Of Cliff Jumping and Waterfalls

This is one of my favorite places: a hidden waterfall located near Concrete, WA.


Concrete is an incredibly small town that’s known primarily for meth addictions, a Leonardo DiCaprio movie that I’ve never seen, and the making of concrete. In fact the first thing one sees when crossing into Concrete is a huge slab of, well, concrete.


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Despite the regions reputation for drug addicts, red necks, and extreme overall trashiness – the surrounding area is beyond beautiful. As you drive along South Skagit Highway, everywhere you look is fifty shades of green. The main river, wide and mighty with strength, entices fisherman while smaller creeks cross under the road (about every hundred yards or so). I swear the mountains are so close you can almost touch them. The trees, no longer a blur of green, are now detailed individually all the way up to the peak. It’s simply beautiful.

I try to go to the waterfall at least once a year. My Sister had never been to the river. To fix this, my brother and I took her out on Sunday before she leaves for Iowa to pursue her PhD in Physics. Our dad was convinced we wouldn’t be able to reach the waterfall because the rivers have been very high so far this season – we weren’t going to let something like that stop us. As it turned out the water was only a few inches deeper than usual, and definitely still hikeable.

There’s no point in trying to stay dry, it’s best to just embrace the glacier water. For a little while it is possible to balance on top of rocks but eventually it will be necessary to wade in the river. In my experience it’s not until I’ve nearly reached the big waterfall that I slip into a crevice and end up standing in ice water up to my boobs.

We hiked the normal route, from the base of the river all the way up to the rock above the wavy pool of the waterfall. And had my brother not been there that would have been the end. After risking death climbing on slippery rocks to get down after the falls, eventually we would have reached the car, got back on the road, and headed home. But my brother’s a bit more adventurous.

The water is completely clear, which makes it challenging to guess how deep some parts of the river are. There’s a certain spot about half way to the falls where the river pools at the base of an eight or ten foot cliff. When heading up to the falls we climbed around the side on the only dirt path that we used the entire hike. My brother insisted that we cliff jump instead of taking the path down. Apparently, every time he is at the falls he jumps in and then scurries back to the car. I watched as he wet his hair under a mini waterfall, shrug for dramatic effect, and disappear into the pool below.

Then it was our turn.

I also wet my hair (he was insisting that it makes the water less shocking after jumping). Sister stood behind me waiting her turn. For about forty minutes we took turns stand on the edge while my brother encouraged us to just do it. I’ve never been so paralyzed before, and I’m not scared of heights. The water was almost to clear, and appeared as though the pool below was only three feet deep. I knew it was deeper, I understood that the fall wasn’t that far, and I am a decent swimmer, but for some reason I could not move my feet. Legs trembling, I stood with my left foot behind my right waiting to take the step forward to propel me away from the rock wall I was currently standing on.

When Sister was in front of me, frozen in fear, I was ready to go. Then when I was standing still on the cliff edge, she was ready to go. It was a never-ending cycle of, yeah let’s do this! Holy shit, that’s high – are you sure I won’t get hurt? Um, how about you go first. Then my brother would groan.

My hair had dried for the fifth time so I went to stick my head in the water again. As I did so I heard my brother yell, “Yesssss!!!!!!” I turned around and saw Sister’s arm’s floating down and my brother standing in a v-shaped victory stance.

Now I had to jump, I had too, I couldn’t be the only one to not do this, I refused to pussy out like that. I was frozen. Stuck in my head, but beyond fear. I was no longer terrified, I was strangely emotionless. I wanted to go, I was ready to get back to the car, but my limbs wouldn’t move. Sister sat below, next to the pool, on a rock that reminded me of The Little Mermaid. After another five minutes she climbed up the dirt path and stood behind me.

Still I couldn’t move, and I don’t know why. I wanted to turn around but my stubbornness made me stay there.

Another five minutes passed and Sister turned around to go back down the dirt path – and, I was falling with style.

I don’t remember actually unfreezing my limbs. I remember plugging my nose (until I was inches from the water when for some reason I let go), and hearing my brother yell, “Yesssss!!!!!!” with enthusiasm.

When I hit the water it wasn’t that bad. In fact, overall the jumping and swimming was the easy part. It was the thinking, over thinking, and letting myself get psyched out, that was the hard part.

Next time, it won’t take me forty minutes to cliff jump. At least now I know the secret – if Sister’s not watching me (and in turn I’m not watching her) we can both jump off a cliff. Weird, huh?

I’m very proud that I conquered my first encounter with cliff jumping. Yet, another reason to love my favorite waterfall.


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