By William Young
Feeding rope through my rappel rack, I back closer to the edge. I glance over my shoulder at rushing water as it begins its 729 foot cascade to a pool far below.
Amicalola Falls, one of north Georgia’s most beautiful spots, is besieged by a multitude of visitors. Only a small percentage of those are thoughtless enough to leave trash behind. But it mounts up. Some of that trash enters the stream, ending up on the falls or below. Some of the trash is found near the trail or the stairs.
Chris Hall, a fellow member of the Dogwood City Grotto (an Atlanta based caving club) arranged with park officials for a clean-up which included a rappel over the falls. A small, select group of rope proficient cavers showed up to get the job done.
For three hours this morning, I partnered with Erin, a young medical student. We took turns hanging onto a rope tied to the banisters for the stairs. One of us stood on the steps spotting trash while the other picked up plastic bottles and snack wrappers.
According to Park Ranger Chaz Brown who is Superintendent of Park Activities, our group of 12 gathered 61 pounds of trash from the falls area.
It’s my turn to go down the falls. A dreamer I have always been. In high school, I stared out the window, lost In dreamland. (I have the grades to prove it). A hero in my own mind, many-a-dragon I have slain. But my wildest dreams never brought me close to this point.
Carefully placing each foot, I ease over the edge and start down the first cascade. I come down to the first landing without getting much wet. Chris, on another rope, calls out, ‘I’ve hurt myself.’ His feet had slipped out from under him on the wet rock. He slammed his shoulder rather hard. Although he climbs ice in winter, an outdoor accident can happen to anyone. I help him onto a streamside rock so he will be able to walk back to the top.
Another rope awaits for the next drop. I change over to it. From the top of the falls to the bridge is about 400 feet. Over the edge of this second and longest drop, I’m drenched in rapidly falling water. I slowly and carefully work my way down.
Awesome is a word that today’s society throws around like dice on a Las Vegas gaming table. I have never plopped an awesome slice of pizza into my mouth. About halfway down this beautiful, but wet rock face, I look up. I think I have found a place where the word “awesome” is appropriate.
Clinging tightly to the rope and carefully placing each foot on the wet and slippery rock, I make my way down to the bridge. I fall face first in front of a bridge filled with onlookers. But that’s all right. It’s been a great day. I worked with terrific people. Rappelling down the falls was a wonderful, an awesome experience.
I detest litter and the people that cause it. But somehow, I’m not all that mad at them today.