One of my favorite hikes of all-time is at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. I used to visit several times a year when I lived in Nashville. Oh, how I miss it.
You hike down winding, steep, rocky pathways and stairways, past cliffs dotted with rock-climbers. You can hear the falls before you can see them - quietly roaring, its mist fills the fresh, crisp, green mountain air. Everything smells like moss and earth.
At first sight, you cannot get there fast enough. At the base of the pool that leads to the falls, you strip off hiking shoes and socks and sweaty shirt and shorts until all that's left is a bathing-suited body that's eager to tiptoe into the frigid water. Go ahead - wade out onto the boulders, or perhaps just sun yourself on them for awhile.
When you're ready, venture out further...waist-deep...shoulder-deep...then let your feet go. Let them slip from underneath you, and make the commitment. Neck-deep, you let out a little shriek. Paddling erratically, then stroking smoothly, you make your way towards the rocks. Feel the mist on your face, tickling your nose and eyelashes, until you reach the falls and swim under the pounding water as the icyness pours over you.
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What's one of the best places you've ever hiked or swam?