a spiral staircase + a waterfall

some places you find online for a hike, & you think: yeah, that looks great! then when you actually arrive at the destination, your jaw drops in the realization that, yet again, pictures didn't do it justice. such is the case with this waterfall hike i enjoyed in south cumberland state park this week. it was such a beautiful spot that i wanna share with you all everything you need to know in order to get to it yourself! if you ever find yourself in altamont, tennessee, you gotta check it out. this is a super short hike with really amazing rewards. 

back in february, i was in nashville songwriting for 4 days & had looked up short hikes around nashville to do while i was there. i found this particular hike with not a lot of details on it. unfortunately, my schedule that trip didn't work out to include any hiking, so i didn't get to go. so when i was set to go back to nashville this month for 3 more days of songwriting, i was determined to get in some hiking here. i got up while it was still dark out & drove an hour & a half to the greeter falls parking lot (click link for location). i was the only car in the lot besides a van in the corner.

once you park, walk over to the other side of the road you drove up, & you'll see black road gates & the greeter falls trail sign.

about a minute later, i came up to a lil hut thing with another sign for greeter falls. i didn't have time to go check out the 'blue hole' the opposite direction of the falls. if you do, leave me a comment on how it is!

about another minute later, you'll see a sign for 'greeter homeplace.' since there's no sign for greeter falls, one might think that's also the direction for the falls. i went with my gut & ignored the sign, walking past it in the other direction. you should too. =) another minute & you'll see a 'falls loop' sign with 'boardtree falls' & 'greeter falls.' again, if you've checked out boardtree falls, lemme know how it is.

a few minutes later you should start to hear the waterfall, & you should be able to see water from it below through the trees. a bunch of big shelters within the rock wall will be on your left, with some wooden plank steps on the trail. eventually you'll come up to another sign saying greeter falls is to the right & boardtree falls is to the left, along with a warning of the high bluffs coming up. not far from that will be yet another sign letting you know the upper falls are to the right & the lower falls to the left. i checked out the lower falls first. that's the bigger one, though the upper falls are still beautiful as well... just smaller.

if you follow the path to the left toward the lower falls, it won't take long before you eventually come to the spiral staircase that'll lead you down to the falls. i just love that someone thought to put a spiral staircase here instead of regular steps. if you've seen photos of my apartment, you know i absolutely love the spiral staircase i have in my home. until this hike, i'd never seen one in nature before. add a waterfall & turquoise water? i was in my own lil taste of heaven.

from the spiral staircase, there are some more steps down to waterfall. once down the steps & to the rocks beside the water, you get a really great 360 of the grandiose amphitheater-like area you're in. i had the whole place completely to myself, which made it even more special. pretty sure my mouth was open in awe for a good 5 minutes when i first got there. there are a bunch of large inviting rocks perfect for just being... just to take it all in. & that's exactly what i did.

like a kid in awe of her Daddy Who just surprised her with an amazing present, i just kept looking around with my lips parted in a slight smile of wonder. in that moment, it was like God had made all this for me ~ knowing i'd be here on this day, falling more in love with Him simply through His beauty in His creation. awareness of His heart for me quadrupled with each notice of every detail He'd thought of prior to my arrival: the roar of the waterfall before me (april seems to be a great month to go -- the falls were at full intensity), because He knows waterfalls are one of my favorite nature things; the intricate lines in the surrounding rock formations, because He's familiar with my need for subtle reminders that He's still penning the lines of my story; the soft sunrise light gently reaching every tree above, mimicking the ways this 2018 alone He's somehow -- without me realizing it until He was finished -- completely reached, wrecked, & rebuilt parts of my heart i'd left hiding in the dark for too long; the sky's slow transformation from navy to aqua, because He knew it'd subtly bring to mind His repeated patience with my growth this year; the perfection of the turquoise swimming hole inviting me to come back when it's warmer for some cliff-jumping into it, as He's recently called me to bravely take risks toward specific dreams of mine. i wanted to memorize everything about this place & the kindness of that moment. still looking around, i said, "Lord, i am so in awe of You right now." (i talk to God out loud all the time, so having the whole place to ourselves was even sweeter.)

this is just a small glimpse of how i connect with Jesus while i'm enjoying the outdoors. the sweet & thoughtful ways He speaks so personally through His creation never gets old to me. there's always something new, something timely, & i always leave refreshed. this has been my special way of connecting with Jesus for years. it's like He beckons me to run away with Him to places where i may have these encounters with Him in this peculiar way, in His alluring settings of nature. He encourages me to come meet Him out there, because He knows it's in nature that i'm already happier & more aware of Him. my senses are heightened, & i'm more in tune with the Holy Spirit. sure, i can & do connect with the Lord anywhere. but for me, there's nothing like being outside with Him, in a fascinating spot He put together outta nothing just for me & Him to meet. it's where He completely captivates my heart time & time again.

i was on a time crunch because of a co-write i had that morning, but i didn't wanna leave greeter falls. (i even texted the person with whom i'd be writing to ask him if we could push our write back an hour!) i explored around a little before i eventually made my way back toward the upper falls, which definitely held their own in the gorgeous department. i gasped at the peaceful oasis before me & a huge smile broke across my face, shaking my head in awe as i laughed to my Creator something about how He's just really really good at this, & He knows it, doesn't He.

side note: wearing my keen water shoes made getting around, in & out of the water, so easy. i highly suggest wearing some good water shoes here. (& by the way: though i've worked with keen in the past, i get nothing from sharing that link to the keen water shoes i'm wearing in these photos. i just really love my pair & wanted to share with you all in case you're in need of some. =))

the upper falls also had a bunch of rocks for hanging out, leading right next to the top of the lower falls. so ya know i had to sit beside the waterfall danglin my legs like the weirdo i am. i carefully made my way to the edge -- all the while thinking, don't tell mummy about this -- heart beating a lil more awakened to the thrill of where i sat, so conscious of how thankful & alive & happy i was. ***please be extra careful if you try sitting there too. humbly i'll say that i've done stuff like this a lot; but even still, i take my time & use extreme caution whenever i do, especially if slippery rocks are involved. fair warning.***

if i didn't have to go, i would have spent the whole day there. i thanked the Lord for His protection, this place, & the experience with Him. places like this stay with me not just because of their beauty, but because of what happens in my heart while i'm there. i'm so glad i took to the forests of south cumberland state park & came back changed.

how do you connect with Jesus in nature? where are some of your favorite outdoor spots to meet with Him? i'd love to hear. leave me a comment below if you're comfortable sharing!