New England Waterfalls


Gushing about waterfalls:
Danvers High grad pens guidebook for New England

By Jamie Jamieson, Staff Writer, Salem News

Friday, 10/3/2003

DANVERS, MA -- Ask Greg Parsons where to find the most spectacular waterfall in Massachusetts, and he'll send you to the southwestern corner of the state, to Bash Bish Falls State Park in the town of Mount Washington.

Bash Bish Falls is "just out of this world," said the Danvers resident, who should know, since he has visited 400 waterfalls in New England over the past couple of years.

"It's just the most surprising, dramatic waterfall you'll find in New England," he raved.

Parsons, 21, an accounting major at Babson College, is the co-author of "New England Waterfalls -- a Guide to More than 200 Cascades and Waterfalls." He and his friend, Kate Watson, also an accounting major at Babson, set out to write the book after they looked for a guide but could not find one.

The pair drew up a 30-page proposal and submitted it to Countryman Press, a Vermont-based subsidiary of W.W. Norton in New York. Countryman accepted the proposal and published the guide in July. This week the book goes into its second printing. "Countryman accepts 1,000 proposals a year, but only publishes 30 titles," Parsons said, saying he was thrilled his project made it into print.

Looking at the book, it's easy to see why Countryman bet on the guide. The duo came up with a classification system for waterfalls, describing how high and what shape each waterfall fits into. The description that accompanies each entry puts the reader right on the trail, which is rated for difficulty. Directions are clear and concise, and many entries include a good map.

In the case of Bash Bish Falls, the guide describes it as a "plunge," with a total drop of 80 feet, at the end of a half-mile trail "on the easy side of moderate." Hiking time should be about 25 minutes for an average hiker. The description also warns that this spot is just about the most popular waterfall in the state. "We have heard accounts of as many as 3,000 people a day visiting the falls on hot weekend summer days," reports the guide. "On the upside, Bash Bish Falls sees very few visitors in the cooler days of early spring."

There's a great black-and-white photo accompanying the entry. But those who want to see a more spectacular color shot can find it on the Web site Parsons set up for the book: The site includes color photos for most of the waterfalls in the book, as well as links to other Web sites describing waterfalls outside New England. The descriptions are all there, but the nitty-gritty details, including directions, are not. The site is meant as a companion to the book, which costs $17.95.

Parsons remembers visiting a waterfall for the first time as a boy of 5 or 6. His grandfather took him to a lovely little waterfall somewhere in Maine, and he loved the place so much he remembered it, and wanted to return. But his grandparents couldn't figure out which falls he was remembering, since they were hikers themselves, and visited quite a few when Parsons was little boy.

Doing research for the book Parsons and Watson eventually made it to Snow Falls, a small, 25-foot "plunge and cascades" on the Little Androscoggin River. "The second I visited it I recognized it, even though I was only 5 years old the first time I saw it," Parsons said.

After he reached elementary school, Parsons lost interest in hiking and camping. "My mom always tried to get me to climb mountains like Mount Monadnock, but I was a stubborn little kid and I absolutely hated it," he confessed. But he rediscovered his love of trails, mountains and waterfalls at Danvers High School, where many of his friends were outdoors enthusiasts.

Biology teacher Brian White turned on both Parsons and his group of friends to the joys of hiking. "He goes to Alaska about every other summer," he said. "It was through all his stories that my friends ended up going hiking with him."

Since college, Parsons and Watson have been on the trail just about every weekend, and all summer long. While researching the book, it was not unusual for them to visit six to 10 waterfalls in one day. Since the book was published, they still visit waterfalls, but they've also set out to climb all 48 of the 4,000-foot mountains in New England.

Parsons isn't sure why he loves waterfalls so much. People ask him that question all the time and he said it's the "toughest question" he has to answer.

"I like them because nature's kind of making a statement," he said. He also loves the sound of the rushing water. "It drowns out all other sounds. When you're there, there's nothing else to think about except the waterfall."

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