The Wakarusa Right of Passage

I just spent the last week camping at Mulberry Mountain for Wakarusa. It was my second trip to Mulberry Mountain for a music festival and an incredibly magical experience. The drive through The Pig Trail is narrow and curvy… and completely gorgeous. The first time I ever went there I could not believe how beautiful the sunrise was through the heavily wooded roads. Several of my friends visited Mulberry Mountain before me, and went on forever about the waterfall that is a short hike through the Ozark National Forest from Mulberry Mountain. I wasn’t able to go on my first trip, but I planned ahead with hiking boots this time and headed to the trail on Friday morning while everyone else was sleeping off their hangovers.

There was a volunteer sitting at the trailhead and as I approached he said, “You know it’s supposed to start storming soon.” I did, but I figured the hike couldn’t be that long. My friends said it was very steep, but I figured they were just lazy and out of shape. This wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

Ozark National Park, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Ozark National Park, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

It became apparent quickly that this was indeed a steep ass hill, and I had no idea how far it was to the waterfall. After walking for about 7 minutes I ran into a breathless couple sitting in the dirt. They asked how much further it was and seemed overjoyed when I told them I had only been walking for a few minutes.

The voices of my friends complaining about the steepness and the volunteer warning me about the storm started running through my head. Should I turn around and try this another day? Was I stupid to keep going? I found some solace in the fact that other people were still walking down to the waterfall because I passed several people on the way down. If I was going to be stupid at least I wouldn’t be stupid alone.

The hike down felt like it took forever. It was slick and rocky, and I discovered that my hiking boots are a little bit too big for me as my toes kept sliding to the end of my shoe. I couldn’t look up at all because I was so afraid of sliding down the hill or slipping on a wet rock. I was paranoid about the oncoming rain and wondered what I should do if it started raining. Humans evolved with rain, after all, I told myself. I would be perfectly fine.

I kept walking, or rather, shuffling down the hill.

I wondered if the waterfall would be worth it. I imagined myself reaching the bottom only to find a tiny trickle of water. I imagined myself trying to make the best of the tiny waterfall, mentally cursing my friends for not warning me, and turning back around to climb up the steep ass hill.

Ozark National Park, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Ozark National Park, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

I’m not sure how long the walk down there took me and I think it would probably embarrass me if I knew. When I reached the final steep descent a husband at the bottom had to coach his wife on how to get down the hill as she descended behind me, and I was extremely grateful for his guidance. I got to the bottom and figured there was no turning back now, besides the terrain was starting to go up towards the waterfall.

It was no tiny waterfall.

Ozark National Forest, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Ozark National Forest, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

In all honesty, it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. An Eden. The water was so clear and there were at least fifty people sitting and bathing in the waterfall. I took off my boots and walked through the water, feeling the coldness soothe my sore toes. I crouched down and got my dirty, greasy hair wet.

In the woods there were girls sitting in hammocks, and I wished I could just sit in those woods with them all day. Everyone was calm and relaxed. There were no cell phones, no iPads. Just young people experiencing nature. It was heaven.

Once it started to rain I went back up the hill, and even though I was dreading it the walk went incredibly fast and the rain actually felt good as I walked back to my campsite. When I reached the trailhead the volunteer smiled and nodded at me as if to say, “Nice job there.”

Maybe it was a little waterfall magic.

Ozark National Forest, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Ozark National Forest, Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

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