We cross the 17 mile marker and find cars parked on the road next to a bridge. The book tells us that the beautiful Ching’s Pond lies below the bridge. But there is no waterfall in view. We park our car and start exploring the ends of the bridge looking for the trail that would take us down to Ching’s Pond. Right next to the bridge we find a narrow and steep trail (on our left, again going around the island in a clockwise direction). The ground is once again muddy and rocky. We pause for a minute wondering whether our sneakers would get enough traction to keep us from rolling downhill. A fairly large group of 10-12 people join us. Guided by a middle aged man, the group has folks of many ages – there are babies on their mother’s arms and old folks walking with a cane. They are carrying about a half dozen folding chairs, an igloo and big lunch baskets. Confidently, they march past us and down the slope. What follows is pure magic. We’re mesmerized by the sheer balancing act executed by the group collectively as they navigate the treacherous trail. It is as if they know where exactly to put their feet (or cane). Mothers know exactly which angle to hold their babies to stabilized themselves as they step down the slippery slope. We are in awe and try to catch up with the superb hikers although can’t help wondering if what lies ahead is worth all the risk. In 5 minutes we are standing on rocks and face the spectacular view below.
The big group yelps in joy and lays down their chairs and baskets. Its picnic time ! A guy proceeds to jump in the pond and swim up to the mini waterfall. He then pull himself up grabbing the rocks and climbs up the nearly vertical left wall with a sure footedness that would put a lizard to shame. Within a few steps he’s standing on a tiny rock outcrop almost vertically above where the waterfall falls into the pond. He shouts something and jumps vertically down. The group cheers. We worry about the jumper getting hurt as the pool seems very shallow. But the jumper soon appears and starts swimming towards us. He’s smiling and unharmed. It appears he’s a local and knew the exact spot to jump from. A few photographs later its time to climb up. This time we don’t have an knowledgeable group ahead of us and we make many mistakes. What took us 5 minutes to cover on the way down takes 10 minutes to climb up. We finally reach our car and its time to pursue the next adventure.