It’s been cold here. Last night temperatures dropped to 16. So naturally I woke up this morning thinking about lovely summer weather and my mind drifted back to our last “fling” of the summer – a day trip to the Cascades a waterfall near Pembroke Virginia, a couple of hours drive from our home. After a hot summer, it was time for a swim in the cool mountain water after a short 40 minute hike in the heat and humidity of the forest.

We are fortunate to live in the Appalachian Mountains in an area known for having the highest diversity of salamanders in the world. Eager to swim and get out of the heat, we didn’t think about that on our way in to the pool.

To warm up, I thought I’d share a few pictures and memories of a warmer day with you.

Hiking in

The kids on our hike in. Seemingly confused about the direction to proceed.

air conditioning

Someone put a bench on the trail about 15′ below a tiny cave entrance in the mountainside. Cool air leaks out of the cave and rolls down over the kids on the bench. In the heat and humidity it feels fantastic!


Ahhhh that’s the stuff! we made it at last! A nice cool swim!

cold water

The water was quite cold, and the boys decided to get out after a few minutes and explore. My natural layer of blubber allowed me to remain in and enjoy.

cascades waterfall

It wasn’t long before the boys began exploring the waterfall.

on the cascades

Christian soon spotted something up on the cliff and called us over for a closer look.

a closer look

Taking a closer look.


Here, I’ve just got to stop for a second and point out Christian’s muscley calves. Wow!!!


Here is what Christian found. Can you see the Salamander behind the stream of water? These Salamanders were climbing vertically up and down the cliffs in the waterfall!

Salamander closeup

Here is the Salamander up close.

I was amazed! Within a few minutes we located several more of these salamanders on the cliffs in and around the waterfall, living comfortably in such an environment. They liked to wedge themselves into cracks in the rock. There are probably hundreds of these living up in the falls, watching the thousands of humans that visit the pool below the falls to swim unknowingly with the salamanders each year. I don’t know a lot about salamanders, and according to one website, we have 52 species in my state, but I think maybe these look like they could be Desmognathus wrighti . If anyone can give me a positive ID, I would love to know for certain.

On the hike back to the car, we peeked under a couple dozen rocks and logs to see what else we could see. We saw several other species of salamander, including one that looked like it was a Shenandoah Salamander (Plethodon shenandoah) which is not supposed to exist in this part of the state. Unfortunately I did not take a photo of this one, and now I wish I had so I could get a positive ID one way or the other.


Categories: Experiences

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