Upper New York presented a contrast to our prior experiences with The Big Apple. The scenery captivated us with unexpected pleasures. This rural area provided plush pastures with farm animals and agriculture. The hills were covered with various crops, but the grape vines climbed as far as the eyes could see, explaining why wineries littered the countryside.
The great lakes in the northwest collect the flows running from the surrounding mountains, many from Canada. To my surprise, Lake Eerie followed beside the road as we traveled through three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. A fun fact for the curious is that it also touches the edges of Michigan and Canada. The term "great" seems insufficient after having stood on the shore.
Much of the culture and attractions emerged from historical events. Antiques stores lined the roadside filled with artifacts that had been handed down from generation to generations Massive plots of land decorated with flowers, ivy, and gardens showed a dedication to hard work and a pride of the land. Randy and I commented repeatedly about the beauty of the typical white houses, red barns, and acres of mowed lawns. We witnessed few fences unless they were required for livestock.
Mixed among the patchwork quilt of fields rested water: rivers, ponds, lakes, waterfalls - water in every form gathered in pools melding with nature, breeding neighborhoods and villages. I used the term villages instead of towns because that is the vocabulary of this area.
The Finger Lakes extend over the land and embrace small communities in the area.
In Watkins Glen, water is central in the lives of the residents. Some build near it so they wake each morning to enjoy the view. Others live on the water and incorporate the life giving force into their daily lives.
The Powerful Force of Niagara Falls Fuels Investigation
As we traveled through New York, anticipation for our visit to Niagara Falls resided in the front of our minds. 60+ years of life and we had never seen this wonder. I must admit it is magnificent but as with so many previous experiences, the actual visit held a little, just a little, disappointment. Has that ever happened to you? An event becomes so built up in the mind that the actual visit lacks the expected excitement?
A spectacular view but surrounded by commercialism
Would I recommend a visit to Niagara Falls? Absolutely! However, it looked just like I imagined with no surprises. Somehow, I thought I would be surprised by the overwhelming power of this natural resource. Don't get me wrong, we were mesmerized.
We did find the area to be over commercialized and expensive. The boat ride to the edge of the falls with The Maid of the Mist tourism company lasted 30 minutes and cost nearly $100 for the two of us. Randy and I agreed we would recommend it to any first time visitor because it is a once in a lifetime experience.
The photo above was taken from the boat as we approached the falls. We thought about taking an elevator to The Cave of Winds but after talking to a few people, it didn't attract our attention or wallets.
Suggestions when visiting the falls:
- Make sure to explore the entire stretch of the park because the view changes with every angle.
- Walk on Rainbow Bridge to appreciate the falls from the other side. We did not walk into Canada because it was an hour wait but did venture across the bridge for the view.
- Ride the trolley to Goat Island. We did this backwards because we didn't know there was a trolley. However, it is congested to drive to the island, and parking is expensive. The trolley ride is only $3 per person, can be accessed repeatedly throughout the day, and provides a audio tour of the area.
- Walk out to the edge of the platform at the visitor's center for a breathtaking view.
Our main suggestion for visitors of Upstate New York is move slowly and take time to appreciate nature. Randy and I have lived in Idaho our entire lives and have been raised to believe the slogan our parents used when talking about our home state, "God's country." However, we found the less populated areas of New York are close to heaven.
Note for readers who are following our travels.
We never recognized the enormity of New York until we traveled across the northern portion of the state. There is so much to do and see that a minimum of a week is suggested to dedicate to this area. If you are interested in our other experiences in NY please read about our time in Genesee County where we visited a living museum and one evening went to the horse races.
If you are interested in the history dating back to 1609 and including the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and The War of 1812, read about our visit to Fort Ticonderoga.