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Monday, December 22, 2014

Van Horensville Gorge/ Herkimer Home Historic Site(Herkimer County)

Visited the Robert B. Woodruff Outdoor Learning Center Trail(otherwise known as Van Hornesville Gorge)today, the first full day of winter.  This trail is an absolute treasure, located in the heart of central New York's Leatherstocking Country. To find the trail, take Route 20 west towards Springfield Four Corners and then Route 80 North for about 5 miles to the tiny hamlet of Van Hornesville.  The trail is actually located in back of the Owen D. Young Central School.  A small parking lot offers access to the public.  A nice, wide foot bridge crosses the creek and brings to you  a kiosk and restrooms.  There are also incredibly well done brochures available at the kiosk.
A large stone wall follows the creek for a short distance near the school.
The sounds of the Otsquago Creek's rushing waters are audible nearly the entire hike.  The first interpretive stop is along an old Saw Mill Site, where the creek was dammed over 100 years ago.  Although buried under snow, stone from the dam and a turbine are still visible today.
 The small cascades at the Saw Mill site. 
 A short distance down the trail a sign indicating Cheese Box Factory is found.  Here, a short spur trail brings you to a beautiful look at Cheese Box Factory Falls.
 Cold, cascading riffles.
 The beautiful Cheese Box Factory Falls drop several feet through the gorge.
A closer look at the gorgeous falls.
 A little further downstream.  The frigid water can be seen cascading and freezing along the same stretch.
 Incredible caves can be explored a bit further downstream.  These caves are made from a special type of limestone known as tufa.  Tufa forms when streams and springs rich in calcium deposit the mineral and it hardens into rock.
 I took a look into the cave but chose not to go any further.  Not for anyone claustrophobic.
 A set of stairs brings you down from the caves to another section of falls.
What a phenomenal view directly up the steep walls of the gorge.  Icicles everywhere!
 Creamery Falls.
 A pretty cool spot where water comes shooting out through rocks at Creamery Falls.
 A steep cascade drops down to the creek.
 There are numerous other cascades and falls throughout these woods.  Several small tributaries drop down steep hillsides and provide pleasing views.
 Kelly Falls can be found at a quieter spot past the end of the trail.
A pleasant winter scene along Otsquago Creek.
 Very cold water.
 It is very interesting to see how the creek slowly carves out the land through time. Notice the trees on the eroding banks also falling victim to the relentless waters.
 Climbing up the steep slopes brings you away from the creek and up to old Plank Road.  The bare winter woods provide a clear view out over the deep gorge and towards distant hillsides.
 A remarkable view at one of the tributaries dropping off the side of the steep cliffs.
 Plank Road extension.  This appears to be a well traveled section of trail by deer.
 Looking way down the cliff down towards Otsquago Creek far below.
Hiked a total of 1.3 miles in a very interesting geological area.

After leaving Van Hornesville Gorge, I drove north with the last hour of daylight I had left to visit Revolutionary War hero General Nicholas Herkimer's historic home site in Little Falls.
 A tremendous memorial honoring General Herkimer stands proudly amongst the family burial ground.
 A wide path allows visitors direct access to the Mohawk River.  Here is a look west upriver.
 The Georgian style mansion was completed in 1764 and was Herkimer's home until his death in 1777.
 A nice benefit of visiting this historic site, is direct access to the Erie Canalway Trail which crosses the property.  I followed the wide, mellow bike-hike trail for a short distance before darkness made me turn back.
A very nice day in Central New York.  Hiked a total of about 2 miles on another typically cloudy winter day.

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