Week 19: Day-trip bucket lists. Exploring Ball’s Falls. #hike52

Here is the thing about being a sportswriter: Sports happen on nights and weekends. Meaning you work on nights and weekends. Which is fine because you’re a sportswriter and not responsible for terribly important world matters like nuclear codes, food safety or the keeping Twitter up and running. (Seriously, you know how bonkers we all get when the Fail Whale comes on our screen.) But nights and weekends is when the rest of the world is having play time. So when you get a Saturday off on your schedule, you do your darn best to make the most of it because cleaning the bathroom floor can wait another few days.

Scott and I were planning our Saturday and the weather forecast was looking sketchy. We were set to head to Canada but started poking around the Internet for cool indoor things to do. That’s when I stumbled upon a link for Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. After getting my 12-year-old giggles out, I racked my brain to figure out why Ball’s Falls sounded familiar. I’m still not sure, but I know it’s a place that had been on my hit list of places I wanted to check out. Turns out, Scott has wanted to go there for about 20 years.

Sketchy weather forecast? Well, all right. We decided we’d go and check it out. If the weather was horrible, we’d at least have an idea of the place and head to Niagara Falls and check out a wax museum. But I was confident we had a window where we could explore. So off we went.

7688_10153566785043581_564478654924003944_nBall’s Falls is named after George Ball who constructed mills along the bluff of twenty Mile Creek. The area features two waterfalls, a number of walking paths and old buildings from when the area was an industrial town in the mid-1800s. The Bruce Trail also winds through Ball’s Falls and that definitely upped my intrigue value. Plus it was only about an hour drive away, making it a day trip bucket list item for sure.

We arrived not knowing what to expect. The main building looks relatively new — it’s modern and clean (which is how I always characterized Canada in my youth, along with sporty.) We stopped in, picked up a map, and went on our way on the trails.

The trails are well-marked and relatively easy walking. We started by walking to the upper falls. Thanks to snow melt and early April mixed precipitation, the creek and the falls were raging. Nearby were the remnants of a Woolen Mill as the area harnessed the natural power of the falls to help create textiles.


What’s left of the wollen mill near the upper falls.

We walked along the path and were intrigued by the vast swatches of moss. Perhaps its because we’re so starved for green after the dull grayness of winter. Perhaps we’re just weird. But the moss was beautiful — complex and lush and everywhere. It was like walking into a magical land full of hope. “Spring is my favorite season,” Scott said. “It’s when everything is about to happen.”

I stopped and repeated that, because it was probably the best definition of spring I’ve heard.

It’s when everything is about to happen.

How can you not embrace that even if a cold front has blown through and snow clouds are gathering on the horizon?

The lower falls is the money shot. It’s 88 feet high and considered a classical falls because the height and width are almost equal. Across the gorge we could see the layers of rock. The strata of colors was gorgeous, painting the gray day. The blue tones of the Lockport Dolostone blended into the green shades of Rochester Shale and Irondequoit Limestone. The colors grew darker for the layers of Reynales Limestone and Shale, Thorold and Grimsby Sandstone all the way down to Queenston Shale. Even with the water raging at decibels that made casual conversation difficult, there was an overwhelming sense of peacefulness to the scene.


The Upper Falls.

Feeling pretty good and properly attired, we decided to check out the Bruce Trail. It appeared there was an offshoot trail, the Twenty Valley Trail, and our intention was to follow this out-and-back path when it diverged from the main trail. More on that later.

We walked up the ridge then back down along the creek bed where the water was violently beautiful. The woods were thick with plenty of mud and slick spots. The terrain was uneven. We went slowly and deliberately. I hesitate to give it a degree of difficulty. It’s not easy but how challenging it is depends upon other factors — experience and health perhaps the most important.

For a moment I thought about what I was thinking about. What could I be thinking about? What should I be thinking about? To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking at all. I was in pure joy. This was amazing. It was beautiful. It was active. It was a place I had never seen before, It was adventure. It was exploring. It was creative. I was so happy I could have done a cartwheel, but I probably would have broken my ankle on a tree root.

We followed the blue blazes, indicators of the side trail on the Bruce Trail. It came to a dead end on a road next to a flea market. Hmm. We turned around head back as a gentle snow started to fall. (This will forever be known as me dragging Scott out to hike in a blizzard. Although there is no part of that sentence which is true.) Anyone can go hiking when it’s 72 and sunny. We hit the trail when it’s 30 degrees with the prediction of snow.

Truth be told, we would have kicked ourselves for passing on this opportunity because the weather wasn’t ideal. How many times have we skipped on doing something because conditions weren’t ideal? How many experiences did I miss? How much time have I wasted saying, “I’ll do that next year?”

We finished our hike in a passing snow flurry. It was an afternoon well-spent. We drove to grab an early dinner in Jordon and passed a parking spot that read “Twenty Creek Trail.” Wait! This was not where our blue blazes took us! Now I’m intrigued more. Now I will research the Twenty Creek Trail which means a return trip to Ball’s Falls. Because it turns out day trip bucket lists can be pretty amazing times.

Hike 52
Week 19
April 2, 2016
Location: Ball’s Falls Conservation Area
Trail: Various plus sections of Twenty Valley Trail and Bruce Trail
Total distance: 3.46 miles
Elevation: 312 feet
Duration: 2 hours, 24 minutes
Weather: cloudy, snow showers, 30s
Hiked with: Scott

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