As mentioned in the previous post, one of our goals on Sunday was to find the Eternal Flame. Quaintly nestled in a natural, shallow cave in the shale walls behind a waterfall, the flame constantly burns fueled by a naturally occurring reservoir of methane. It doesn't look like it could possibly just naturally be there. The entire area looks like it was professional landscaped and carved, but in this ravine of shale walls, the Earth has intricately carved what it would probably take a team of expensive designers and architects to otherwise create.
The nice thing about this little natural wonder is you can still walk right up to it. Unlike so many other amazing natural occurrences in the world, man has not fenced it off, placed it behind glass or in any way tried to protect us from ourselves while claiming to be protecting us from it.
The whole area is left as natural as possible. Fallen trees remain fallen and become natural obstacles in the hike. The ravine walls are not in any way groomed or screened; the creek bed is littered with fallen rock and shale, and lined with other water fall channels where run-off naturally flows.
Unlike other natural occurrences people will travel to see, no path has been paved to make it accessible to everyone. To get to it, it is a natural hike - 1.3 miles down a hill side and through a creek bed. In some areas, concrete slabs have been buried into the hill side to make it easier to traverse some of the steeper areas. In winter, as we discovered, these steps turn into hazardous slides of ice and snow, actually making it more difficult.
The fact that we either pave nature to see nature or close it off for fear of people getting hurt by it annoys me. It is nice to be able to walk within feet of this dancing flame and enjoy the simple pleasure of it.
And the fact it exists where it does is equally as wondrous. In an area that can see several feet of snow fall at once, that can have thousands of gallons of run-off water flowing through this area, that has at times seen hurricane strength winds blow through... despite it all, this little flame keeps burning.
Once down to the flame, you have two choices on how to get back:
1. Back up the same trail you just hiked down, or
2. Up the side of a tree-lined ravine
Sarah took the path less traveled. I hiked back up the trail. I'll try climbing the roots in the Spring time when they aren't as icy.
As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, the trail was icy enough. I took several good falls on my ass and slid down icy hillsides a number of times. When we were leaving, we saw a couple getting out of a car with New Jersey plates. Probably in town, looking for something to go see and they were told about the Flame. They were wearing designer jeans, woolen coats, boots with heels and looked more prepared for a walk to a restaurant downtown than a hike through a creek bed. We gave them a brief warning about how icy it is, that they will need to hike through a creek bed - through the water - and wished them luck on their adventures.
I wonder how they made out.
I wonder if they got out....