IT WAS HIS first Father’s Day as a father of two little girls, and he wanted to get outside. “Let’s go waterfall hunting,” he said, and though it seemed, at the time, like a lot of prep—sunscreen, towels, diaper bag, baby slings, life jacket for the toddler, bottle for the baby, changes of clothes for all—for a little reward, who was I to say no? A friend had recently posted a photo of Forked Mountain Falls to Facebook, so we plugged it into Apple Maps and off we went, for better or worse.

Those of you who have kiddos know that time is of the essence when planning activities away from home. Gotta get to Point A before lunchtime, Point B before naptime, home before someone falls apart. You also know that nothing ever, ever goes according to plan. This trip was no exception, and here’s why: We got lost, lost, lost. Our waterfall-side picnic was eaten in the car. Naptime came and went and we were still driving gravelly backroads, the kids lulled to sleep by all the bump-bumping. We eventually reached our destination, hot and tired. But we’d made it this far, and darnit, we were going to see what we came to see.

The trail was overgrown and the sun was blazing overhead. The kids—one, all of 8 weeks old—were ornery and uncomfortable. With our eyes cast down on the ground to avoid the mud, the snakes (!), it was our ears that first alerted us that we’d made it. We followed the offshoot trail down, and there it was: a crystalline swimming hole surrounded by a lush, green canopy, and at the center of it all, Forked Mountain Falls. It was bliss. The temperature dropped. Our shoulders dropped. And we had the whole of it to ourselves.

Moral of the story: I didn’t want to go. It was hot. We had to take all the things. We didn’t know where we were going. There were chiggers. But the reward was our own little Eden, and a picture-perfect memory. (See above.)

Should you be inclined to hunt a picture-perfect waterfall of your own, you’ll be happy to know that it actually doesn’t take much effort at all. Some of our state’s chutes don’t take more than a lazy gambol from a parking lot to reach. Some, like Forked Mountain Falls, require a short meander through the woods, and some, like Thunder Canyon, require the surest of footing. Regardless of what lengths it takes to reach them, though, they all have this in common: They’re totally worth it. Every single time.

Happy hunting,

Katie