Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 28th Devil's Hole Cave and hiking in Niagara Gorge

So, I was banging out an article on becoming more physically fit by hiking when I had this realization that I hadn't hiked for a few days myself.  I thought my legs were getting flabby - damn Christmas gluttony kills me every time.  Sometimes yoga on the wii just doesn't cut it...
Also, as I looked out the window and saw the flurries showering down I realized I had to go hiking - there was plenty of time for work later.  So where should I go?  I was dressed, in the car, and had Chestnut Ridge in my GPS, when as I pulled out of the driveway I decided to head down to the Niagara Gorge.  I guess there is nothing like repetition, right?
After the customary bumpy drive to Niagara Falls, I parked at Devil's Hole State Park then started on my hike down the stairs.  I didn't know how far I was going today or if I really had any destination, but it felt good to be out amongst the snowflakes. 
I decided to check out the Devil's Hole Cave near the top of the gorge off of a closed trail.  Unfortunately over the years the cave has been a target of vandals and graffiti "artists."  However, I also think that because the cave is now off the beaten path that morons with spray paint are able to work without the fear of interruption.  Solution - reroute a branch of the trail by the cave entrance and promote its existence.

  The cave was pretty cool, though I didn't see any spirits.  I'll look through my pictures to see if any ghostly images behind me.  You are able to walk back back a good 20-30 feet till you come to the wall.  Oddly I found a small bat dead and placed conspicuously on a small stone.  I can only imagine that somebody placed it there.  Either that, or the bat died on its back in the middle of the rock  - strange anyway.

I ventured down the stone steps to the bottom of the Niagara Gorge and headed north - I haven't gone that way in a while.  I went past the place where the trail "end" and followed the fisherman path along the river's shore along the chain link fence.  Yes, this is one of the many abandoned trails in the area, but it is still safe and easy to follow. 

I took the "trail" to the  metal stairs that the fisherman use by the power project.  As I reached the top of the stairs, I saw a border patrol vehicle pull up on patrol.  They always eye me, the guy with the backpack, suspiciously.  However, they never talk to me, they must know I don't mean any harm.  Even if  I was still wearing my headlamp from being in the cave - doh!  No wonder those fishermen were looking at me strangely. 

I walked back down the river passing both the Devil's Hole and Whirlpool stairs past the Whirlpool and down to the south end of the trail.  I passed a few hikers - usually I don't see hikers down here at this time of year, especially when the snow flies.  Maybe they are training like me for other outdoor pursuits.  I took some time down by the rapids, watching the river roar by and the snow flakes float through the air. 

I started back, taking the lower loop back along the flats of the Whirlpool.  It was quite a site as the seagulls swooped among the waves, their calls muffled by the constant thunderous roar of the mighty Niagara River. I was happy that the annoying skycage from Canada wasn't running today - it is quite a blight on the landscape.

I ended my walk, about 7 miles, by trudging up the Whirpool stairs and walking along the Rim Trail till I reached my car at Devil's Hole.   

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Shoreline Trail

Needed a walk to clear my head, get some exercise, and search for inspiration. Busy as I was at this time of year, the busiest of all with visits, wrapping, and maintaining sanity I needed someplace close.
After stopping at the post office, I parked over at niawanda park for a walk along the river.  I had a couple hours to kill and put a few miles on my boots.

So the above post, complete with sideways picture, is what happens when you try to write on your smart phone.  I guess it is something I need to play with a little bit more.  I do like the idea of being able to write from my phone - it can turn boring gatherings into a productive pursuit. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 18th: Niagara Falls Gorge

I hate nothing more than a wasted day.  And what is a wasted day?  A day spent indoors, sheltered from the experience of adventure.  Granted some days spent indoors are fine, but repetitive days with eyes glued on the tv - that is indeed a wasted life.  Anyway, with a few flurries in the air, slight patches of sun, and the Buffalo Bills playing I decided to go play myself down in the Niagara Falls Gorge.  Speaking of wasted time, any time watching my hometown team, the Bills is not only wasted: it is often heartbreaking. 
I decided to just take a short hike down in the gorge today and spend my time reflecting and maybe do a little writing. Though I think well when I walk,  for walking is conducive to thinking, sometimes it is good to sit by the river on a rock with pad and pen.  Plus, I am doing research for my Niagara Falls hiking guide which I can hopefully have done by the spring. 
So I parked at the Devil's Hole State Park parking lot and headed over to the Rim Trail to overlook the river.  I could see the mist rising from the thunderous Niagara Falls, but unless you are in an aircraft you can't see the Falls from this point.   I preceded along the top of the gorge, passing a few people walking their dogs but that was it.  Between the biting December wind and the muddy trails, you could tell it was far past tourist season.  It's funny how Niagara Falls seems to shut down at certain times of the year.  Of course, for those of you who live near the falls like I do, you know how depressing our city's lack of vision and plan can be.  This is especially true as we look across the river to Canada and see a bustling economy from the tourism industry.  Niagara Falls is a place of many sighs - good and bad.
Many people don't like the old stairs that descend into the gorge, nor the heart pounding climb associated with them, but for me it is a place to work out and get my blood pumping a little.  Sure, you can have your gym - I'll take the outdoors any day.  As I went down the stairs, a fisherman and his dog was coming up.  He was trying to catch his breath as he told me not to worry about the ice below.  I thanked him, but kept my microspikes for walking on ice on for just a little while longer.  It was a little slippery walking on those contorted stone near the top. 

With exception of a far off fisherman and some Canadians doing whatever they were doing across the border I found solitude near the river that day.  Only the gulls perched on their rocks and my shadow kept me company.  The walking is easy once you reach bottom and the opportunities to head off the trail down by the water or up to the cliffs are boundless.  The gorge is one of those places you can spend a lifetime hiking and never be plagued with boredom. 
I spent some time as planned just sitting by the river.  I had my search and rescue pack with me for weight and was glad I had some additional layers and my closed-cell foam sitting pad.  It can be hard to think, to ponder the mysteries of the universe when you are entering hypothermia.  Today was one of those days where I sat for too long and it took a while to warm my body back up for hiking. 

Though there was some ice covering the upper Whirlpool stairs, I was happy to see icicles forming along some of the rock formations.  There is something about snow and ice which is magical, perhaps it is part of being a Buffalonian.  And yes, there is always a cool factor about hiking on it. 
After the 1 mile walk along the river bottom I returned back along Devil's Hole stairs.  I always like walking up through there, maybe it is the history but it is always very pretty.  As a Lord of the Rings fan, it kind of looks like something out of Rivendell to me with old stone work entwined around nature.  But after 2.5 miles I returned back to my car shortly before the winter sun set.  I was revitalized from the walk and my thoughts.