Watkins Glen

August 26, 2006

Best know today for it’s Grand Prix racetrack, Watkins Glen first made it’s mark when a local promoter purchased the gorge (glen) in the 1800’s and started promoting it as a vacation locale for the well heeled to rival Niagara Falls. While it may be stretching things a bit to claim a spectacle on the scale of Niagara, Watkins Glen is spectacular in it’s own right, with 17 waterfalls and cascades in a narrow, mile and ½ long gorge.

Watkins Glen State Park is located at the southern end of Lake Seneca, one of the larger of the Finger Lakes (look at a map of New York and it’s pretty obvious how they got the name). The region has turned into a large wine producing region, and is also home to Taylor Champagne.

We started out hike on the Gorge Trail , which starts at the entrance to the Gorge. The pathway goes thru a short tunnel to emerge at a lovely stone arch bridge crossing the first of many waterfalls. The good side of all the rain we have been experiencing is the amount of water coming over the falls – it’s simply a raging torrent. The stone pathway clings to the rock walls and winds it’s way beside, over, and in a couple of places under the falls.

It’s quite a wet hike, at least when there is as much rain as we have had. The glen experienced a disastrous flood in 1935, where water levels reached as high as 85 up the gorge walls in places, wiping out a train trestle and most of the constructed pathways. Today’s trails and bridges were built by the CCC.

The complete hike is about 800 stone steps up often slippery rock. With as much water as was flowing thru the gorge, it was a loud hike. We talked with one lady who lives in the area who said that the water levels dropped quickly, and she had visited the glen a few days prior when the falls were just a trickle.

No good resort destination would be complete without a Lovers Lane. Vance took what he describes as 'the most humilating photo in my life' here ;-)

On the return trip, we followed a rim trail. The plant life along the top was quite different than the ecology in the gorge, with lots of oaks and maples. In the gorge, it looked like something out of Lord of the Rings where the Elves lived. All in all, a beautiful setting, and well worth a visit.

Once he got past complaining about the number of stairs, Vance got into the spirit of things, and very much enjoyed the falls. There was a nice cemetery along the rim trail coming back, and taking after his dad, he wanted to explore it somewhat. He seemed fairly impressed with the amount of water flowing thru a small area.

Vance: When we reached Watkins Glen I went to a playground after we got set up. We woke up to find our campsite was flooded! Daddy had to go tell the people at the office that we were moving to another campsite, my Mom insisted! For one of our activities, we went on a hike in the Watkins Glens Gorge. I had to take a humiliating photo of my parents kissing on Lover’s Lane. We got to go behind a waterfall in a tunnel called Cavern Cascade. Probably in the next million years the trails will collapse in by erosion. My next story will be about a museum of glass.

P.S We had a Schnauzer next door named Ruddy, the kids across the road had a cross between a boxer and a beagle named Sparky.

P.P.S The Lover’s Lane photo was one of the most embarrassing things in my life.

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