Road Tales:  A Camera, A Waterfall, and One Pitiful Adventure

By:  Talor Stone                                                                                                             March 17th, 2019

waterfall, crabtree falls, blue ridge mountains, pisgah national forest, asheville, north carolina, smokey mountains

The waterfall in question: Crabtree Falls

Imagine the roaring majesty of a waterfall pouring from the mountains through the crisp, cold air.  The mist surrounds you and beads on the end of your eyelashes.  Without a single soul for miles, this is the pinnacle of an immersive and remarkably private experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As you gaze up at the waterfall, soaking in the moment, you hear a subtle splash behind you and look back just in time to see your camera bag containing everything you hold dear rapidly floating away and disappearing over a set of rapids.


A spectacular sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains the evening before the “incident”

As I write this, I am still shocked and don’t exactly know how it happened.  I don’t consider myself to be a wildly reckless person, but you should know by now that I’m far from infallible.  The bag had been laying on the exact same rock for nearly an hour.  It wasn’t kicked or bumped into, and when it rolled off the rock into the tumultuous water my back was turned.  I’ll blame it on my shadow for now, but the fact remains that when I spun around, I saw my precious bag containing my camera and every lens I own floating downstream.

Like any rational person I uncontrollably shrieked in astonishment and started sprinting down the rock-strewn bank of the river in hot pursuit.  Honestly, it’s a small miracle I didn’t break an ankle in my mad dash to rescue the bag.  Two sets of rapids and a bridge later, I nudged just ahead of my speeding bag and dove right into the water in a desperate attempt to snag it as it sailed by.  Let me tell you… the water was shockingly cold!  Luckily, I managed to grab onto a strap and sloshed back to shore where I tore the camera compartment open only to find my equipment practically floating in a pool of water.

Sunset from the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was freezing cold, soaked to the bone, and racing through a plethora of emotions all at once.  Logic told me there was nothing to save, but my stubborn side has remarkably selective hearing.  Determined, I quickly emptied out my water filled boots, wrung out my jacket and began my 2-mile uphill hike to my car with nothing but the taunting sound of my squishing boots to goad me onward.  I found the nearest camera repair shop an hour away in Asheville who unfortunately confirmed the worst.  Pluck and resolve would simply not be enough to breathe the life back into my digital companion.

The most optimistic part is that the memory card still worked!  So at least the trip wasn’t a total loss!  Because of this, I’m able to bring you these handful of pictures from my brief trip including a shot of the waterfall that brought my camera to its end.

Since your luck is almost certainly better than mine, I can hope you absolutely never have to go through this.  But, just in case, it can’t hurt to read on to see the lessons I learned from it.

First, insurance is not a luxury but a necessity.  As someone who lives on a shoestring, I can assure you there was fierce internal debate regarding whether or not I should splurge on insuring my camera.  The reality is that I’m a student and I definitely won’t get rich from photography.  I budget everything I do and strip my monthly expenses to bare bones in order to survive, so that means there is rarely room for anything I can live without.  But boy I sure am glad I coughed up the cash and insured my camera!  Only about half of my loss was covered, but that’s a heck of a lot better than nothing.  If you’re not insured, do yourself a favor and look into it.  I pay about $10/month for personal property insurance and you can get it with whomever you have your home, renters, or auto insurance.

Linville Falls (not the offending waterfall)

Second, more people care about you than you know.  I have been amazed by the number of people who have reached out to me during this very frustrating time.  I mean… blown away!  People have offered to donate money, cameras, lenses… the list goes on.  And the amazing part is that the majority of these people are complete and total strangers!  Sure, we have a connection through social media, but most of them I had never spoken to before and certainly never met in person.  And yet, they were all willing to reach out and offer support and some have even trusted me (a total stranger) enough to offer expensive equipment!  Gratitude simply isn’t a powerful enough word, but in a tongue-tied moment it’s the best I can say.

Third, never trust a rock by a river or the ginger standing next to it!  I don’t know how exactly the bag fell into the water, but what I do know is that no one put it there but myself.  Trust me… lesson learned!

Now, as much as I love sharing these crazy stories with you, I’ll admit my fingers are crossed for a much more sensible future!  I’m down, but not out and I’ll be back on top of my game in no time thanks to the kindness of strangers and an inexplicable urge to keep pressing forward no matter what.

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