I remember the three and a half mile hikes we used to take down into Feather Falls… all the way down hill. When you came to the overlook, a large wooden deck placing you just over the edge of the canyon so you could witness the Feather River plunge to the rock floor 640 feet below, there was a secret. If you did not turn left to walk out onto the overlook, there was a secret trail to the right. No one knew it was there because it began three feet higher up a hill than the ground of the standard trail, obscured by bushes and long dry weeds.
When you clamored up that first impossible step, the trail went on and as you walked you’d see signs—warning signs that read: Caution, Brink of Falls! Stay behind the Fence! And sure enough there was an eight foot tall chain-link fence erected long enough ago that the rust had set in and it was no longer (if ever) a pretty sight. But the brave and the anarchist hikers who came before us saw fit to take bolt cutters to many of the fence’s weak points and cut wide gates to freedom. So those of us with whatever gusto it takes, could go right up to the brink of the falls. From there, the roar was deafening. But I found an even better secret.
If one were to hike up the river, just around the next bend, one would come across a fallen tree. A giant of a fir tree that had plummeted straight across the river who knows how many centuries ago. But it still had its bark, petrified somewhat by the weather and it was a wide and welcoming bridge to the other side of the river.
Once you crossed this mammoth tree-bridge, you were free to explore a land that many have never set foot upon.
Turning left and heading back toward the brink of the falls, there was an unusual rock formation. It was the peak of the hill and from the ground it rose up about ten feet from the trail. Half way up, a solid rock slice of bread (or so it appeared) was slightly removed from the mother rock, like a piece of toast sticking out of a sideways toaster. Behind this slice of stone where it used to be connected to the mother rock, was a one foot by two foot hole from one side of the pyre to the other. This produced a shelf where the rock had slid out a little bit over the canyon. It was possible to step up onto this rock, take seat and dangle your feet over the edge. It was the best seat in the house.
Looking to your left you’d witness 4,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Feather River fly out over the brink of the falls and down to the canyon floor. At about the eleven o’clock position you could see the observation deck and all the tiny tourists marveling at the site just to your left. And straight out westward you’d see the canyon stretch for miles, the river winding its way thru the gorge which sliced through the Sierra Nevada mountains eons ago.
Here’s what I’ve learned from those trips to the brink of the falls; this feeling of nearing the brink, which contains a large measure of anticipation, readiness, and pure adventure is a valuable feeling. It is a feeling you can bring to bear on any one of life’s many situations. It is a state of being. The first time I ventured up onto that secret trail, I had no idea what lie before me. I anticipated something big and very possibly dangerous. The closer I got to the brink of the falls the more excited I got to see what was there, to take in the sights and the smells and the sounds of all Nature’s fury as an entire river came rushing off a precipice and fell through mid-air only to crash on the rocks below and continue its journey toward the sea.
Sometimes we can get in touch with that feeling of excitement and adventure without the hike to the falls. We can feel that way about a project we are about to embark upon.
“The state of mind revered most by the Muse is a mind filled to the brim with notions of adventure.”
Just imagine the brink. Imagine nearing the brink and see what kinds of inspiration find you.