Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rutledge Falls

By mid afternoon yesterday LC and I had finished pulling staples out of the hardwood floor in the carpet-uncovered-office, and had also finished scraping and washing the water-based paint from the same floor that had carelessly been splattered everywhere during a painting project at some point in the distant past.
The floors still need work but not yesterday.
While LC and James rested on the couch in the den watching an old football game (are there really people out there interested in watching an old game from when Payton Manning was a sophomore at UT??) I decided that I needed to wander outside.
After briefly considering and then dispensing with other options, I eventually settled on Rutledge Falls.
I really have no idea why but Rutledge Falls is a place that I have visited very few times over the years.
It is located off Highway 55 (commonly known at the Old Manchester Highway) between the towns of Tullahoma and Manchester, and is only 10 minutes drive on a quiet and tree-lined country road from the house.
It is a very very beautiful place.
A quiet and beautiful and serene natural space that is easily accessible to the locals.
Tullahoma proper is not what I would consider to be a pretty town.
Unlike Lynchburg and Fayetteville and Manchester it has no town square.
Rather it is primarily one long main street containing offices and stores and a multitude of restaurants with off-shoot roads containing more of the same and still more off-shoot roads of residences.
But what it does have is a number of beautiful green places surrounding it that are close and easily accessible.
Rutledge Falls is such a place.
Located on private property the owners very graciously open up this area to the public free of charge, and I have seen hikers and waders and swimmers and picnickers in this place.
Surprisingly but happily people do not seem to abuse the area. 
There is no trash on the ground, no graffiti on the fence and gate that access the trail and then eventually the falls.  I am grateful for that because it would be a supreme loss for the community if public access was eventually denied by the owners of the property because of a lack of respect or appreciation.
It had been a few years since I last visited and I was unsure of my directions but found the parking area alongside the road easily enough.
I was excited to be there.
A video of the falls:

The last time I was at the falls was a couple of years ago during the Winter, and at that time the place was completely void of people.
As I pulled the truck alongside the road I saw that there were three or four other vehicles there as well, so I knew that I would not be able to see this place alone.
This wonderful barn was located in a field adjacent to the property..............
As I continued walking closer to the entrance to the property and then began walking leisurely along short dirt trails I could hear the falls getting louder and louder.
I have come to realize over the past couple of years just how much I am drawn to water.
It was one of many things that I loved about living in Alaska where water is so abundant, and one of the many things I missed while living in Wyoming where water so was hard to find...............
A view of the home from the trail.................
Looking down at my first view of the falls................
And bathers cooling off on a very warm and ridiculously sunny early Fall day.
All Summer this is a popular local place to cool off and the water regardless of the air temperature is always freezing cold................
At the end of the trail (and before you even can see the falls) you come upon this life size figure.
She is beautiful.
She silently demands you to stop and closely look and enjoy.
She begs the questions - who?  why?  why here?
She is unmarked and unlabeled and I have no idea why she is here or what she is supposed to represent, but she is an amazing and wonderful surprise.
A beautiful and completely unexpected figure before you climb down to move closer to the falls..............
The easiest and most direct route down to the falls is to climb down a set of large stepping stone rocks.
After spending some time with the unknown and silent bronze woman I saw that a family of visitors had begun the climb down the rocks, so on the spur of the moment decided to veer right instead of left.
To follow what I remembered from a past visit was a dirt trail of sorts.
The "trail" begins in good shape but quickly deteriorates, moving you into a steep drop off and then quickly a steep climb that requires you to use tree roots as hand holds.
From there the trail becomes barely visible and you find yourself pushing through briars and slippery roots and rocks until all method of moving forward ends in dense brush.
Happily I pushed forward enjoying the effort and the solitude and the complete silence except for the sound of rushing water crashing over what I remembered were three separate falls.
I was very very happy to be in this place at this time...............
Looking down at the falls..............
After spending some time alone both looking down at the falls and then climbing down so that I could be closer to the water I made my way back to the bronze figure.
During my adventure of bushwhacking and bouldering and wading through briars on the trail to the right I stood for a moment and realized how foreign that brief detour had felt.
As I was climbing around it took me back to adventure racing days when those types of experiences were frequent and extended and when it all felt so natural and like second nature.
This type of terrain is familiar. 
Or rather - was familiar.  
Or rather is still familiar somewhere back in the recesses of my brain and muscles.
It is difficult to explain how so many things can feel familiar and foreign at the same time but it is a feeling that I experience twenty times a day right now..................
Part way down the rock stairs to the left I came across this.
I don't remember this from previous visits and don't know how I could not remember it.
What the heck is this?
I have no idea..............
My pictures do not do the place justice.
A number of separate falls that dump into a beautiful large pool that dumps into what is now a fairly shallow and slow moving stream.
And it is only ten minutes from the house..............
Behind me while balancing precariously on slippery rocks down by the pool...............
This nice young family was on the opposite side of the stream from me.
I watched with apprehension as this already baby-toting father picked up his young son (who was afraid of climbing over the rocks leading to my side of the stream) and carried him across.
Everyone made it across safely and then they continued on with their own adventure............
Three young people in the middle of the stream............
The young family climbing up the rock stairs............
After spending a lot of time down near to the falls I headed back up the stairs.
As I looked up I could see the head of the bronze woman looking down at me
Watching me.
Watching over me?
Was that her function?  To watch over visitors?................
A closer look at the remnants of this unknown structure..............
One last look at the woman as I headed away from the falls and gradually made my way back to the truck............
Rutledge Falls Church across the road from where I was parked.
A beautiful sunny day but with the moon already visible in the blue sky.............
Life is either a great adventure or nothing.........Helen Keller

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