I grew up in an anti-detour household. This was a strict rule from which there was very little deviation. As an adult, I have tried to liberate myself from this early training and I do a very good job of it, although some backsliding is bound to occur.
I still feel guilty about refusing the cup of coffee and bowl of quark that my German friend Patricia wanted to have after we had spent a tiring day wandering around an arts festival in Sausalito. I rationalized my refusal as a sweeping cultural difference: Europeans liked to dally in cafes while the American plowed ahead to his next destination (missing everything, including quark).
My family used to go South every summer, usually to Myrtle Beach. For years my father would clench the wheel of the Ford station wagon as we raced by the first sign for South of the Border. And then the second, and the third, and the thirtieth. Chili Today, Hot Tamale! Sommtheeing Deeferent! The signs started somewhere south of Washington D. C. and continued for hundreds of miles. South of the Border had the best marketing plan ever; the idea was that parents would be driven so crazy by antsy kids begging to stop that the parents would be worn down and would just give in out of exhaustion. This worked with every other family but mine. In the back of the car my brother and I would have started pleading, hoping against hope that this year it would be different but knowing that a miracle would have to occur to get Dad to agree. This type of miracle–perhaps a case of severe runs or projectile vomiting when South of the Border was the only restroom for miles–never happened.
We’d swivel our heads 180 degrees in disappointment as the giant sombrero-shaped tower disappeared in our rear view mirror. It was one of the greatest letdowns of childhood. No whoopee cushion this year, kids. No fireworks, no glimpse inside the Dirty Old Man Shop, no fried ice cream.
I finally realized I had broken the family habit when I was driving through the Rockies on my way to Florida and noticed a sign for the grave of Kit Carson. I pulled off the highway and spent half an hour high above Denver, enjoying the view and taking a break from the long cross-country trip.
Dad was infuriated, and he wasn’t even in the car. I called him to say that I was outside Denver, stuck in rush-hour traffic and taking my time getting to the Radisson in Colorado Springs. From this phone call I learned that you still didn’t do things like this, not even as an independent, middle-aged adult. You were to get in your car at Point A and drive directly to Point B. That was it. It was probably best accomplished with your jaw set in grim determination, like an emigrant crossing the Sierra Nevadas before the first snows of winter.
I made up my mind right then to stop and look at everything. I’ve stuck to this resolve in Florida, where there is a discovery around every bend in the road. Sometimes I realize there is so much per square mile that I will have to make repeat visits and I feel a secret delight in thinking that I’ve not only been somewhere once, but three times.
When Mr. B. noticed a sign for Falling Creek Falls, I had no hesitation in suddenly braking and making the detour. Falling Creek Falls is a little-known park just off the I-10 above Lake City. It was the site of the earliest settlement in the area and its teabag-colored waterfall drops ten feet over limestone into a ravine. A boardwalk makes the falls easily accessible and there are two historic buildings on the property as well as a public restroom.
Falling Creek Falls: *****
If you visit: This one’s a freebie, and don’t miss the Falling Creek Chapel that is a few hundred yards up the road.
Here was something new: A broad-spectrum warning sign releasing the park from legal liability without giving any specifics. The language is terse and dire (“threatening situations”) and makes it seem as if you are taking your life into your own hands by entering the park. Given the casualness with which Florida advertises the presence of alligators, this sign made me wonder if someone had stepped on a coral snake within the park’s borders or whether the neighbors reacted in an especially violent manner if you breached their perimeter.
Upstream, there is a well-marked hiking trail that runs next to the water.