Sunday, May 25 – 2008
10:00 – 16:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Area: Niagara Gorge, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Some cloud
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf, Brian, Sharon
Plan: Hike to the old Helipad
GPS: 43.1214 x -79.0734
Chuck arrived around 10:00 and Brian was kind enough to pick up Sharon for me, and we all met at my place in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We went to take the Suburban but Tori was angry at this and insisted we don’t take the truck. We decided to take Chuck’s car. Sharon had not really hiked in many years and we could not th ink of anywhere to go, but ended up at the old wooden stairs in the Niagara Gorge.
10:30 We kitted up and headed down the wooden stairs. It’s been a while since we were here, if at all this year yet. The stairs were still badly unkept and dilapidated from last year. It looks like Niagara Parks has made no effort to repair them.
10:40 We made our way down the stairs and Sharon said when she was younger, she spent a lot of time in the ravine behind her house in Burlington – which this reminded her of.
10:55 We hit the bottom of the gorge by the whirlpool and I showed Sharon the large helipad here they built to rescue people from here and we headed out on the west wall trail. The trail was nice and dry, and the rocks were cool under my bare feet. The trail had a sheer climb on the one side, and a steep drop off to water below filled with big boulders.
We came to a large waterfall – the ½ way point between the starting point and our destination, and all rested a while. Sharon soaked in the sheer beauty of this place.
After a long break, we headed out along the treacherous trails, Sharon marveling at how my bare feet could walk over the jagged rocks, harsh terrain, and occasional beer bottle glass without even feeling it.
14:00 We arrived near the end of the whirlpool and some fantastic but deadly rapids began. Chuck examined a lot of the debris which washes up on shore here to see if there was anything fun or useful. There were piles of flip-flops, wood, foam, and other garbage here. I found two bald tennis balls and gave them to Sharon to hold, then proudly exclaimed “hey! Sharon is holding my balls!” which made us all laugh.
14:20 We sat at the edge of the mighty and heavy flowing Niagara River, marveling at the raw power of nature here. We relaxed for a while and sun bathed on the rocks at the old helipad, which now had some large boulders on it as well as lots of old weeds. This helipad was marked with a large yellow circle painted on the flat rocks. Now it would appear it is not maintained. We watched as across the river – in the United States of America, hikers came and went on the trails as well as the cable car came and went over the gorge.
Brian took some photos with his new Nikon L14 camera, although the batteries died and he could only get a few shots.
We packed up and started to head out when we found a black, childs life vest pop up out of the water and eerily float by. Chuck searched the area to see if there was a body, with negative results.
We started to make the long climb back to the wooden stairs when Sharon collapsed and said she ahd sprained her ankle again. She advised us that 2 weeks ago she had torn all the ligaments in her left ankle and thought it woul have healed by now. Sadly I did not bring my medical kit with me and could not drug and tie Sharon. What we did instead is take her back to the waterfall at the ½ way point of the hike and have her remove her sock and shoe and soak her ankle in the cool water. This helped her a little and gave Brian and Chuck a chance to rest as well. Chuck was still recovering from his injury at Crooks Hollow yesterday.
After soaking her food, we made it back to the dreaded wooden stairs. We kept Sharon between Chuck and I and Brian ran up ahead quite a ways.
Eventually we ended up at the the new concrete helipad and began our slow ascent. Part way up the stairs we came across some young ch ildren calling us names and carrying on. Chuck ran up the gorge walls after them, but could not catch them. Sharon had to rest several times. It was nice to see all the fellow hikers stop and make sure she was all right and ask if they could lend assistance.
A long, and drawn out ascent up the seemingly endless wooden stairs brought us to the top. The barefoot Wolfmaan seemed to be the one who faired best and came out unscathed from the hike. Next time we must not forget our medi-kit on any hike.