Day 21: THE YANKEE HOME STRETCH
(continued from here)… It was 5am when we awoke. With the darkness outside, none of us really wanted to get up this early, but we knew that we had to beat the rush hour traffic as the rest of Toronto was headed back to work this morning. On top of that, we wanted to squeeze in a visit to Letchworth State Park before visiting Watkins Glen, where we would be stationed for the night.
It wasn’t until 6:35am when we returned to the car with a lot of luggage in hand and on wheels. And not long thereafter, we drove up to the attendant (since the machines only took credit cards with chips in them), and fortunately, he was able to swipe our card so we could pay the steep $54 parking fee for the two days as we were on our way out.
From there, the drive out of Toronto was pretty uneventful except for a stalled security truck that created a little bit of congestion just as we got on the Gardiner Expressway.
It was around 7:30am when we made a quick Tim Horton’s break somewhere east of Hamilton. One thing worth noting as we were driving on the QEW bypassing Hamilton was that as we approached and passed by the city atop a bridge over part of Lake Ontario, we saw lots of fiering pipes and smoke stacks.
Indeed, Hamilton had a very industrial feel to it, and it prompted Julie to say that it was Mordor. I figured it was sort of the necessary evil to the polished Toronto as Hamilton seemed to be the industrial engine that would allow Toronto to keep its clean look and feel. I wasn’t sure if I was off base with it, but it sure felt that way.
It got us talking about how JRR Tolkien must’ve foreseen how the Industrial Revolution creeped in on the countryside of England, and it was only fitting that the dark forces supporting Sauron deforested to support machinery and other things that were apparent analogies to the scourges of industry.
In the darkness of dawn, it seemed to be even more apparent as the natural gas pipes were flaring. I guess we were glad that Julie made the “mistake” of booking us for two nights in Toronto instead of three nights in Hamilton. No wonder why Hamilton was trying to rebill itself from the City of Steel to the City of Waterfalls or the Waterfall Capital of the World.
At 7:40am, we were moving again. The drive continued uneventfully until we had a decision to make. We could’ve stayed on the QEW which would’ve ultimately taken us to Buffalo, NY. Or, we could’ve taken the 420 towards Niagara Falls.
The GPS had us stay on the QEW, but in the back of my mind, I wondered if Niagara Falls might see shorter queues at the US-Canada border. The only thing keeping us from doing Niagara Falls was that it appeared we would have to drive some surface streets before resuming on freeways and highways.
And so we stayed on the QEW, but as I had feared, we were queued up on the far end of the bridge over the Niagara River heading into Buffalo at 8:30am. The queue at first was moving sluggishly but it was moving. However, when we were on the other side of the bridge, the queues were hardly moving at all.
It wasn’t until after 9:10am did we finally start moving again. I guess I could see why they have those NEXUS lines for those people who have to cross this frequently.
Once again, the drive was pretty uneventful once we were moving again. We took the 190, then went on some country roads as we were headed straight to Letchworth State Park via Warsaw. Eventually, after getting to the Castile entrance station, we paid the $8 cash only vehicle fee (though we ran out of exact change and they wouldn’t take any Canadian denominations so there was a little bit of drama of the attendant having to use her own personal change to give us the change we needed – and making sure we knew about it), and then arrived at the familiar Lower Falls car park at 10:25am.
It had been over 6 years since Julie and I were last here in the hot and humid Summer month of June. Now, the air was a bit crisper though it was definitely warming up. And Autumn colors were everywhere.
I went down the steps and returned to the familiar view where the tripod I brought came in handy to take long exposure photographs of the Lower Falls of the Genessee River. However, one thing I did notice on this go around with the Lower Falls was that the flow was not as great as it was on our last visit six years ago.
Anyways, I only allowed myself time to photograph only the falls, and when a pair of young ladies joined me at the viewpoint, I scrambled back onto the official path to take one last view of the Lower Falls though this was more partial than the better lower viewpoint we were just at.
When I headed back to the car park, Julie and Tahia were by a long slide by some picnic tables. Tahia was sliding slow on that slide, but she didn’t seem too upset that we were leaving to the car to continue this second stint in Letchworth before continuing on to Watkins Glen.
Next, we drove up to the Middle-Upper Falls car park complex. After a little bit of missing the easy-to-miss turn descending into the car park bringing us closer to those two waterfalls on the Genessee River (realizing the mistake when we showed up next to the Portage Bridge), we were finally at the desired car park at 11:20am.
The very first thing we did was to walk up the easy path to a slight incline offering direct views of the Upper Falls of the Genessee River backed by the Portage Bridge. Even though the sun was hiding behind some high clouds, it was still bright and dreary enough to darken our photographs.
Because the walk was so easy, we spent some time trying to take family photos with the tripod and timer combo. Unfortunately, Tahia somehow figured out how to be a smart ass so she often wouldn’t cooperate on the family photos choosing to pout or make funny faces at the camera.
When we had our fill of the Upper Falls, I walked back down towards the car park and then continued walking towards the Middle Falls of the Genessee River. Meanwhile, Julie put Tahia in the car seat and drove the short distance over to the nearest car park to that Middle Falls.
While at the Middle Falls, I was busy trying to document the falls from as many familiar positions as possible. Unlike the Lower Falls, both this waterfall and the Upper Falls looked pretty much the same as we had remembered them six years ago. However, there were some Autumn foliage colors surrounding all the falls so that made for some more interesting photos than before.
We even walked over to that circular viewpoint down a short set of steps. Julie didn’t remember a whole lot about our last visit to the Finger Lakes in 2007, but she did remember sitting on the wall in this circled area fronting Middle Falls.
Once again, we tried to take family photos here, but Tahia was one again being the smartaleck and wasn’t exactly cooperative with smiles or looking at the camera. And unlike when she was younger and didn’t know any better, in this case, she was doing this intentionally.
After Julie and Tahia were done with the family portraits here, they went back to the car. Meanwhile, I continued walking up some steps towards an upper vantage point right by the Glen Iris Inn. There was quite a bit of activity up here (mostly from seniors) and there was a tour bus so I’d imagine most of the traffic here was largely due to those tour buses of seniors.
By 12:25pm, I returned to the car where Julie and Tahia awaited.
All in all, Julie and I agreed that the Middle Falls was definitely a legitimate 4. It had the size, it was natural (which we appreciated more as it seemed that most of the waterfalls in New York state were tampered with), and it had volume in a very picturesque setting.
After this second visit to Letchworth, I contended that best waterfalls in the state of New York not named Niagara has to be in this state park. Somehow the second visit made us think that the falls deserved better than how we perceived them after our first trip here six years ago.
This was a short stop, but it was something we didn’t do the first time we were in Letchworth. In fact, Inspiration Point was a very fascinating stop because we were able to see both the Upper and Lower Falls from a distance with the Portage Bridge high up above both falls. There were also striated cliffs exposed to the scene adding a sense of drama to the vista.
Anyways, it was finally 12:40pm when we started driving off in earnest. Now that we were leaving Letchworth State Park, the next leg of the day was to make it all the way to Watkins Glen, which was where we were going to spend the night as well as experience the Watkins Glen Gorge itself.
After a brief lunch spot and gas fill-up in the village of Dansville at 1:20pm (leaving at 1:45p), we then continued on our drive as we left the interstate to drive some country highways and routes direct from Bath to Watkins Glen.
We would eventually arrive at the Gorgeous View Motel at 2:55pm. And even though all day we had been seeing mostly cloudy skies with some real threat of rain it appeared, when we showed up to Watkins Glen town, it was surprisingly sunny.
However, the daylight was waning so after checking in, we dropped off the luggage, and Julie and Tahia would stay behind in the motel (mostly so Tahia could continue her afternoon nap).
Then, I proceeded to walk up along the Gorge Trail seeing several waterfalls along the way.
Next, the trail went up a series of steps called Couch’s Stairs.
Then, I hit the next series of cascades, which culminated in a dramatic leap from a narrow ledge in the gorge into the depths of the gorge itself. The trail actually went behind this waterfall, which I’d later learn was called Cavern Cascade.
Sure enough as I continued walking through the Glen Cathedral, I then stumbled upon yet another waterfall that was also tall and thin in character. This one was called the Central Cascade, and it was similar to the Cavern Cascade, except I wasn’t able to walk behind this one as I was with the Cavern one.
Shortly beyond the Central Cascade, there were a few more smaller stair-stepping cascades, but then as I rounded a bend in the gorge, I was able to see the convergence of a lighter flowing waterfall on the left and a thicker set of cascades on the main creek responsible for this chasm.
A sign here indicated that I was at Rainbow Falls.
I had spent a good deal of time trying to somehow capture and convey the scene before my eyes at this very spot due to how scenic it was. I’d have to say that Rainbow Falls was perhaps the signature waterfall in this glen.
Next, the well-established stone path kept gradually going flat then climbing up steps as it then entered what was called the Spiral Gorge (probably because of the pothole formations resulting from little whirlpools throughout the history of this gorge).
And after I went past the Spiral Gorge, I then arrived at the one-mile bridge, which marked the one-mile point from the trailhead that I had walked to get here. Sure if I had continued hiking, I would’ve made it to one of three car parks for the glen. However, shuttle services linking the park’s three car parks was out of the question.
With all the waterfalling errands out of the way, we briefly unwound in our room while Yelping for possible places to eat in this area.
After 7pm, we eventually made it to the main part of the Watkins Glen town where we ate at this place called the Rooster Pub. The food was OK, but then again, we weren’t terribly choosy given how late in the day it was becoming.
Eventually by about 8:30pm, we were all back in our motel room and ready to call it a day.
So now we were down to one waterfall left on this trip. But given that we wanted our time in New York City to be relaxing, we decided to ditch the original plan of taking a combination of the NYC Subways and the New Jersey PATH lines to the Great Falls in Paterson New Jersey.
It was going to be yet another long day of driving, but at least we’d be returning the rental vehicle to White Plains, NY after the Paterson Falls visit.