Twelve Months Hiking Project: The Eternal Flame (August 2015)

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I’m really falling behind on recapping our summer adventures – working on catching up, I swear! – but this one is a good one.  I’ve spent lots of time looking into various hiking activities around Western New York, and one thing that I’ve heard over and over is that if there’s one hike that is the “quintessential” Buffalo hike – one hike that you simply must do in WNY – it’s the Eternal Flame Trail at Chestnut Ridge Park.  I’ve been itching to do this trek, but the more I looked into it, the more I became convinced that we couldn’t make it work with the kids.  The hike is short but technical, and it involves climbing down a ravine and walking through a creek.  (Just the previous month, a kid fell into the ravine and died there – so it’s no joke, and I didn’t feel it was safe for the babies.)  If the kids were older, I’d love to have taken them, but I was not thrilled with the idea of all that technical walking while the littles are still in carriers.  So we’ve put it off.

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The stars finally aligned for us to take the hike in mid-August.  We arranged for grandparent babysitters and made plans with our friends Zan and Paul for an adults-only hiking expedition.  Eternal Flame Falls, here we come!

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The hike itself, as I mentioned, is quite short – less than a mile to the falls, a little bit over a mile round-trip.  After some initial confusion about where the trailhead was located (there are a couple of options, and we found ourselves at different parking lots – oops!) we rendezvoused with Zan and Paul and set off into the woods.

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The tree cover began almost immediately and most of the hike was done under a lovely shady canopy.

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My favorite hiking buddy!  Can’t believe we’ve been official legal hiking buddies for ten years!  (We’ve been hiking together since the very beginning of our relationship – our third date was a hike to Butternut Falls outside of Ithaca.)

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Other favorite hiking buddies: hi, Dumanskys!

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So, as you can see, once we got down into the ravine we found ourselves hiking along a beautiful creek.

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Boots on the ground!  I felt very “earth mama” in my shorts and high hiking boots – I usually wear my shoe-style hiking boots for summer hikes, but I knew we’d be stepping in water and mud, so I went with my waterproof boots.

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Decision time!  We got to a point where the trail looked a little iffy, and Zan decided to take off her shoes and socks and wade through the creek.  (Lots of people were doing this.)  Steve and Paul braved the trail and climbed over what looked like a rather slippery shale slide (Steve said it wasn’t that bad).  After waffling for a minute, I decided to join Zan in the creek, rather than risk falling on the slide.

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And the boots came off!  Although they’re waterproof and I had no problem sloshing through the shallow parts, some of the creek was above ankle depth, so I went barefoot for that part.  Also, it was a hot day and the cool creek water felt AMAZING.

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Zan laughed at me for taking so many pictures of my feet.  But they were just so happy!  One more…

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Okay, enough foot pictures.  We sloshed our way through the creek, and before I knew it we were approaching the grand destination – Eternal Flame Falls.

The Eternal Flame is located in a small grotto inside the waterfall.  Natural gas seepage allows for a flame to be lit, and the grotto protects the flame from the falling water.  The result is a really unique, stunning piece of natural scenery.

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The falls: see the flame?  No?  How about now?

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It was a truly amazing sight.

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We all took turns checking out the flame.  (The trail was crowded so we couldn’t linger as long as I would have liked.)

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One last look before heading back …

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Just stunning.

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I could have stayed all day, but we had to let the other hikers have a look… and get home to the kids.  I will definitely be bringing them on this hike when they’re older and can negotiate the terrain on their own two feet.

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On our way back, we spotted this other waterfall!  So much beauty on this hike, really.

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We headed back up the ravine – a relatively steep climb, but it was short.

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And before I knew it, the hike was over!  It ended way too soon – I had such a wonderful time.  Beautiful scenery, fresh air, cool water, and fabulous friends.  What more could you ask for?

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Thanks again for the hike, Zan and Paul!  We love hiking with you guys – and it was fun to do a grownups-only outing for once!  Looking forward to leaf-peeping at Letchworth with you guys in just a few short weeks.

Is there a “must-do” hike in your area, too?  Have you tried it?

10 thoughts on “Twelve Months Hiking Project: The Eternal Flame (August 2015)

  1. I love your hiking recaps…always so descriptive! And even more fun when I am in them and can relive our experience. Haha! We very much enjoy these outings too, and look forward to many more. 🙂

    • I love when you’re in the recap too, because it means I had a fabulous time hiking with two of the best people in WNY! Can’t wait for our next outing. 🙂

  2. Not quite in the area but hiking at Watkins Glen has been on my wishlist for a while and I should be going either by the end of this month or in October.
    Nice pictures from along the trail–the water looks so refreshing! If I end up doing the hike I’ll be wading through the water as well, thanks for the tip.

    • Oh, I’d love to see pictures from Watkins Glen! I’ve never hiked there, although I went to college in Ithaca, so not too far away. Central NY and the Finger Lakes region is so beautiful…

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