Planning and Preparing for your trip to New York Waterfalls
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WHAT TO BRINGIn order to ensure a relatively safe and hassle-free trip (especially considering New York's wide swings in temperature and weather, here are a few things you might want to consider packing for your trip in addition to your basic toiletries and clothes.
- Comfortable Shoes - even though a good deal of the waterfall walks are well-developed (some of the glens even accommodated people in dress shoes from a wedding party!), you're best off wearing comfortable walking shoes or even better hiking shoes. This gives you maximum flexibility in terms of whatever Mother Nature throws your way - from primitive trails such as that of Carpenter Falls or well-developed like Taughannock Falls.
- Hat - even though sunburn isn't normally associated with New York, don't take for granted the dangers of UV radiation. A hat will at least keep your scalp from getting severely burned. If you're wearing a broad-rimmed hiking hat, it could also help protect your neck, ears, and face.
- Sunscreen - again, given the sun's harmful UV rays, it's a good idea to protect other exposed parts of your skin from sunburn.
- Sunglasses - prevents cataracts or other harmful effects of prolonged exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays on your eyes
- Layered Clothing - this means wearing multiple layers of jackets, sweats, or shirts and taking them off/on depending on the conditions. This is very important to be able to adapt to the variable weather and climate in the state. Temperature swings can go from below zero to the 90s. Layered clothing will at least protect you from exposure to hypothermia or even heat stroke.
- Rain Coat - this will keep you and your equipment dry for the most part (with a rain poncho covering the pack in addition to the body). It can rain heavily in New York (especially the monsonnal summer thunderstorms) and this will at least keep you sane under such conditions (not to mention limit your exposure to hypothermia).
Some other things worth bringing to enhance your experience include...
- Hiking Sticks/Trekking Poles - this is useful for longer and more involved hiking excursions. They provide you at 1 or 2 extra "legs" to maintain your balance on stream crossings or alleviate shock to your knees if you're carrying a pack
- Lots of Memory or Film or Portable Hard Drive - the first and third items are for digital photographers. In any case, you'll be taking heaps of photos and you'll want to make sure you can bring all your photos home
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SAFETYRural New York tends to be quite a safe and friendly, but even with that said don't be naive about crime. Especially be vigilant about theft and break-ins, especially at trailheads or car parks out in nature. To counteract this, pay attention to your surroundings where you're parking your car and leave nothing valuable in the car as you're out and about away from the car.
Finally, nature is inherently dangerous and unforgiving, and you need to be cognizant of these dangers. Below is a list of things you need to be aware of to stay safe in the outdoors...
- Getting lost - sure there are plenty of established walking trails around many of the waterfalls in the state, be careful not to stray from them and get lost. Even if you do lose the trail, stop, take a deep breath, and go back the way you came rather than trying to find a shortcut on the way back. To be more prepared, bring a topo map as well as a compass with you, especially if you're on a more involved hike where it's easier to lose the trail.
- Hypothermia - given the possibility of frigid winter cold in the mountains here or getting immersed in a cold stream, the danger is very real. Always pay attention to the weather reports before undertaking any hike that exposes you to the elements (especially in high elevations). Bring a rain coat to avoid getting wet and losing heat that way.
- Streams and Rivers - while many popular walks have bridges, other more difficult or primitive walks involve crossing unbridged streams and rivers. Use your hiking stick to gauge depth and do not cross if it has been flash flooded or you can't see the bottom. Generally waters thigh-deep or higher are very dangerous for crossing.
- Drop-offs - most waterfalls occur in places involving cliffs. This means you may have a trail that hugs cliffs or you need to do a precious steep scramble to get a better view of the falls. Do not underestimate the danger of cliffs as a slip and fall could seriously injure you (thereby immobilizing you) or even stranding you. Sometimes, you have to evaluate whether a better view is worth risking your life or not.
At least you don't have to worry too much about predators, but you do have to be aware of your impact to the fragile environment.
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LENGTH OF VISITHow much time should you spend in waterfalling in New York?
There's really no criteria for this. Though generally if the more time you allow, the more you get to see, the more relaxed you tend to be, and the more flexible you can be. We allowed ourselves a period of about 3 nights and 4 days, which produced the waterfall sightings posted on the New York pages
(not including Niagara Falls
However. it's conceivable to do a longer trip of a week or longer. Of course, I can also imagine city slickers in New York City or New Jersey escaping out into nature just for the weekend.
It really depends on your situation and how much you want to see. Though one thing's for certain... I guarantee you won't see even a large fraction of the falls in the state even in a span of a week. You'll need to allow much longer (or spread them out over several trips) to even collect a good proportion of the falls in the state.
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