Chasing waterfalls.

Last summer, when we first met, my partner took me on a hike to High Falls. It the late August heat, we picked our way through the hushed forest, crossing streams and tripping over roots until finally we could hear the roar of the falls through the trees drawing us closer. When we emerged on the wet squishy riverbank across from the cascade, we both agreed we wanted to get closer. Picking our way along the shore, heading uphill towards the top, we met a young family camping on a little spit of land and asked them, have you found a way across, closer to the falls? The father, shirtless and in a pair of cutoff jeans, long brown hair tied in a bandana, simply smiled at us and said yes! Before continuing what he was doing. Turns out they didn’t speak English.

We continued until we soon found ourselves at the edge of a pond, not very deep, the falls residing somewhere on the other side of it, out of sight. The water was dark, grass dancing on the bottom, minnows dashing here and there. We looked at each other, and without saying much, started taking off our shoes, leaving them nestled in some bushes to be returned to later. I was the first one in, the crisp water causing me to gasp as it met my chest, and, finding it easier than wading, I slipped fully into the water and began to swim. On the other side, we pulled ourselves out of the pond, slipping on algae coated rocks, then walked a few minutes further until we found ourselves at the top of the falls. We picked our way down, alongside the rushing water, the roar of the falls now forcing us to raise our voices to talk. The sun was hot, and dried out our clothes before long as we lounged on a boulder in the summer heat, the mist of the waterfall keeping us cool. It was one of my favourite dates.

With wintering finally loosening its grasp, and being in desperate need of some time outside, we decided to return to High Falls. I had just received my spring gearbox from Explore, and was inspired to hit the trails for some outdoor adventure. Remembering our summer adventure with a smile, we packed our backpacks, and off we went to find our spot once again.

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The landscape was very different this time of year. We started off following the lake, but soon realized that we had left it far behind and were further inland than we realized, the spring runoff flooding the low lying parts of the forest, creating a somewhat magical image of trees rising out of an impromptu lake. We circled back, searching for the true lakeshore, and a way to navigate all this new water to reach the place we remembered so fondly. We met a woman walking her dog. Are you looking for the falls? we asked her. No, you can’t get there this time of year she told us, to our dismay. The water is quite high, the falls won’t be accessible for another few weeks at least. We paced the water’s edge some more, looking for fallen logs or shallow points to get to the other side, but with only a few hours left of sunlight, we decided to have a fire instead. With the late afternoon light filtering through the trees we gathered twigs and dry reeds, and were soon happily seated on a couple of logs, feet up by a crackling fire.

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Though we didn’t make it to the falls, happiness is the smell of damp forest and campfire. It’s roasting a veggie dog and reading in the woods, next to the person I love. In a few weeks time, when the water recedes, we will go back to seek out our sunny spot by the falls again.

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The beautiful thing about High Falls is that it is Ontario crown land, which means that you can camp there freely, as long as you are respectful of the land.

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