The image above is of the Eternal Flame Falls in Orchard Park, NY, just outside of Buffalo. It’s a little waterfall with a natural gas leak, meaning there’s a naturally occurring flame burning at all hours of the day. There are other leaks nearby, but they have to be lit with a match; the one in my photo is the only one that burns constantly. The falls themselves aren’t terribly big, basically just a shallow creek, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The reason you haven’t heard of the Falls is because it’s a big local secret. While they’re officially part of the Chestnut Ridge Park, you can’t simply park your car at the front entrance and amble on over. The entrance to the Eternal Flame Falls is on a side road a good distance from the main park, barely marked on the maps. Should you manage to find it, don’t expect to be able to just hop out of your car like at Niagara Falls. From the entrance, you have to traverse a mile-long trail through rough woods, down steep hills, and up the creek itself, hopping on stones and climbing across fallen tree trunks before you can get to the Falls. It’s not an impossible journey, but it requires some effort and ability to make, and it’s more than worth it.
No matter what happens, the flame never dies.
Today, I’m hitting the road north to the Canadian border, trying to get as far as I can before the big thunderstorm rolls in tomorrow morning. This is by far the most epic—and dangerous—thing I’ve done in my entire life. Beyond my own satisfaction and pride, I’m not guaranteed a payoff for my effort. And despite spending the past few months preparing, I’m terrified as hell. Any number of horrible fates, including death, await me on my journey.
I don’t care. I’m doing it for me.
I’ve spent the past twenty years of my life letting fear rule me. Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of being judged. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m not letting my fear dictate my life anymore.
Throughout my entire life, I’ve never truly felt alive. It always felt like I was in a dream or a drug-induced stupor, going with the flow and wasting time until lung cancer or a heart attack checked me out of the hotel. During my lowest moments, the only thing that stopped me from killing myself was the fact that I was too lazy to make the effort. This is the first time in my life I’ve honestly felt like I had a reason to live. I’ve finally woken up from the dream.
My flame may have been dampened, but it’s never died.
I have no clue what I’m going to find out there on the road. All I know is that it’s far better than the life I’ve been living up until now.
Since I’m on the road now, the frequency of my posts is likely going to drop somewhat. I’m presently aiming to post a minimum of three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Starting next week, I’ll be posting updates about my trip and the things I’ve seen on Wednesdays, and I’ll keep posting book reviews on Fridays. I’ve written some articles and reviews in advance, so there’ll be a steady stream of new content on the blog even while I’m away.
I’m not stupid enough to post a detailed itinerary on the Internet, but here are the major cities I expect to be passing through or near over the next few months on the way to Portland:
- Montreal, QC
- Ottawa, ON
- Toronto, ON
- Niagara Falls, ON/NY
- Buffalo, NY
- Cleveland, OH
- Detroit, MI (but not really)
- Chicago, IL
- Milwaukee, WI
- Madison, WI
- Des Moines, IA
- Minneapolis, MN
- Fargo, ND
- Helena, MT
- Spokane, WA
- Hood River, OR
And of course, tips are always appreciated. Click here if you’re interested in dropping me a couple bucks.
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