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Finding Magic In Waterfalls
By Amy Ash Nixon

The Hartford Courant
May 14, 2001

When David Ellis goes hiking, he has a very specific destination in mind to find waterfalls.

He documents everything from how to get to them, to how fast they flow, how long the falls are and what they sound like.

Ellis is a hiking hobbyist on a mission: hoping to encourage others to get out and hear the sounds of nature.

A software engineer from Wallingford, Ellis, 38, hiked and went camping as a kid, growing up in Bedford, Mass. He earned a degree from the University of Bridgeport, and shortly before graduating met his wife, Alice Huang, when the two would join others on lunchtime walks at work.

Ellis and Huang now have two sons, Jason, 9, and Kevin, 6, whom they take along on their treks. Somewhere along the way, Ellis became obsessed with locating waterfalls.

Ellis has launched a web site,, Connecticut Waterfalls, on which he has information on a few dozen waterfalls, some well known, such as Kent Falls, others less so, but worthy of a visit.

Driving north on I-91 on a recent Saturday morning, Ellis points to a waterfall that you can just glimpse from the highway. This one is near the Cromwell-Middletown line.

Ellis is barefoot and driving his new Subaru Outback wagon, his worn blue knapsack in the back with the Pentax camera, his trail guide and a few other supplies. He sees things that most of us miss.

"Water is a magical thing,'' he says as we head out to Black Ledge Falls in Glastonbury, the temperature dropping from near 70 to 58 degrees by the time we arrive.

`'You've got to get the kids outdoors, away from computers and televisions. Kids don't play outside enough anymore, the way we used to,'' he observes.

A barefoot hiker, Ellis says he enjoys the tactile sensation of stepping on rocks, of standing in trickling streams and of connecting with nature. In his knapsack is water, the camera and trail guide and measurement tools to gauge the height of the falls. He also has a small tape recorder, which he uses to record the sound of each fall. He posts photos and sound effects on his web site.

Ellis once worked with a blind person who complained about how visually oriented the Web is. That got Ellis thinking about awakening other senses on his waterfalls web site, because sound is such an important part of what draws people and animals to a waterfall, he says.

The waterfall is magical, water cascading from about 30 feet, filling the air with a chilly mist. The closer you study the moss-covered rocks with water spilling over them, the more you notice things such as tiny violets with heart-shaped leaves and tiny ferns unfurling nearby. Up above, Ellis stands in the current, making calculations.

`'I want to entice people to do something, to get off their couches. If we don't know about what's precious in our environments, how are we going to be able to preserve it?'' he asks. "People need to appreciate what we have.'' He worries about some of the special falls he's discovered meeting with land clearing equipment one day and getting "blasted apart for a shopping center to go in.''

On the way into Black Ledge Falls, Ellis noticed a discarded, half-gone six pack of Budweiser. He shakes his head, but says little, only that he collects whatever trash he spots on the way out from a site. True to his word, as we near the parked car on Route 94, he bends down and collects the beer cans and puts them into a garbage bag to take home.



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