Submitted by guest blogger Bayle Reichert
I easily get the travel bug. After moving to Saranac Lake at the beginning of January, I have been longing for a new adventure. I have visited many of the local hiking trails near Saranac Lake and I was in need of a secret spot that would keep me sane.
Craving a waterfall hike, I contemplated driving to Ithaca to embrace the beauty of Taughannock Falls, but that was a bit of a drive for one day. Instead I decided to search “waterfalls in the Adirondacks” on the computer and I found a list of hikes that I never even heard of before. This list included OK Slip Falls, which was about an hour and a half away from Saranac Lake. Not only is it in the Adirondacks, it is one of the tallest waterfalls in the region. I had to go see it!
Off to OK Slip
I asked my friend, Wayman, to join me on my exploration, knowing that he is a big fan of hikes that involve waterfalls. Wayman offered to drive his 4WD vehicle in case the weather started to get bad, plus he probably had a better speaker system for the jam sessions I was about to take part in on the way there and back. Even though the drive was over an hour, it was a beautiful sight to see all the little towns we drove through all covered with white snow, plus I was pumped to hike something neither of us had done before.
Once we got to the trailhead, we saw the trail wasn’t broken. Lucky for me, Wayman was kind enough to break trail in front of me, making it easier for me to follow along behind him.
The trail was mostly flat and the scenery was surreal. We found “bowls” formed from snow that rolled down snowy hills. We listened to the noises of a pileated woodpecker that was trying to find his next meal on a dying tree in the woods. We talked about life and joked around as we walked, and sometimes ran, on the snowy path to the falls.
A destination worthy of the journey
After about 3 miles, we arrived at the falls and it was well worth the trek. I was expecting the falls to be completely frozen over, but it was half ice and there was still some water flowing. This made it look even more magical than I expected and it made me think about how the ice formed, reminding me of stalactites in a cave.
Of course, Wayman and I both wanted to get even closer to the waterfall. We needed more! There was a steep slope nearby that led to the bottom of the falls. We started climbing down it, but as we hopped from tree to tree I couldn’t help think about how we were going to get back up. With safety in mind, we made the decision to turn around and go back to the trail — it wouldn’t be worth it if something careless happened, especially since the sun was setting.
We sat at the viewpoint watching the falls and relaxing in the snow. I ate the snacks I brought and looked over at Wayman. I could tell by his face that he was in his element as he stared out at the beastly waterfall in front of us.
We soon started heading back to the car before it got too dark — anyone hiking should always bring a headlamp for this very reason. It started sprinkling as we walked and we were both getting tired. I think having a hiking partner that embraces the silence as you both hike is important. As we hiked back we didn’t talk much but I felt so relaxed. I was in my zone, not paying attention to my surroundings, when all of a sudden a ruffed grouse flew out from his hiding spot in the trees. He was right next to the trail and I jumped up and my heart almost pounded right out of my chest!
After a long day of hiking, we soon enough made it back to the road. As we walked back to the car the sky made a silhouette around the nearby mountain, and it was a beautiful end to an adventurous day.
How to get there
The parking area for OK Slip Falls, in the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area, is located 7.5 miles east of the intersection of Routes 30 and 28 in Indian Lake on the south side of Route 28 at the end of a paved road that intersects the highway. There is a wooden sign for the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area at the parking lot. If you are traveling from the east, the parking area is located 4.4 miles west after crossing the second railroad bed in North River along Route 28 as the highway leads up and away from the Hudson River. The trailhead is located on the north side of Route 28 two-tenths of a mile west of the parking area. So hikers will need to walk along the highway for two-tenths of a mile and cross the road to reach the trailhead. The wooden trail sign lists that this is the access to Ross, Whortleberry, and Big Bad Luck Ponds in addition to OK Slip Falls.
For more waterfall hikes, check out the Waterfall Challenge.
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