Update February 2017: I was recently contacted by the family who owns the property surrounding Wagener Glen (aka Boyd's). It is private property. Do not hike this gully. The general gully-hiking recommendations still apply if hiking a public gully such as Stony Brook.
It isn't a trip to Keuka Lake without at least one gully hike! Gullies surround the lake, but our mainstays are Gibson, Urbana and Boyd. Gibson is the smallest of the three but most frequented due to proximity; it is within easy walking distance of our cottage. The boys will always lobby for Urbana since it is by far the most rugged and challenging. For a mixed ability group, though, Boyd's is a winner every time. It is the most accessible gully and we feel confident taking all ages from small children through older adults; it is wide, has a gentle slope, and no major obstacles on the way to the "final" waterfall.
Why hike a gully? The scenery is unparalleled with terraced waterfalls, rushing water, serene pools, and forested hillsides.
For us, a gully hike is a peaceful walk, punctuated with excited cries as endless rock-flipping and searching reveals salamanders, frogs, minnows and crawfish.
We will usually pick a drizzly day when there's not much to do on the water, but most any day will do. If it hasn't rained in a while, beware; the algae growth can make rocks very slippery. Do NOT attempt a gully hike if runoff is high or heavy rains are forecast; flash flooding is a serious threat. If you go, remember:
- Sturdy shoes that can get wet. No flip-flops!
- Shorts or pants that can be rolled up to mid-thigh. You will have to walk through water, mostly ankle deep but sometimes knee-high.
- A container with perforated lid; we use worms as fishing bait.
- Bug spray
- A backpack with water, snacks and wipes/hand sanitizer. The hike can take awhile, and it's nice to have a snack and drink at the waterfall before the return hike. The wipes are handy if you've been handling salamanders or other critters.
- A camera
- Towels for the car ride home
I recently learned that many gullies are on private property and we'll have to rethink our much-loved family tradition. At least one owner (Boyd's, aka Wagener) does not want hikers in the gully, though at another gully, the owner welcomed us and pointed to an easier way in. Before hiking any gully, check for posted signage and, if possible, ask for permission. Always take personal responsibility, hike at your own risk, and be respectful of people and property.