Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nashville Part 2: Jumping off Waterfalls


My old roommate Jordan gave me a "Flat Jordan" to take pictures of wherever I went. Most of them were in the car. 


I woke up in the morning to someone coming into my room and for one horrible moment I thought that the roommate had come back from jail.

Instead it was Jordan, still in the same clothes from last night and jumped into bed with me.
"Where did you sleep last night?" I asked him. I didn't even remember the ride home, I was so tired. 

"I don't even know."

When Jackie and Chrissy woke up, they told us that they were planning on going to Rock Island that day, and asked if we wanted to join them. Apparently there was some hiking involved, along with waterfalls and cliff jumping. None of that really appealed to me to be honest, but I said yes anyways, not wanting a bad CS reference.

We drove for what seemed like three hours to Rock Island in our swimsuits. Angie, a friend of Jackie and Chrissy's also came along. She was a riot. She was a little imp of a girl but was hilarious and spat out witty comments like a miniature Chelsea Handler.

We started the hike and I immediately realized that this was a lot rougher terrain than I had expected. Angie even got a bad gash on her leg from falling on some rocks on our way down to the river. 

It seemed like every family who had a lunchbox was at the river swimming. Why, I don't know, because the water was a good 40 degrees colder than what it was in Wilmington. I nearly got pneumonia when I jumped in.

At our first stop at the park, there were these 15 foot cliffs that people were taking turns jumping off of and although I swam to the cliff, I had no intention jumping off of it. Instead, I just waded back to Angie, a fellow non-jumper. After everyone else had jumped twice, we continued on our hike to the waterfalls.

I felt like I was on a crazy adventure, which I guess, is what hiking is all about. I wouldn't know– I don't go on them often. But we kept coming up to places that Jackie and Chrissy had nicknamed like the "Black Lagoon," "The shower," or the "Amphitheater," that made me feel as if they were landmarks on a treasure map or something.

At the Black Lagoon, we met the most interesting man I had ever met. His name was George, and he was a part of what he called the "Waterfall Squadron." Basically, they were a group of people who hiked to waterfalls whenever they could and "ate superfoods like watermelon." They even had their own Facebook group. The group at Rock Island was made up of about 15 or so people, including a tatted hooper, a hippie who did tricks with his walking stick, and a Latino male who carried a pink book bag. George, however, was by far the most entertaining.

He actually said "Enchanted" when I told him my name was Lisa while holding my hands and bowed. Like Prince Charming. If it weren't for the fact that he had wild hair, wore a beaded necklace and did a series of breathing exercises every time there was a pause in conversation, I would have thought he was from the Medieval times. George then proceeded to enthusiastically tell us a story about the Black Lagoon. Here's what I remember him saying: 

"You know, a man used to swing rope in the lagoon all the time (breathing exercise) with a python around his neck. Yeah, it must have been at least ten feet long and it was his pet and would just jump in the water with him (breathing exercise). He had this crazy, wild mullet and must have been at least 40...no, 50 years old. He would jump real high, like 30 feet from that ledge (vaguely point at random ledge). But I think someone died from the swing rope, probably some college kid or something. So they cut it off and wouldn't let anyone else jump (extended breathing exercise). And I haven't seen that man with the mullet and python ever since."

Listening to George, I legit thought that he was just making up this story the further it went. There were so many things factually wrong that I just couldn't believe it. First of all, from what I could tell, the lagoon wasn't even deep enough so that someone could survive a 30 foot drop. Second of all, who has ever heard of a snake that would actually jump into water on a person's shoulders? And if they did, then it should be in the circus, not in Rock frickin Island.

Nevertheless, we all nodded, said our goodbyes to curious George and climbed up the rock wall to the waterfalls. We heard them before we saw them. It was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. I couldn't even remember when was the last time I saw waterfalls but was that hike worth it.

Then everyone started stripping down to their bikinis and swim shorts again and I froze. The drop from the ledge was at least 35 feet up. Are these people kidding me?

Apparently they weren't. I watched as Chrissy, Jackie, and Jordan all jumped down. Even Angie abandoned me to stand at the ledge to contemplate jumping. No way, no how. I sat my butt down alone, well away from the ledge and looked on as everyone went through the ritual of walking up to the ledge, looking down, ponder for a good 15 minutes on whether they would jump or not, talk to their friends for encouragement, and then eventually jump. Except for Angie. She was still at the very tip of the edge muttering to herself repeatedly.

And then I had an epiphany, as well as a moment of sudden stupidity. "What was I doing?" I asked myself. I was on day two of the road trip, which I said would be life changing and eye-opening, and I was holding back already. Didn't I say once that I would try anything once? Well that was a lie, because I would definitely not try some things once. Like eating worms for example, or moving to North Dakota.

But this jump didn't seem that bad. It was plenty deep enough, there were no rocks at the bottom and so the excuse that I would get hurt doesn't even work. I could do this. I could make this one jump. So I promptly sat up, stripped down to my bikini, and walked up to the ledge where Angie still was. By then everyone had come up for their second jump and Jordan was pleasantly surprised that I was doing it. I was going to wait for Angie to jump, but Jordan wisely said that that was going to be forever, that she would psyche me out and I should just go for it.

So I did.

I didn't even look down before jumping, I just stepped back, positioned my footing, and jumped. It was a longer fall than I had anticipated. Then all of a sudden I was in the water. It was North Pole cold. For one terrifying moment as I was scrambling up to find the surface, I thought I was drowning. But I finally reached the top and immediately made way to the rocks near where the water was breaking, and tried to wriggle up.

I was gasping for air still and shivering from the water and not making much progress up the slippery rocks. Also I still had my Converses on and they were weighing me down like an anchor. Some random girls came to my rescue and pulled me up. I got up as quickly as I could (which wasn't very fast), pulled my bottoms up so my butt crack was no longer showing, and tried to regain as much dignity as I could muster while still gasping.

After I had collected myself, I inwardly rejoiced. I had done it. I did it and I was not the last person of the group to jump because Angie was still talking to herself at the top. Meanwhile Jordan swam over to stand with me behind the waterfalls and we clapped and cheered every time a person landed in the water, only to stop abruptly when we realized they weren't Angie.

After what seemed like an hour, Angie finally jumped in. She said a Hispanic guy who hardly spoke a lick of English had persuaded her to jump in the end. She decided that if that guy was trying that hard to break the language barrier and encourage her to go for it, then she should. After we all congratulated her on her two-hour prolonged descent, we wrapped it up and headed back since the sun was already coming down.

By the time we got back to Nashville, my Converses were muddy, my legs had some battle wounds from climbing the rocks, but I was proud to say that I had jumped from a waterfall that day. 

Take that old man with a python. 

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