We have all heard the motto that "it is not all about the reaching a goal that is most important, but it more about the journey". When it comes to photography and wanting the capture a nice photograph of a location you have never visited that motto can be a great one to remember. Recently, I visited a state park in North Carolina that I had never heard of before even though I from North Carolina. The state park gets very little publicity, but my wife read that the park had a waterfall as one of it's major attractions. Those that know me know I really cannot resist photographing a new waterfall. With the information I got from my wife and the photos she found of the waterfall I thought we would take a road trip and check it out. My objective was to get a new image of a new waterfall and add it to my collection of photos of waterfalls from North Carolina.
South Mountain State Park in North Carolina was not a far from my home. The trip was only going to take about 2 hours from my home. According to what my wife and I read about the park was the park offered clean campsite, hiking trails, a beautiful flowing creek, and best all the water that is called, "High Shoals Falls". Finding the park was not that easy and took my wife and I deep into the back roads of North Carolina. On the back roads, we saw large farmlands, old country homes, and nice roaming pastures. I was actually surprised that the state park was so far off the beaten path and at times wondered if we were lost. After about 2.5 of driving, we finally made it to the state park.
When we entered the park we found the park to be rather nice, clean and there were very few visitors. We kind of planned it that way. We decided to visit the park on a Monday to avoid the crowds that we read could be large on the weekends. We made the right decision to visit on a Monday. Once we entered the park we entered a very nice visitors center and got directions to the waterfall. The waterfall was only 2 miles from the visitors center.
We had read the hiking trail to the waterfalls was only one mile, one way. We also read the trail was flat, and it was a moderate trail. Well, the trail was one mile long but the trail was not flat or moderate. The first part of the trail was flat, but about halfway into the hike, the trail became a little more difficult. The trail had large roots from nearby trees near a nice flowing and beautiful creek. The trail had some steep steps that had to be taken to get to various parts of the trail, and more importantly, the last quarter mile of the trail consisted of steeper steps and large boulders to confront. As we got closer to the base of the boulders my wife decided she would stay by the creek side and enjoy the nice weather and listen to the flowing water from the creek. She was the smart one. I decided to venture to the top to get a photo of the waterfall that was not visible from the location where I departed from my wife. My guess was, I was not too far from the waterfall. I was wrong.
Once I departed my wife, began the short but tiring journey of climbing steep stairs and rocks to get to the summit. On my way to the top, I passed a few people. I passed two young girls on my way to the top (or should I say they passed me). I also had an older gentleman pass me that was coming done from the falls. He had a great deal of difficulty coming down the step stairs descending from the upper falls. I knew the hike was very difficult for him and he stated he had a lot of physical issues. Walking was one of them. I had a lot of respect for the old geezer. He could barely walk but he did not let that stop him from venturing to the top to snap a photo or two of the waterfall even though he had taken the trip many times before.
Once I reached the top and beside the High Shoals Falls, I was impressed by the amount of water from the falls. Recently, the area had received a great amount of rainfall. So the volume of water was impressive. However, I was disappointed in the view. I found out very quickly that there was no real way to get a good composition for my shot. Another issue was the direction of the sun. I had to shoot directly into the sun and that was not going to work at all. There was a small platform to work from and I was continually dealing with mist from the waterfall. I did take a few images but after I reviewed them they were not worth keeping. After being a little disappointed I packed up my gear and began my journey back down the trail to meet up with my wife. Coming down the trail was a little tricky and it was a place that one would not want to fall, sprain an ankle, or break a leg. As I came down the trail I began to think about the old man I passed and wondered if he made it down okay. I did locate him resting on a boulder 30 minutes after I originally met him. He was taking his time and being careful in his decent. I could tell it was not his first rodeo.
After meeting up with my wife, I informed her that I did not get a good shot of the waterfall. Then I started thinking that the trip was not a total waste of my time and getting a special image was not that important. What made the trip special was I got to enjoy an adventure of visiting a location that I had never heard of before. My wife and I got to spend quality time together enjoying a beautiful day. My wife got to do a little mediating by a nice flowing creek and enjoy some private time in nature.
Those in photography, including myself, sometimes get so hung up in getting that "special image" that we can work with and share with others. But, the image is not what made the journey membeable. What makes a journey special is the what happens throughout the adventure. Sometimes is best to go with the flow and enjoy the experiences, sights, sounds, and challenges from an adventure. If one is too focused on getting a great image, one can miss out on what is most important and it living in the moment.
If you get a chance to visit South Mountain State Park in North Carolina, enjoy the park. It as very nice campsite, a beautiful stream to fly fish and hike by, numerous hiking trails, and most of all a nice waterfall if want to push yourself to the top. Just remember to enjoy the journey.
Until next time, keep shooting!