Waterfall Magic

Are there any waterfalls in Dragonfly Prince? Yes, there are. That’s why we hiked to some waterfalls in the Cumberland Plateau area of Tennessee. We went to four of them in three days. The first was Laurel Falls, which is in the same area as the Stone Door I talked about last week. The falls were beautiful and very deceptive. When next to the water, it doesn’t seem like you’re really walking on a ledge.

Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls

On Sunday afternoon, when we visited the Old Stone Fort, we stepped off the beaten path and scrambled down the side of the rocky rise to enjoy the water. There were people fishing and a family sitting under a low waterfall, their t-shirts and shorts soaked through. They were grinning their heads off! We slipped and slid against the stream of water until we found a place we could climb back up, then we squish-squashed the rest of the way around the mounds, stopped to listen to Zeke play, got in our car, and raced back to shower before evening worship.

The falls on one side of Old Stone Fort. Trust me, they are behind those trees.
The falls on one side of Old Stone Fort. Trust me, they are behind those trees.

We visited two more waterfalls driving from Manchester to Tullahoma. One was Rutledge Falls, which is on residential property. The owners of the land allow sightseers to use a trail along their property to get to the falls. And they are the most beautiful, in my opinion. The water cascades down a picturesque series of box-like strata and envelopes the scattered, large rocks at the base. It was cool under the shade of the trees and blistering hot when standing on the rocks. I didn’t want to leave.

Rutledge Falls - my favorite
Rutledge Falls, my favorite

We were told about Machine Falls by a sister at the Red Hill Church of Christ, the congregation we worshiped with Sunday evening. We followed the path to the falls, but we couldn’t see it. So, we kept going, thinking the path would lead us closer. (We should have walked along the stream bed. The falls were just a few yards away.) Instead, we huffed and puffed up a climbing, zigzagging trail about a foot and a half wide, the edge of which dropped off steeply. The other three waterfalls were easy to get to. With those, there had been rocks and stairs to climb; it was energizing. This one was exhausting.

The path took us above the falls and beside it. We climbed down a narrow rut of a path and walked under a rock outcrop to find we could step right into the falls midlevel. And we just that.

Machine Falls - This is the upper half.
Machine Falls – This is the upper half.

While we were there, a family with two little ones came around the stream (which is how I learned that was the real way to walk to the falls :P). The kids climbed up the side of the falls with their dad, and he took a bag of peanut M&Ms from his pocket and gave a handful to each of them.

“That’s a good idea!” I said. “Waterfalls and M&Ms. They’ll have good memories.”

Grinning, he replied, “We always find M&Ms at the waterfall. It’s what keeps them going…and sugars them up for the way back.”

“Smart,” I said, nodding. “Kind of like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

“Only M&Ms are better,” he added, laughing.

Later, Realm asked me if I wished we’d brought the kids with us.

“I thought about it,” I told him, “but no.” I didn’t want to hear,

“How much farther?”

“Can I play video games if I go?”


“Will you carry me? I can’t walk anymore.”

After seeing our pictures, they’ve decided they want to see some waterfalls, too. Maybe I’ll bring M&Ms to make the trek magical for them. For me, the waterfalls were magical. Blissful. Peaceful. I found myself humming, “Whispering Hope”* under the spell of the whispering falls as we followed the paths to see them. And I often thought of my Heavenly Creator, who formed such beautiful visions…and promises there’s more where that came from!

*If you’d like to hear “Whispering Hope,” try this.

Stone Doors, Forts, and Flutes

On the Beersheba Springs side of Savage Gulf, there is a huge gap in the ridge of the Cumberland Plateau known as Stone Door. Before they were called Native Americans :), the Indians carved out steps through this breach. It is quite impressive.

I read somewhere—and I can’t find it now—that the Indians who crossed the Stone Door used it as a migratory route every year. This is what piqued my interest. For two years, I searched online for pictures of this Stone Door. I couldn’t find any that comprehensively depicted it, and now I know why. The gap is just twisty enough that you can’t get it all in one shot.

Stone Door at Savage Gulf
Stone Door at Savage Gulf

There are pictures of the gap from the sky. There are pictures at the entrance of the Stone Door and at the bottom. But seeing the whole thing is something you can’t experience through a photo.

Obviously, there are many things you can’t experience about this place from looking at a photo. There’s a cave-like coolness between the walls of stone, only you’re in an open corridor with rock on both sides of you reaching high, high above. There are places where the steps take you beside a flat slab of stone where you can rest; and, if you’re lucky like me, you’ll find a few friendly creepy crawlies that have come to rest there, too.

That ledge under my hand is Creepy-Crawly Central.
That ledge under my hand is Creepy-Crawly Central.

Miles southwest of Beersheba Springs is a place called Old Stone Fort, where the Indians created mounds that surround a 50-acre plot of land situated in the fork of two rivers. It was an excellent place in terms of defense, but there isn’t any evidence that it was used that way. At the opening, the mounds are narrowed and parallel, so that the sun’s position could be utilized at sunrise during the summer solstice. We hiked the one-and-a-quarter-mile diameter of the mounds; and when we came back to the entrance, Zeke from the museum was giving a small talk about some of the pastimes of the Indians. I wasn’t really interested, and would’ve walked on, but he picked up something that looked like a wooden recorder and began to play.

“Oh, let’s listen!” I said, and we walked over. That’s when I recorded this:

After he finished playing, he told a story of a young Indian warrior who excelled in the hunt. He liked a girl in the camp, but she never seemed to notice him. For her, he learned to run the fastest, outrunning all the other warriors. No one could outshine him. But she was not impressed. He was heartbroken and went to the stream to soothe his sorrows with the music of the waters. While he sat there, he heard a strange and beautiful melody he had never heard before. He listened and searched, and, finally, he found the source of the music. The sticks of cane growing in the water had been broken, and the birds had pecked holes along them to get to the bugs that were living inside the wooden tubes. The wind was blowing through their hollow centers, creating the notes he’d been hearing! He learned to make his own flute from the cane and practiced for many days. One morning, he sat outside the girl’s tent and played a song for her. She came out of her tent, for she was impressed. And that was how she came to love him, and how we got the flute!

I just love legends like that! Don’t you?

So, what do stone doors, Indian mounds, and legends have to do with my book? Sorry; that would be giving away too much.