Confessions of a Guy Who Quit v: The Lure of the Side Trails / by Ryan Koch

In the fall of 2018 I took a two month sabbatical and I am still trying to figure out what this has done for me, or to me. For part of my time away from Seedleaf duties, I took a long walk on the Sheltowee Trace. What follows is one reflection from my time on the trail.

We didn’t do the side trail to Yahoo Falls..

The man who told me this did so with a sense of pride, as if he had passed up a dish of hard candy that he knew was deeply discounted after Halloween. He was no sucker. He had a place to go get to. Maybe he wanted me to admire his mileage goal with him, his commitment, his focus. I smiled politely as I often do, and I asked about the trail ahead of me, a section he was completing. We were crossing paths, and I hadn’t seen anyone all day. We were in an area where the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River remained within view to my right for a number of miles (I was walking southward). So to my left were numerous invitations to various waterfalls. My neighbor was making it clear that he was resisting these temptations.

Half an hour later I found a sign indicating Yahoo Falls. I dropped my bag and decided to indulge in a short jog to the falls. Upon further inspection I saw that the sign read 1/4 miles to the falls. I really don’t think it was even that far from the Sheltowee Trace. Soon I was there, staring up at it in joy and amazement, a thin mares tail of a stream falling more than one hundred feet into a little rock bowl. I walked all around the waterfall, and down to the bowl where it happily smacked. It was subtle, yet stunning—an understated waterfall. A perfectly placed distraction—just the thing I needed that afternoon. I still had my heart set on drying out a bit after all the rain I had walked through that morning, so I passed on the chance to bathe in that falling water. (I have added this to a list of Unfinished Business…)

After all my gazing and breathing and unselfconscious grinning, I returned to my bag. Twenty minutes had elapsed. I traded twenty minutes of progress, the time it would take to walk most of a mile, for the joy and privilege of seeing Kentucky’s longest waterfall. I got to meet a small tributary of the Cumberland. I got to hear that thin stream smack against a rock bowl—that healing sound of falling water. I appreciated the trade and felt restored. My bag felt lighter. I embraced the trail again.