For the past few years now I’ve driven by this gargantuan gem countless times while en route to other photographic endeavors. It’s close to the freeway and close to home, and in general the throngs of tourists who (understandably) make this waterfall a destination is a little off-putting for a local like myself.
Regardless, each time I pass by here it seems like I often say something to my girlfriend, Beth, along the lines of, “One of these days we should stop there.” She always agrees. And we always keep driving on.
On this particular day we stopped. I’m not sure why. It just seemed right.
It was cold and misty, typical of early spring in Oregon, and spray from the thundering cataract thickened the air as I made my way up the gently curving steps towards the falls’ viewing area. There I’d find dozens of visitors taking their turns posing for snapshots in front of the 620-foot wall of water. Par for the course. Making a point to stay out of their way, I slowly set up my tripod and pinhole camera and waited for the masses to clear out. In the meantime I had a few strangers approach me to ask about my archaic looking camera. We chatted a for a few moments and they casually went on their way.
And then another fella approached me. A mountain of a man that dwarfed my own fairly large stature. I figured that he too had a question about the little teakwood box I had sitting next to me. He didn’t. He wanted to talk about the waterfall, or at least try.
“God, it’s beautiful, ain’t it?” he asked in some easterner accent, craning his neck to the top of the falls.
“Yeah, it really is,” I volleyed back. “You been here before?”
“Nah, I’m from Philly. Out here for work,” and he hesitated, “We got nothing like this ’round there. Nothing. It’s just…it’s just…man…,” his voice tapered, his arms violently flailed as if trying to catch the words that eluded him. After a quiet moment a big smile came across his face, his neck still stretched as his eyes surveyed the entire length of the water. He shook his head, hesitated a moment, and walked away, letting out a final “Gosh…” as if it was all he could muster.
It was one of the most sincere moments of awe I had ever witnessed.
And it left me thinking about appreciating the things we have right in front of us.