Day 1: ERIE CANAL TO THE FINGER LAKES
After checking out from our hotel and picking up the car from the neighboring Falls View Casino parking garage, we left Niagara Falls (by this time we were pretty Niagara Fall’ed out) and made our way east towards the Finger Lakes area. Once again, we passed through border patrol but this time it was faster than yesterday.
Traffic was relatively light when we made it onto I-90. Of course, we were greeted with a toll station where they handed us a ticket. I guess you pay when you leave the toll road. Kind of interesting. Better not lose that ticket though!
So the next couple of hours passed uneventfully as we left the toll road and headed north to Rochester. I think the waterfalls we were to see on this day had the unenviable position of coming after the mighty Niagara Falls. And well, the disparity was made even greater in that we took the time (and money on the toll roads) to see the Genesee Falls in Rochester.
As we explored a bit of the urban jungle in search of the falls, we first checked out the Lower Falls of the Genesee River. It was hard to get a good view of this waterfall as the bottom was usually obstructed from the park trail and we had to be careful of poison ivy. Eventually, we found a decent spot to take a photo with the bridge going across in the background. It was kind of an interesting juxtaposition of nature and urbanism. Though not photoed was the ugly factory building right next to the falls.
We then continued further into the park to check out the Middle Falls of the Genesee River. But when we got to what appeared to be a lookout, we didn’t see a waterfall. Instead, we saw an empty sluice floodway composed of a concrete channel. Hardly a waterfall in my book. So we lingered no longer here and headed back to the car.
Next, we continued driving through the city towards the signposted High Falls fo the Genesee River. We parked at a pay structure then walked the city streets towards a pedestrian bridge traversing the Genesee River. I felt strange carrying around a tripod and DSLR camera in hiking clothes in the urban jungle, but my mind left this awkwardness when we saw the impressive High Falls.
This rectangular falls was impressive but seemed quite out-of-place due to the presence of buildings, highways, and factories. The pool beneath the falls looked inviting (albeit fenced off and inaccessible legally) but the green color of the water probably hinted at the high bacteria levels and pollutants in the river.
Urban waterfalls… what a strange combination!
Anyways, these Rochester waterfalls could’ve certainly been charming in their own right (the city did make tranquil parks around them after all), but they were duds coming after Niagara Falls. I’m sure in a different frame of mind, they would’ve been pretty cool to check out especially if you needed a brief respite from the daily grind working or living here.
Next, we returned to the toll I-90 and continued east. The drive was quite uneventful and proceeded at a 55mph clip which I wasn’t going to test considering my co-worker’s (who lived in New York most of his life) warning about strict enforcement of speed limits. It was about 3pm when we finally found the next waterfall – Pratt’s Falls. It was a little bit southeast of Syracuse – home of the Orangemen I bet considering my passing interesting in college basketball’s March Madness.
Next, we continued south towards Chittenango Falls. After the falls seen up to this point, I was pleasantly surprised by the size and volume of this one. There was a loop trail that was supposed to go around the falls from its top to its base, but half the loop was closed. Nonetheless, the remaining half-hoop provided more views of the falls anyways so I wasn’t complaining.
It was 6:30pm when we arrived at the trailhead for Carpenter Falls. Ironically, we parked next to a guy with his dog, who of all people was a carpenter! After exchanging pleasantries, Julie opted to stay in the car while I headed on the trail.
The trail immediately forked with the Upper Falls to the left and the Lower Falls to the right. So I first went left and followed the somewhat primitive path towards the falls. It was a pretty quick jaunt and I took advantage of the fact that I could go behind the falls. However, the scramble to the base of the falls was a bit steep.
By 7pm, I was back at the car park when I told Julie I was going to check out the Lower Falls.
So off I went and went through the shaded path until I was greeted with warning signs not to go further. After nearly a half-hour of walking this far only hearing but not seeing any of the falls, I pondered my options before I assessed the steep descent. I’ve seen worse than this and I figured it wasn’t terribly dangerous unless the existing landslides gave way more, which was a chance I ended up taking.
Clearly it seemed there was a formal trail down here as I saw a cairn down at the creek bed and I followed the trail upstream to a very pretty cascade nestled in a serene setting whose silence was only broken by the clapping of the falls. So I took the obligatory photos before I huffed and puffed my way up the steep and somewhat slippery ascent back to the trail. By 8pm, I was back at the car and we were finally off to Ithaca.
It was past 9pm when we finally made it to the Econolodge just outside of town. Even though it was an Econolodge, we were still paying over $100/night. Niagara Falls Hotel this isn’t, but it was functional and at least the prices were somewhat more reasonable.