I started thinking about it last year at the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t quantify the level of difference between my expectations and the experience. I thought I had seen enough pictures and movies about the Grand Canyon to know what to expect. I knew it would be pretty cool, but I didn’t expect that it would be so much more. When we stepped off the south rim on the South Kaibab Trail and started to descend into the canyon I felt something more than excitement. The only word I could find to describe it was magical but that even falls short of expressing the feeling. There are no words to describe the feeling I felt as we watched a thunder storm boom down through the canyon from Cedar Point.
I felt a hint of that wonderment again saturday at Hays Falls on the Maliseet Trail. I had a few hours to spare so I decided to hike up to the falls. It had started to rain but I was willing to take my chances. It was raining when I first entered the woods but not enough to penetrate the thick canopy above. Shortly after starting to hike the rain stopped.
The forest floor was starting to green up from patches of tiger lilies. New born ferns were pushing up through the remnants of their predecessors that had been neatly pressed by the previous winter’s snow. I took a deep breath and all the memories of adventures past came rushing back to me. I continued to climb the long hill and near the top I started to notice Purple Trilliums in bloom. I took a few pictures but continued on to the falls. I had a date with the falls.
I had been to the falls many times before but I didn’t feel like I had any good pictures of the falls. With my camera in one hand and the tripod in the other I began to descend towards the falls. I could hear the rushing of the water as it tumbled over the falls and hit the rocks below but I couldn’t yet see them. I decided to go to the top of the falls first to explore. I had been to the top before but usually with kids which meant a high level of anxiety.
There were two girls at the top when I arrived. They explored the woods on the far side of the stream while I set up my tripod. I took some pictures from the side looking down at falls. I then climbed into the rocky stream at the top of the falls. I took several pictures of the top of the falls and the valley below but I couldn’t find a composition that made sense. I took other pictures of the rocky cliffs surrounding the top of the falls.
Just up stream from top of the falls there is a bend in the stream where it hit a layered rock, turned 90 degrees, and then turned back again as it tumbled around the rock. This is similar to the geology that makes up Coac Falls or diverts the stream below William’s Falls at Mount Carleton Provincial Park. I took several pictures of the rock formation and the stream.
After exploring every angle above the falls I decided it was time to climb down to the bottom. The two girls had long since disappeared leaving me alone with the falls. The first thing I noticed when I got to the bottom was a plaque that was left as a tribute to someone’s dog who had passed away. I guess this was one of his favorite spots too. I took a few token pictures of the falls from downstream before I really started looking for different angles. I climbed up the left side of the falls looking for an interesting composition. The wind would gust and send out spray from the falls. I got good at covering up the end of my lenses when I heard a spray gust coming.
I worked my way back down and then up onto the rocky ridge that juts out into the valley just below the falls. I just caught site of a mouse climbing into a hole near where I sat. I took a few more pictures then after a long time noticed that I was no longer taking pictures. My camera and tripod were on the ridge at my side. I started by thinking about the different compositions but then soon was daydreaming.
I let the sound of the water fill my ears and the sight of the large falls fill my eyes. The waterfall started at one point but ended at the valley floor in several different smaller streams. The smell of the forest mixed with the spray from the falls was something ancient. Something that had been here since long before my time. The feeling of the spray on my face is something that I can never explain or capture in a picture or video. That’s the magic.
As much as I try to capture the essence of the place in my photographs I know I will never succeed. I can only hope to get marginally closer with every visit and with every picture. That is why I hope that you take this and visit the places I for yourself. I want you to experience the magic in the beautiful places around us. All I can hope to do is inspire you to go get out and explore. And when you are there remember to look for the magic.