The hike is really pretty easy, (at least from the side we came in, there are a few quicker but steeper routes) and it somehow manages to remain mostly level on the way to the collection of falls--first Rough Run with that beautiful quote "The woods are lovely, dark and deep," and then on up to High Falls, Cullowhee Falls, or Tuckaseigee Falls, and probably other names. We took to calling it Beaver Death Falls because we encountered a dead beaver halfway down the falls. Josh claimed that he actually heard the beaver cry out as it fell to its death when he was hiking earlier in the week. I like that story so I'll believe him.
I'll never forget seeing it for the first time. There was a massive, crumbling cliff with huge spurs of water-worn rock and fountains of shimmering, tumbling water. It was gorgeous. I'll also never forget that it felt somehow...wrong? I just had an itch that there was something not quite right about the place. It "made the hair stand up on the back of my neck." Years later I found out that a river used to come surging over that cliff, but when they built lake Glenville, they diverted the flow of the Tuck away from that stretch of river where it had run for millions of years.
Now, I know that drowning the community of Glenville and diverting the flow of a river did a lot of good in Jackson County in terms of generating local fossil fuel-free electricity but I also know that water is a holy thing. I mean, we don't cover ourselves with dirt, or sunbathe, when we get baptized. We go to water. And living, rolling and moving water has a kind of power that a still water just doesn't. I can hop in the Toe or the New or the Tuck for just a quick swim, and I don't come out feeling clean, I come out feeling cleansed, joyful, and energized, like I hooked up to some sort of holy human charger.
I'm not saying we should go up there and tear down that dam, Lord knows what we'd find at the bottom of that thing now. But I do think we should at least be mindful about how holy water is. It is literally the lifeblood of our world.
Here is a picture of the waterfall before the dam. You might find photos of when they do a controlled release, but that's probably not indicative of how the river ran. This photo is from Occoneechee: Maid of the Mystic Lake by Robert Frank Jarrett in 1916 (I borrowed it from this blog that has some images of what the falls look like now too)