice the beauty of the trail; the rock formations hung with icicles that glowed under the winter sun like Christmas lights. I could hear squirrels trailing behind us, always managing to stay just out of sight. Amongst the most spectacular sights were the hundreds of rock formations forming miniature waterfalls along the trail.
After ascending a steep natural staircase, we had arrived at the second overlook. The wooden overlook was empty, and I timidly walked up to the edge. We were up so high my stomach dropped again, this time right into my tennis shoes. It felt like the ground below my feet fell away, like I was floating in a space where only two things could exist, the waterfall and me. To take in all that I was seeing felt impossible. There in the center of the vast gorge, was the largest waterfall at the park. Jutting over the edge off a 100 feet drop cascaded an incredible amount of water. Hues of color scattered the walls of the gorge, and a rainbow hung at the base, decorated by mist. I wanted to reach the source and feel the water, so we continued down the trail.
As I descended deeper into the gorge, the air felt powerful and full of energy. It wasn't long before I was standing at what felt like the edge of the world, watching the water rush past my feet and over the cliff. I felt like an ant in a house of giants, my head kissing the sky, and my heart pounding. I was on top of a world much bigger than I had ever known.
On the hike back to the parking lot, I was silent, brain abuzz with thoughts of my next visit. We drove off as slowly as we came in, but I felt a shift deep inside. I was grateful for the mind-blowing experience that is Burgess Falls State Park and the change of perspective that I'll carry with me from this day forward.
Did you know that you can donate to a Tennessee State Park online?
Our parks are free for everyone to visit and enjoy. If you love a particular park, you can donate today to help us continue investing in quality programs and services. Your donations will help make your favorite park even better! We'll use the donations for things like
- Building and maintaining new trails
- Projects that improve visitor experience, not funded by the state's General Fund (such as repairing the overlook at Burgess Falls)
- Feeding and care for our birds of prey (eagles, hawks, owls, etc.)
- Providing children's programs to connect youth to the outdoors
- Upgrading our playground equipment