by Jose Kevo
December 9, 2004
Within a mile, you'll come to picnic areas along banks of Shoal Creek. Continue straight for another two miles, through heavily wooded areas, until McClelland Park, if you'd like a highly rated ultimate frisbee course. Otherwise, make a left where the low-water bridge is visible. This is likely where you'll spot your first forms of local wildlife – twigs shaken from the family tree of Ma & Pa Kettle, in the form of hybrid hillbillies. They're rather harmless, kind of like a skunk, but you can't help but keep an eye on them to ensure they don't get too close!
Once crossing the bridge, take a left and continue about a mile until coming to roadside places where cars pull over. On the left side of the road are several paths through deep woods, which lead to 100+-foot bluffs overlooking Shoal Creek. There's another trail which starts at the main road and leads along the edge for quite some distance, but you won't need venture beyond forsaken concrete picnic tables attracting herbalists.
There are different groups from the area who use these walls for rappelling, but the best-known attraction is called Mother Nature's Crack, a narrow crevice which gradually widens and descends into the cliff until it reaches large boulders for climbing down to the creek bank. Call it a local oddity -- a tight squeeze that's especially dirty and slippery when wet.
The second natural attraction is in the opposite direction. Make a u-turn, and once you've back-tracked to the bridge turn-off, continue for a mile until coming to Grand Falls. There are places to pull in on the falls side, but I'd recommend driving onward, turning around, and parking on opposite side of the road.
This is my favorite local spot to escape and tune out for awhile. A man-made dam serves as a water break, slowing waters until they crash over the natural falls. There are several ledges that attract a local assortment of families, sun-seekers, and fisherman; the biggest hauls are seen coming from Hispanics casting nets and pulling in whoppers.
My preferred perch is along protruding rocks right at falls' edge. You'll need to wade through some shallow waters, but every potentially slippery step of the way is worth sitting next to the gentle roar, which is mentally stimulating. People watching can be interesting; especially when circus clowns show up out of uniform, drunk, and jumping off the falls. It's been a few years since I last tried, but the greatest risk is that the water is no more than 8' deep at any point below.
Spring flooding makes the area inaccessible when the low-water bridge is closed. Bundled up in colder weather, steam rising off the falls is also worth viewing from a distance, while having the place all to yourself.
From journal Weekend at Kevo's