Conquering Oneonta Gorge and Falls

I love hiking. LOVE. I’ve yet to do an overnight trip. It’s one of those things where you want to go with someone who’s done it before but isn’t, you know, the type of person that would be content to spend an entire summer living in the forest and bathing in a creek. I shudder to even think about pooing in the woods. But I digress. So when my friend Manda suggested that we do a hike that involved wading through a creek and climbing over things and that we couldn’t take her two youngest kids because they might get washed away, I heard “hike.” And when she said something about timing it right so the snow melt off wasn’t rushing too fast or to slow, I heard “hike.”

 Manda, her oldest son (a fit, fearless, nimble 13-year-old) and I set off mid-morning for Oneonta Gorge and Falls, which is considered “easy” and is only a 1.5 mile hike round trip.

 Luckily I was forewarned that I would need water socks and I thought that since I would be in water, I should wear my bathing suit under my clothes so it would dry off quickly. Under, you know, my knee-length quick dry hiking shorts and a tank top.

 I failed to notice that they were both wearing layers and long sleeves. While the hiking trails are considerably cooler than being in direct sunlight, I still get fairly warm trekking through the woods, so other than my bathing suit, I dressed as I normally would.

 After going down a cute rock staircase (think: great spot for pictures), we walked a short trail to the creek.

 That’s when it got real. Very early on, you must get into the water, although it’s only about ankle-deep at this point. The first hurdle scaling a huge boulder. At the top of that, the challenge is figuring out how to get down the other side and which path of broken tree trunks (yes, trunks) are the most stable.

 As Manda and I are both on the shorter side, her son’s easy paths proved difficult (did I mention he’s super athletic? Don’t judge us for having him go first. He would have gone around like a flying squirrel if we’d let him).

 After the tree graveyard, we plunged chest-deep into the river. This is when I remembered that she said it’s snow run off. I’ve never had to walk in ice cold water up to my collarbones while holding my pack over my head. Until Oneonta.

 The destination is a gorgeous waterfall and a pristine pool of water, if you’re crazy enough to go swimming. We weren’t. The amazing thing was knowing that I made it— fear of heights be damned.

 After taking way too many pictures of the waterfall, we turned around and did the entire thing in reverse. Numb body plunging into icy run off, then scaling the haystack of downed trees and sliding down the rock wall.

 A trick I learned a long time ago is to double bag my cell phone and car key in sandwich bags. Right at the end, after we’d completed the obstacle course and took pictures, Manda slipped and her phone took a polar plunge. It didn’t survive and, sadly, we lost some of our amazing pictures.

 It was just invigorating enough to make me want to go back for Round 2, though, so next year, when the snow isn’t melting too fast or too slow, we’ll go again.

I love hiking. LOVE. I’ve yet to do an overnight trip. It’s one of those things where you want to go with someone who’s done it before but isn’t, you know, the type of person that would be content to spend an entire summer living in the forest and bathing in a creek. I shudder to even think about pooing in the woods. But I digress.

 So when my friend Manda suggested that we do a hike that involved wading through a creek and climbing over things and that we couldn’t take her two youngest kids because they might get washed away, I heard “hike.” And when she said something about timing it right so the snow melt off wasn’t rushing too fast or to slow, I heard “hike.”

 Manda, her oldest son (a fit, fearless, nimble 13-year-old) and I set off mid-morning for Oneonta Gorge and Falls, which is considered “easy” and is only a 1.5 mile hike round trip.

 Luckily I was forewarned that I would need water socks and I thought that since I would be in water, I should wear my bathing suit under my clothes so it would dry off quickly. Under, you know, my knee-length quick dry hiking shorts and a tank top.

 I failed to notice that they were both wearing layers and long sleeves. While the hiking trails are considerably cooler than being in direct sunlight, I still get fairly warm trekking through the woods, so other than my bathing suit, I dressed as I normally would.

 After going down a cute rock staircase (think: great spot for pictures), we walked a short trail to the creek.

 That’s when it got real. Very early on, you must get into the water, although it’s only about ankle-deep at this point. The first hurdle scaling a huge boulder. At the top of that, the challenge is figuring out how to get down the other side and which path of broken tree trunks (yes, trunks) are the most stable.

 As Manda and I are both on the shorter side, her son’s easy paths proved difficult (did I mention he’s super athletic? Don’t judge us for having him go first. He would have gone around like a flying squirrel if we’d let him).

 After the tree graveyard, we plunged chest-deep into the river. This is when I remembered that she said it’s snow run off. I’ve never had to walk in ice cold water up to my collarbones while holding my pack over my head. Until Oneonta.

 The destination is a gorgeous waterfall and a pristine pool of water, if you’re crazy enough to go swimming. We weren’t. The amazing thing was knowing that I made it— fear of heights be damned.

 After taking way too many pictures of the waterfall, we turned around and did the entire thing in reverse. Numb body plunging into icy run off, then scaling the haystack of downed trees and sliding down the rock wall.

 A trick I learned a long time ago is to double bag my cell phone and car key in sandwich bags. Right at the end, after we’d completed the obstacle course and took pictures, Manda slipped and her phone took a polar plunge. It didn’t survive and, sadly, we lost some of our amazing pictures.

 It was just invigorating enough to make me want to go back for Round 2, though, so next year, when the snow isn’t melting too fast or too slow, we’ll go again.