Cascading the Blue Ridge.
As I lean back, my feet planted on the face of a waterfall some 200 feet above a deep pool in White Oak Canyon, the roar and crash of the cataract all around me consumes my senses.
This is cascading—wading, swimming, scrambling and sliding through a mountain stream, then rappelling down the faces of waterfalls. My teacher is Andy Nichols, a Rappahannock County native and founder of Shenandoah Mountain Guides.
Nichols, whose 20 guides lead cascading, climbing and kayaking trips all across the mid-Atlantic, takes me up White Oak trail, where we enter the cold, clear stream. The water is sometimes deep enough that we can’t stand up, and other times just calf-high. We slip down narrow chutes until we reach the top of the first waterfall, where Nichols hooks us up for the rappel.
“Coming down the big falls, you’ll feel like a rock star,” says Nichols. And he’s right. When I splash into the pool, a father and son nearby whoop and clap. I am exhilarated—and drained.
Nichols’ most important advice: “Just stop for a second and appreciate the moment,” he laughs. “You’re hanging in the middle of a waterfall!”