To the eternal flame

Erie County’s Chestnut Ridge park is one of my favorite places and has been for years. This park, larger than New York City’s Central Park, is set on the side of one of the higher hills to the south of Buffalo, and it is dominated by streams and gorges and beautiful meadows and one large hill that’s the regions preeminent spot for sledding when there’s snow…and there are even a few waterfalls.

One such waterfall is particularly beloved, not just because it’s beautiful in itself, but because there’s a hollow spot worn into the shale bed over which it drops, and from this hollow spot leaks a small flow of natural gas. This gas burns with beautiful golden light that prances and dances behind the flow of the water. (Sometimes it goes out, but it easily re-lit.)

The approach to the Eternal Flame Falls is not super-easy, but it’s not super-difficult either–and it’s better now that the deep descent into the gorge has been tempered by the addition of stairs. It used to be that you had to descend sharply down the wall of the gorge (I’m not sure of the height of the descent, but I think it’s at least a hundred feet at that point) by a root-covered trail, but now you descend the stairs. The walk along the gorge floor is still occasionally tricky, at times even requiring one to step in the stream (albeit in a spot where the depth is very manageable), but it’s absolutely worth it as one finally comes around the last bend and stands before the waterfall.

Along the way there is another waterfall in the side of the gorge, but this isn’t the one we’re here to see:

But finally, there it is:

As luck had it, when I arrived at the Eternal Flame Falls, I was alone there. For a full ten minutes, maybe fifteen, I was entirely alone: just me and the sound of the water tumbling down that shale wall, with the golden light magically flickering there. I don’t know if that’s because the weather was cold, or if it’s deep enough into fall that such outings aren’t as popular as in summer, or…well, who knows. I was alone.

The one other time I’ve gone to the Flame, I had Cane with me, and it was a warm summer day, so there were lots of people there. In fact, Cane and I arrived just as guy was proposing to his girlfriend. (She said yes.) There was a feeling that day of “Get up there and take your picture of the Flame because it’s someone else’s turn in a minute” that I managed to completely avoid yesterday. In fact, no one else came until I was already making my exit. I took my time with my camera, composing my shots and deciding what angles to take. I got some closeups of the grotto with the Flame in it, and I took some wider shots of the entire cataract, also using shutter-priority to get the soft-flow look that is so popular with water photography.

On my way out.

Full Flickr album here.

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