It was a classic, beautiful spring day. The sun was out. The temperatures were warm — warmer than I had anticipated when I put on my long hiking pants in the morning. I needed a lunch break. A real lunch break. So I took my sandwich and drove to Niagara Falls, finding one of the last parking spaces at Devil’s Hole. I was a bit surprised at the crowd on Wednesday in early May, but (a) tourist season is year-round, (b) it was a truly beautiful day and anyone with any sense would take some advantage of it and (c) it was college graduation time which meant visitors and out-of-town students getting their last WNY adventure in for the school year.
I had worked out in the morning — a strength training session that focused on my lower body. So I wasn’t looking for a strenuous adventure but more of a recovery walk. And it had been some time since I had been here. Niagara Falls and the gorge are on my list of favorite places. They always have been. I’m not sure why. Growing up in Western New York it’s painfully easy to take the Falls for granted. It’s also painfully easy to mock the Falls for it’s poor record of development and mismanagement by both government officials and corporate entities. “Go to the Canadian side to really enjoy the Falls,” is the motto of most regional natives. Me? I love both sides of the Falls.
There’s a history here that’s alive to me. Sometimes I wonder what it was like for those first pioneers to maneuver around such a force of nature. I wonder how the Native Americans viewed the Falls — was the power friend or foe? Because power can be both.
Read any history of Niagara Falls and you’ll soon realize it was always part three-ring circus. People tried to make a buck off nature anyway the could — from abusing the power of the water, to charging to see the falls through a peep hole in a wooden fence to literal circus stunts (see: tightrope walking, going over the falls in a barrel, etc.) It’s always been a place where commerce and nature uneasily come together. It’s also been part amazing beauty, part crass. Just try sitting on the rocks along the gorge trail to bask in the natural serenity of the whirlpool while a jet boat tour comes roaring through with whoops and screams.
As usual, I digress.
This foray was an easy lunch time walk along the rim trail. After eating my sandwich at Devil’s Hole, I started on the path toward Whirlpool Park. It’s a lovely, easy walk and my mind wandered away, taking in the views which never get old, which change slightly each time you see them if you take the time to really look. I had noticed the signs on the trail that the Whirlpool Stairs were closed. Access to the gorge trail was only at Devil’s Hole. Little did I know the path was also closed around the Whirlpool Stairs. The construction detoured the trail on to the Robert Moses Recreational Parkway — the paved road that is closed to traffic and open to cyclists, runners, walkers, roller bladers, you get the idea. This bummed me out and for a moment ruined my zen. I didn’t want to walk along a road way. I wanted to walk along the river. But by the time my internal rant was over, I was already back on the trail. On the way back, I realized it really was just a short jaunt off the actual trail. Not as a big a deal as it had seemed the first time around which is pretty much true of almost everything in life I consider a nuisance, annoying or slightly horrible.
There were a fair number of people on the trail, though it wasn’t crowded by any means. On my return, I crossed paths with two college-age women (one wearing a University at Buffalo t-shirt so I was pretty certain they were college students, such are the keen powers of my observation skills.) They asked if they could get down to the gorge the way they were headed. I had to give them the bad news that they needed to turn around and go back to the Devil’s Hole stairs. They were grateful for the info, turned around and took off in front of me, on a mission to get somewhere. Me? I had no mission. Well, I had work to finish that afternoon. Stories to write. Stories which would be infinitely better after this brief sojourn away from my laptop, my internet connectivity cut (hello airplane mode) and my mind as excited as my body to wander and play.
Date: May 11, 2016
Location: Devil’s Hole
Trail: Niagara Gorge Rim Trail
Total distance: 2.67 miles
Elevation: 119 feet
Duration: 55 minutes
Weather: 65 degrees, sun
Hiked with: Solo