My first attempt at locating “The Eternal Flame” was not exactly a success. One warm evening my hiking companion and I drove to (where we thought was) the most logical place to start – the main entrance at Chestnut Ridge Park off of Chestnut Ridge Road (Route 277) in Orchard Park.
Turns out – it’s really not.
After several laps in the park, a few helpful park-goers informed us that the best place to start the hike to the Eternal Flame is about 1.5 miles south of the park entrance, further down Route 277. So we exited the park, and did just that.
So began our hike, a little later than we anticipated but we were happy to be greeted by signs nailed to trees that clearly indicated we were on the right path. And, as it turned out, their reflective property also came in handy as the evening progressed.
The flame signs guided us down to “Shale Creek,” at which point were were faced with an important decision to make – go left or right? We investigated both directions, slowly realizing that the flame signs had disappeared as did the trail path. As dusk crept in, a mild panic ensued as we started to lose our way – and one half-joking conversation about being rescued by park rangers was all it took for us to call it a night. Mission not accomplished.
But I don’t give up that easily.
I asked a friend who is well-acquainted with the park to accompany me on my second flame-finding mission. This time we went during daylight hours (a better choice) and once again we followed the flame signs, headed down to the creek and were faced with the same directional conundrum. I heeded her advice, and we headed left.
When you get to this point during the 40-minute round-trip hike there’s no clear path nor are there any more flame signs. For the remainder of the trek you must follow the creek bed, which was really quite beautiful on a warm autumn afternoon (just be careful of slippery shale and large downed tree logs.)
After about an eight-minute walk, the creek ended and there it was nestled in a small grotto, in all of its flaming glory.
The Eternal Flame is not really an eternal flame but rather an eternal natural gas “leak” that can occasionally be extinguished – so if you go, it’s suggested that you tote a lighter. Luckily for us, no lighter was necessary.
I’m not sure if my elation in that moment stemmed from the sheer beauty of Eternal Flame Falls, or simply because I finally found it, but both of my adventures were well worth the pay off. The Eternal Flame hike brought me a little closer to nature and I feel lucky that Western New York is blessed with such a unique, natural gem.
As a result of my new-found expertise in finding “The Flame,” I’ll be available for individual and group tours – as long as it’s light outside.