I’ve been writing a series of articles of fun stuff to do with your kids in the area now that school’s out. Getting out of the office and exploring the area is easily my favorite part of the job, but with this series, it’s been especially fun because (as I’m writing about “family friendly” adventures), I’ve been bringing my son Benjamin along with me.
Our first outing was to the Greenville Zoo and while we certainly had a good time, for the second instalment of the series, I was looking to do something a little more “outdoorsy.” On a tip, we headed out to Walhalla with our destination being Stumphouse Tunnel Park, home to Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls.
It was easy enough to find, coming from Easley I think there was only two turns (a left onto 123 and then another left on to 28 West) but it was a bit longer of a drive than I had anticipated (about an hour) and by the time we arrived, Ben was just itching to get out of his car;seat.
As we pulled into the park’s grounds, we were greeted by one of those little “honor system” pay boxes for parking. Honestly, I thought about ignoring it, trusting that it wasn’t really enforced. But then I figured with my luck, my car would be towed and Ben and I would be stranded out in Walhalla. Somehow I managed to come up with $2 in pennies and nickels from the floorboards of my Honda.
To whoever has to collect the fees and count the money: Sorry, I only had my debit card on me. My bad.
Fancy parking pass in hand, we pulled up to the parking area near the tunnel.
If you’ve never been, Stumphouse Tunnel is bizarre. It represents a ton of work and probably thousands of man hours at it had the distinct honor or never accomplishing anything. Seriously, it’s a giant hole carved out of a mountain.
And on a side note, I have issues calling it a “tunnel” because tunnels tend to have an exit on each end, right? This doesn’t. It just stops a thousand or so feet inside.
We walked about 20 feet inside before Ben had enough and moped on out of there. I don’t really blame him — it was dark, wet and from a 4-year-old’s perspective, fairly creepy. We gave up on our spelunking adventure and headed on over to the falls.
We walked up the trail from the parking lot to the observation deck in no time, but with all the trees in full bloom, you couldn’t really get a good view of the falls. In a moment of weakness (or madness) I made the questionable parenting decision to hike down to the base of the falls. With a 4-year-old. Alone.
Approximately two minutes into our trek I realized we were in over our heads. We should have turned back right then (operative word being should.) Instead, we pushed on. Had I been on my own, I could have handled the climb no problem but several of the rocks and fallen trees we had to scramble down or across were just too big for Ben’s little legs to reach.
As enthusiastic as he was, there were some parts where he had to be lifted and carried — which was tricky because it’s not like I had a whole lot of stable footings or hand holds to steady myself on. Like I said: questionable parenting decision.
Sweaty, panting and covered in mud, we finally made it. And oh my God was it worth it. We climbed over the last boulder to rise up and see the towering Issaqueena in all her glory pouring down right in front of us. The sun cast a rainbow over the shallow wading pool that glinted with golden waters at the base of the majestic falls.
It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen and we wasted no time in kicking off our shoes to go up and run our hands through the curtains of water, letting the falls wash away all the mud from our ill-advised trek down.
Eventually we were joined by other families and hikers — some with kids — and I busied myself taking photos while Ben happily splashed around in the ankle deep water. Nobody wanted to leave, but I was pushing deadline. It was time to go.
The drive home would have gone smoothly had I just retraced my steps but I’m an idiot and thought I could save some time by trusting my GPS’s promise of a short-cut. An hour later, and two accidental crossings into Georgia, I was utterly lost and making desperate phone calls to my boss begging for a deadline extension.
When we finally made it home, Ben and I walked in tired, hungry and covered in mud from the climb back up the trail to the car.
“So … Just another day at the office, huh?” My husband shook his head and smiled.
What can I say? My job is weird.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.