The past two months have introduced us to so much that is new, and not necessarily welcome, including new vocabulary (social distancing, flattening the curve), new technology (seriously, how many people used Zoom before now?), and new routines (mask wearing, disinfecting everything). Looking for a break from this new life we are all living and needing to get out of the house, my husband Tom and I discovered a gorgeous hiking trail along 18-Mile Creek in the town of Hamburg.
I’m not sure we would have found ourselves there were it not for the need to find an activity far from the crowds of people we know we should avoid in this era of coronavirus. Now I can’t believe we didn’t try it out sooner. It was completely off our radar, which surprised us because we thought we were pretty well versed in the natural wonders of Buffalo Niagara.
The day was cloudy, but not too cold, when we arrived at the trailhead at the end of a dead-end road in the Lakeview area south of Buffalo. It being springtime, and a very rainy one at that, we were prepared for a lot of mud in both the parking area and along the trail, and we were not disappointed. But a sturdy pair of hiking boots solved that problem.
The trail begins unimpressively, with a worn, paved path for the first hundred feet or so. The creek was to our right, but not in sight. Then suddenly, the view opened up, and we were transported to a place that was worthy of comparison to some of the most impressive natural places we had visited in the past – a deep gorge with a fast-flowing stream seen through a curtain of new green growth on trees trimmed with delicate blooms of flowers. At that moment, and for the rest of the four-mile out-and-back-hike, there were no thoughts of coronavirus or take-out-only dining or cancelled celebrations. For the rest of our hike, we were focused only on the next lovely vista that came into view around each bend in the trail.
The mud clinging to our boots, causing us to tread gingerly at times, was worth enduring because of something special that can only be found on a springtime hike — overflowing waterfalls that quickly turn to trickles as the weather begins to warm. About halfway through our hike, we came upon a scene both dramatic and intimate: a slate-tiled glen with an enchanting waterfall tumbling down moss-covered rocks. We would not have been at all surprised at that moment to have discovered we had passed into the pages of Lord of the Rings and were now walking through Rivendell in the company of Elves.
Pressing on, we were rewarded with more lovely views of the creek flowing through the gorge, juxtaposed with newly bloomed flowers bursting from the trees lining the cliff’s edge. Among the highlights of the hike was a seasonal cascade tumbling over the cliff wall. Viewed from the creek bed via a side trail, it reminded us of many waterfalls we had the pleasure of seeing along the Columbia River Gorge on a trip to Oregon.
The return route to our car was like a new experience, as we were now seeing everything from a different perspective. Although we stopped at some of the same overlooks we had just visited, the shift in viewpoint and subtle changes in light and shadow made the hike back nearly as delightful as our initial trek. We will definitely return to 18 Mile Creek!
If you decide to go, please give your fellow hikers a wide berth and allow fasters walkers to pass by stepping off the trail. Trail etiquette is more important than ever in the time of coronavirus.
Visit the Erie County Parks Department for more information: Erie County, 18-Mile Creek
Visit Buffalo Niagara understands that there is no better way to flatten the curve than to stay at home. However, we empathize with the need to get some fresh air every now and then. Please follow all CDC and Erie County guidelines for social distancing whenever you leave your home – maintain a 6-foot distance from anyone outside your household, wear a mask in public areas and avoid crowded areas entirely. Stay safe and together we’ll stop the spread.