This past weekend, in Buffalo, we really wanted to make sure we were being active. Travel weekends can easily deteriorate into become all about food. I really didn’t want to gain weight this week, having just achieved my first weight goal benchmark. So it was really refreshing when Jon said he wanted us all to go on a hike on Saturday.

For the record: on Thursday night when I called Jon while I was packing to ask him what kind of shoes I would need for this hike, he said, “I dunno, normal ones.” I said, “OK, then I won’t pack special shoes because I’m flying and only bringing a backpack.”

Our small normal shoe-d hike was at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, NY. We were there to hike to the Eternal Flame Falls. The trail started off nice and easy: flat through the forest, small patches of mud camouflaged under slippery wet leaves. It was warm enough to be hiking without jackets, and it really was a beautiful day. Sun streamed in through the trees, and we were all enjoying just being warm outside in mid-November. As quickly as we had started walking, the trail became more challenging. A steep downward path into a creek-filled gorge. Our steeply declining mud path became a creek bed of slippery shale blocked by enormous tree trunks to climb over.

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Being raised as the only girl in a family of boys, I like to think of myself as, at least a little bit, less girly than a princess. I was raised to value practical clothing and footwear (even if I still hold to the opinion I can do almost anything I can do in pants, in a dress). I have always hated the girl that shows up to play touch football in a sweater poncho, or the girl that wears heels to walk around the city for a day. On any hike, there is a girl that is not dressed appropriately. And I hate to say, that on this hike, my leather boots made me that girl. I spent the entire walk down to the falls slipping and grabbing tree branches, testing my footing on mud-caked roots, and reaching out to grab the hand of whoever was kind enough to offer one. When the trail disappeared, and we began walking through the creek, I decided to flat out give up, and I promised everyone I was ready to die at the bottom of the gorge.

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The hike was worth it. What none of us knew, was what we were actually hiking to. The Eternal Flame Falls is a waterfall that cascades over a shale cliff, and halfway down the falls, there is a small grotto that emits natural gas. The gas-powered flame, once lit, glows naturally and remains contained behind the Falls. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and it was so worth the treacherous hike down, and the even scarier hike back up (where we “Pocahontas-ed” some hills, clutching onto the roots on the ground to pull ourselves back up).

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The hike was only 1.2 miles. We didn’t climb a mountain or anything, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. It also made the mini-Thanksgiving dinner we made and ate afterwards completely OK. My boots did not survive.