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.  

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