Field Trip to the Niagra Glen with Alan Ladd and Brian Calvert

Story by: Eleanor Chithalen

Saturday, April 27th dawned with glorious sunshine
and warm temperatures. Alan Ladd anticipated a
great turnout for his Niagara gorge hike, since he
had invited a crew of Norfolk Field Naturalists,
Horticulture Society members and “Discover
Norfolk” walkers. Imagine his chagrin when only
five locals had joined him in the Walmart parking lot
by 9 a.m. We later concluded that all the
horticulturalists were hard at their gardens, while
the hikers and field naturalists prefer more of a
challenge. This observation is borne out by the fact
that Alan’s previous Norfolk-to- Niagara trek last
fall, in gale-force winds and torrential rain, was well-

Atop the gorge in Niagara, we were joined by local
expert Brian Calvert. As we descended, he
immediately began an erudite explanation of the
formation of Niagara’s falls and gorge through the
slow erosion of the hard Lockport Dolomite
combined with the rapid erosion of the relatively
soft layers beneath. Norfolk minds were distracted
by the number of young people passing us on the
stairs who were obviously prepared for a long stint
of camping in the gorge, judging by the folded foam
mattresses they were all carrying. Later it became
abundantly clear that the mattresses provided a
soft landing for the many rock- climbers (whole
families of them) plying their hobby among the
outcroppings within the gorge.

Alan noted the comparative scarcity of birds as we
hiked along the trails following the Niagara River.
Compensating for this, however, was the carpet of
wildflowers we encountered throughout our hike.

Squirrel corn and Dutchman’s Breeches (dicentra
canadensis and cullaria), Trout Lily (erythronium
americanum), Jack in the Pulpit (arisaema
triphyllum), Bloodroot (sanguinaria canadensis)
Trilliums (trillium…whew!) and a myriad of violet
types were all at their peak. We are not sure how
many were trampled by the rock-climbers in their
enthusiasm, since the plants had found many
rootholds on all the popular rocky crags.

The ascent from the gorge was not as easy as the
earlier descent, but following a bracing picnic lunch,
Alan felt we were ready for another challenge to our
middle-aged (provided we plan to survive to be
over 130) bodies. This time we struggled down a
steep decline through a series of kindly-meant but
supremely obstructing railway ties, to the water at
the great whirlpool. Alan commented that he used
to invite people to wade there, but that recent
drowning tragedies have brought him to a new
respect for the power of the whirlpool.

By the time we had struggled back up through
those expletive-deleted railway ties, we were all
ready for home, feeling that we had experienced
one of the world’s great wonders in a most
memorable way. Perhaps too, a nagging memory
of the weediness of our home gardens began to
creep back into our consciousness…but there are
other days!