It was a sunny, blue-sky day on another six-hour road trip. This one was to my husband's hometown in Mississippi, where his family, who I love, awaited us.
I was talking about something quite important, I'm sure, when he pulled off at an exit we've never taken before.
"Where are we going?"
As we got to the red light at the end of the ramp, he said, "Dunn's Falls. We've always talked about going."
In all the years we've been traveling this route together and all the years before that when he travelled it alone, we have never checked out the waterfall. The main reason is that at this point in the trip, we're within an hour of our destination, I am so tired of being in the car, and we both just want to get there.
I remember googling Dunn's Falls once, after we passed it, to see if it would be worth a stop the next time.
"Isn't it like 12 miles away?" I ask. Then we see a sign: 2 miles. Okay--we can do that.
Four minutes later, we pull into a tiny parking lot facing a little lake and an old tin-roofed building.
I love old tin-roofed buildings.
There was no one in sight, except for a friendly attendant in the little building at the entrance. She told us that the admission price was $3.25 each or $6.51 for both.
We aren't sure what that extra penny was for--maybe a processing fee?--but we paid it anyway.
After passing a picnic area and a trellis covered in purple clematis, we came to an engraved piece of marble with some information about Dunn's Falls. In the 1850s, Irish immigrant John Cooper Dunn rerouted the Chunky River (an unfortunate name) and created a 65-foot waterfall to use as a power source for a grist mill. The mill that stands here now and the old tin-roofed homestead were brought over from Cave Springs, GA, in 1987, to replicate Dunn's original mill.
As we stepped onto the bridge above the falls, we could see a water chute, which looked like it would be a fun slide, and a water wheel.
Looking down at the water, we were underwhelmed with the view.
But of course we were on top of the falls and needed to work our way down.
The old building was to the right, so we went inside, expecting a museum with some information. But what we found was a jumble of old equipment in no particular order. A pulley system with belts, a large vat, and wooden dollies were just a few of the things covered in dust and bathed in a gorgeous light that seemed vintage itself.
We explored the old building, enjoying the light and stepping carefully once we caught sight of the ground between the floorboards. It was a long way down.
Surrounded by all these vintage items on our way to see the waterfall, I thought about my parents. When I was young, we would often go to antique shows on Saturdays. I got my interest in and respect for old things from them and from my sister.
And after they retired, Mom and Dad loved to just get in the car and go exploring. They often went in search of waterfalls within a couple of hours' drive. They would call us when they got home, excited to share the beauty that they found.
Hmm. I'm detecting a pattern here.
Mart and I walked back outside and went down some stairs toward the river and the falls. The sound grew louder and louder as we descended to the foot of the falls and looked up.
It was just us, my favorite companion and me, standing in the shade on a sunny, warm afternoon, with the sight and sound of the water rushing before us. We stayed there for several minutes, breathing and listening and enjoying and smiling. And then smiling some more.
This little gem of unexpected beauty has been tucked away just two miles from the highway all this time. Makes me wonder what else we might not have seen along the journey because we've been so focused on our final destination. I'm looking forward to finding out.
Have you ever taken a fun detour? Where have you found unexpected beauty lately? Let me know in the comments.
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