The Magic of Water’s Thunder at DeSoto State Park
Water, Water Everywhere
I returned to DeSoto State Park Thursday-through-Saturday April 18-20, exploring on my own Thursday and Saturday, and hiking with Park Naturalist Brittney Hughes Friday. This will be the first of three Blog Posts from my visit. The other two, in turn, will offer photos and reflections on 1) a spring day at DeSoto and 2) a close examination of the Park’s extensive sandstone glades. Two-to-three-inches of rain Thursday night generated this first Post. As of April 14, 2019, I had already recorded 30-inches of rain in Madison (65 miles from DeSoto SP) since January 1. The few runs and creeks I encountered Thursday evening carried water volume far greater than what I saw during my July 2018 hike: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/08/13/a-cycle-of-death-and-renewal-at-desoto-state-park/
The April 18 overnight deluge brought water courses to bankfull and beyond. I awoke in my Lodge room to the soothing sound of water rushing past my back door (below left). The stream, which occasionally dries during the summer and fall, approaches Lodge Falls over a series of step-ledges, flows under a foot bridge (below right), and prepares to plunge.
Dropping about 20-feet, Lodge Falls tumbled noisily into the forest (below left from above; below right from below). Water saturated every surface: mist from the falls, constant tree canopy drip, and light rain continuing. The dark skies and drizzle persisted all day. I could not have been more pleased. After all, this is a Park blessed by flowing and tumbling water, sitting atop the plateau. We spent the entire day Friday from 1,500 to 1,800 feet above sea level, the terrain tapping the moisture-laden stratus cloud deck as it kissed the tree tops from time to time. We didn’t mind the rain. As I often observe, over my 65-plus years of life, my skin has yet to leak. I am waterproof! Also, the day helped me save a penny or two — no need to apply sunscreen.
Even where the trail map designated no named waterway, we encountered rivulets, miniature cascades, gurgles, and turbulent runs (both photos below). Water-in-motion sounds filled the forest. No wonder — think about this! A cubic foot of water weighs 62.3 pounds. If our overnight rainfall totaled mid-point of my 2-3-inch estimate, every 4.8 square feet of ground surface accepted 62.3 pounds of rain during the night.
Pardon my penchant for math, but I must tell you that 56,537 pounds of rain fell on each and every acre of Desoto State Park that night! Twenty-eight and a quarter tons! The Park covers 3,502 acres. That’s just under 99,000 tons of rain. No wonder DeSoto Falls (104-feet vertical) thundered and roared! Yet what a rewarding sight to accompany the pounding water (below left and right). My heart raced. I was in no danger; my heart beat rapidly from exhilaration not fear. As I stood marveling at the falls, I recalled last winter reading Candice Millard’s River of Doubt, her account of Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. After his post-presidency defeat running as an independent in 1912, he assembled an expedition to descend a wild, unmapped tributary of the Amazon. He nearly died during the daring exploration. One passage reminded me how benign DeSoto Falls is relative to the Roosevelt team’s terrifying ordeal:
“At around three-thirty that afternoon, the men heard a low roar that traveled upstream like distant thunder before a rainstorm. Over the ensuing weeks, this roar would become for them one of the most alarming sounds in the Amazon: the sound of rapids.”
My mind retains a bit of Amazon trivia. The Amazon carries more volume than the next eight largest rivers of the world combined. It has ten tributaries larger than the Mississippi. If we were to empty the Lake Ontario basin and dump the Amazon into it at flood stage, the basin would fill in three minutes! Regardless, I am still impressed by DeSoto Falls’ beauty, magic, wonder, and awe! Thank goodness I don’t require a death-defying descent of a river of doubt to charge my batteries and deepen my appreciation of Nature. In tribute to his daring adventure and to his remarkable life, the 472-mile Brazilian river of doubt now bears his name, Roosevelt River.
When I took my OLLI State Parks course participants to DeSoto State Park March 30, the Falls seemed much tamer (photo below; Blog Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/04/11/my-winter-term-osher-lifelong-learning-institute-class-visits-desoto-state-park/).
Indian Falls (July 2018 below left) provided a soothing sense of late summer ambience. I prefer the torrent from Friday April 19.
Azalea Cascade, a quarter mile upstream from Indian Falls offered absolute tranquility March 30 (lower left). Still a peaceful setting with at least ten times greater flow (below right), the Cascade setting shouted aqueous abundance, the promise of profuse plant growth, summer afternoon deep shadows, and flashing minnows.
Saturday April 20 I hiked the Orange and Blue Trails. Deep laurel thickets framed Laurel Falls, yet another cascade fueled by Thursday night’s rain.
A bit further along the trail I found Lost Falls. Well, it wasn’t really lost. The map clearly identified its location. Still drizzly with plateau-draping stratus, I loved the absolutely diffuse light, with neither source nor destination apparent, and the sodden darkness of rocks, soil, tree bark, and all other surfaces. I could not have ordered better weather for a watery forest wonderland!
Even the sandstone glades, areas of extremely shallow sandstone bedrock across the plateau, carried water flowing downward-bound. No soil to absorb the soaking precipitation. In fact, simply no soaking into fertile loam, just overland flow soaking the nearly-barren rock!
Rain and Life
Our southern forests teem with life… life enabled by ample rainfall across the seasons. And rain teams with life to create rich ecosystems. Rain is life; life is rain. Too often we modern-day humans view rain (and other elements of weather) as matters of convenience (and inconvenience) affecting our lives and well-being. I view weather as a matter of study, science, poetry, and inspiration. I see weather as central to my life, not peripheral to it. The weather and its nuances of beauty and fury serve as my own Game of Thrones entertainment.
For example, just this morning (May 15) as I drafted this Post, I watched radar early morning as a cluster of showers and thunderstorms began dropping southeastward from the Indiana/Kentucky/Tennessee tri-state area. Forecasters included a 40-percent mention of showers for us, and less than a tenth-of-an-inch of rain. The little bowling ball of rain still held together at 10:00AM, giving forecasters reason to up the rain percentage to 60 and the amount to a couple of tenths. A few drops began falling by 11:00. By noon, with steady rain and pockets of moderate-to-heavy rainfall, the forecast showed a 100-percent probability with in excess of a quarter-inch to come. By 2:00PM my landscape plants frolicked in just under a quarter-inch. Yeah, I know, plants don’t frolic! In their own plant-way, let’s say they celebrated yet another gift of life, this one from a rainmaker spinning in from the northwest, an unlikely direction here where delivery from west and southwest predominates.
I muse often on rain and weather. So many people anticipating a day afield, say, “I sure hope the weather cooperates,” signaling their wish for fair skies and dry ground. Not me. Give me an overnight 2-3-inches. Shake the rafters with peals of thunder and howling gale. Let the waterfalls roar. Immerse me in Nature’s power. I have enough sense to seek shelter if threatened. Or stay indoors if too nasty. Nothing nasty about tree top stratus, dripping canopy, and full stream flow. Fair weather seldom strokes the spirit, soul, and heart the way that a day like April 19 does. My Nature experience memory portfolio is rich with wind, rain, thunder, snow-bursts, and blizzard. I’ve been caught outdoors occasionally by the pleasurable terror of wild weather. Wouldn’t trade the memory for a thousand days of brilliant blue. I don’t go searching for foul weather, yet I breathe deeply of its feel, sound, richness, taste, and, yes, peace.
I am grateful that my days at DeSoto coincided with a drenching nighttime rain, filling all waterways to full beauty and magic. Our Alabama State Parks are reservoirs of experience and memory. Whether fair or foul skies, they offer Nature at her best, whatever her mood. I urge you to venture forth whenever the mood suits — your mood or Nature’s.
Perhaps not intended for my deep-woods spiritual treks, the old saw that a rising tide lifts all boats does indeed apply to my mid-April DeSoto journey. Pardon the pun, but a bit of rain does not dampen my spirits. Thursday night’s rain literally lifted the freshwater tide of DeSoto’s flowing waters. And that overnight gift lifted the tide of my heart, soul, and spirit. Every current in the river of my life furnished greater buoyancy to the many boats I am navigating downstream. Nature powers my core, fuels my purpose, and stimulates deep passion and inspiration for life and living. I feel the surge as I harness these thoughts and type these words.
Saturday mid-day I descended the plateau en-route home into breaking sky and drying pavement, leaving the magic of DeSoto State Park behind. I saw water in some fields and noticed some waterways remaining at bankfull. However, nothing from a windshield can match feet-on-the-ground for appreciating Nature. I might carry the thought a step further. Nothing from a windshield can ever match wet-feet-0n-the-ground! I urge you to experience our state’s rich tapestry of public lands, including our 21-pearl-necklace of State Parks encompassing 87,000 acres of Alabama wildness.
Thoughts and Reflections
I wrote my books (Nature Based Leadership (2016) and Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017)) and the two scheduled for 2019 (Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature) and 2020 (Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.
Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:
- Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages, in weather fair and foul!
- Just 65 miles from my Madison home, DeSoto SP is within reach — deep Nature therapy at my fingertips. What lies within fingertip reach for you?
- What we may normally consider as inclement weather can, in fact, amplify our understanding and enjoyment of Nature. Venture forth if you dare.
Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir, or brush it from your damp forehead. May Nature Inspire and Reward you!
Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”
Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/
And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at email@example.com
Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause
If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:
Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.
- People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
- They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.
Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!
Alabama State Parks Foundation
I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/