For all but the most forgotten landmark — every mountain, valley, river, rock and roadway — there is a name to remember it by. But how does a landmark get its name to begin with?
The name of one cascading waterfall etched into Haywood County’s south slope traces back to a family hike some 20 years ago.
Steve Stafford said he recalls walking Haywood Gap Trail with his brother-in-law, Fred, and niece, Laurie Harrison. Along that trail in the lush Middle Prong Wilderness, the hikers came across a rushing waterfall, and Laurie asked what it was called.
Well, nobody knew what it was called.
“It’s Laurie’s Falls,” she said.
Soon after that hike, a wooden Laurie Falls sign found itself nailed up to a tree beside the rippling water.
“On hiker blogs, all of a sudden the name started popping up,” Stafford said.
Years later, Stafford said a Mast General Store employee on Main Street in Waynesville suggested he try a fishing spot up Haywood Gap Trail at Laurie Falls.
“People just talk about it like it’s always been Laurie Falls,” Fred Harrison said.
When the family was at the annual Apple Harvest Festival in Waynesville one autumn, a group was distributing Haywood County tourism maps, and Laurie Falls was sketched dead center on the map.
“That just floored us when we saw that,” Fred Harrison said.
Decades have passed and the wooden sign is gone, but the landmark remains known as Laurie Falls.
And for a woman who has also been commemorated in the Florida Sports Hall of Fame’s Special Olympics section, the namesake waterfall is just another landmark in a lifetime of overcoming obstacles — like water flows over rock.