Wednesday, April 11, 2012


We were married in Niagara Falls,and not because we're overly romantic and not because we're tourist travelers and not because of whatever you're remembering on that trip your family took when you were six or nine or twelve.

It's where I grew up, four blocks from the river and the border with Canada. Two-ish miles from the Falls themselves. They're majestic, of course, those Falls, but when I think of the river I grew up on, my river, I don't think of the precipice of water. I think always of the lower river, the northbound body after the falls fall and before those millions of drops become part of Lake Ontario.

Over gazbillions of years the river fell over the falls and carved a deep gorge. You think of Niagara Falls for its showpiece but I think of it for its hidden escape. Ever since I was old enough to leave my parents' house without supervision, I've walked those four blocks, jumped a small wall, crossed a scenic highway, jumped a small fence and entered the state park that exists at the top of the gorge. And then I've climbed down.

I don't mind that tourists don't know about the miles of beautiful hiking trails that lie on both sides (New York and Ontario) of the gorge. It's always been my oasis, and though I haven't lived in Niagara Falls in many years I always hope when I'm back that I'll have a few hours for a walk.

At the beginning of this week we were visiting my parents and while little G (and his daddy) napped I decided it was time to introduce the girls to my gorge. A little has changed now. There's no longer any need to jump that first wall because a fence has been removed and replaced with a purposeful opening. The scenic highway has been reduced in lanes and part of it is now walking trail, making the crossing even less daring. And the trails are still not all marked.  I guess we still don't want the tourists to have all the fun.

(These photos are straight out of the camera. The water is so highly oxygenated after its big fall that the lower river is always this amazing color.)

There are trails that are packed dirt and there are trails that are steps carved into the stone and there are trails that lead straight down, steel cables we rappelled long ago that might not any longer exist and possibly should have never been grasped by our hands.

I used to climb down with friends several times a week and sometimes I'd go alone with a snack and a novel and this week, I introduced one of my very favorite places to my girls, and it was wonderful.

We didn't climb all the way down to the very bottom. The wind was picking up and the girls were exhibiting uneven levels of enthusiasm and more importantly, we hadn't brought a snack.

According to my phone, we climbed about 750 feet down. And then we climbed back up. And most importantly, they're clamoring to go again.

I was inspired to have a (small-scale) hiking adventure with my girls after reading my latest book club book. Trish Herr's then-five-year-old daughter Alex wanted to hike all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000+ foot mountains. Would you let your five-year-old do the same? Join From Left to Write on April 12 as we discuss Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

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