On a beautiful autumn morning, Sam and I roll into the Cowley State Fishing Lake camping area. Having done our camping on comfortable mattresses, we feel quite rested and ready for the day. A solitary camper stirring the ashes looks as if he spent the night on the ground.
Sam lets down the tailgate of the truck and our mostly French Brittany Spaniel, Layla, jumps down. She is so excited about being outside she can barely stand still long enough for Sam to clip on her leash. We walk over toward the trail, passing the camper.
“Beautiful morning, eh?” I say and he answers in a quiet but enthusiastic voice, “Yes, it is. I love this place.”
“First time here?”
“No, I was here about three years ago.”
Turns out he lives at Kansas City, about five hours away. After brief conversation, we bid him safe travels and head over to the overlook. We take in the view of the curving lip, the exposed bank of dirt below the limestone overhang, the jumble of boulders and rocks surrounding the small pool at the base of the falls. I go back to the truck for my walking stick. Then, we head down the trail into the small ravine.
This is Layla’s third trip here in two weeks and it is evident that she is gaining confidence. She hesitates slightly at the first jump down and then moves on smoothly. We walk carefully over and around rocks, having been alerted by locals to the possibility of copperheads. We soon find a way up the opposite bank and work our way around a small lip that leads us into the chiseled channel of the overflow.
Stone bluffs rise up on either side, topped by trees and weeds and bushes that all show signs of the passing season. Except for the center of the channel, the wide flat limestone bed is covered with swatches of thick grass. Sam leads as we walk the quarter-mile to the edge of the lake. A strong breeze raises waves across the water. We see remnants of dead grass and sticks caught in the low limbs of willows bordering the bank. They testify of the high water mark, high enough to show that the overflow has reached as much as three feet deep. I try to imagine what the waterfall would look like with that much water rushing downstream. It would be impressive, for sure.
Seeking a shortcut for my sore knee, I suggest we make our way up the opposite bank, closest to the parking area. The first step up requires negotiating a series of fairly smooth outcroppings of rock with the edges steeply pitched. I wonder whether or not we will have to lift Layla up over that part. My wondering is answered by a black blur moving past me going up the bank. Nope, I guess Layla won’t need any help.
A few minutes later, the three of us stand on a bare-faced bluff, looking back at the lake. The sun reflected on the waves sparkles like thousands of polished diamonds. Beyond the lake, dunes of prairie grass dip and sway in the wind, rising up the hill to the rounded ridge a half-mile away. Their colors shimmer. I stand next to Sam, pat him on the chest and murmur, “I am glad that you are here.”
I am glad that we all are.
In this vast cathedral of the Flint Hills, I bow my heart and give thanks, worship Him has given us all good things.