Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Upper New York State of Mind

From 7/2/10 – 7/5/10, we, the EC-5 were officially on Holiday. I am a firm believer that the absolute best things to collect are memories. Material possessions you can’t take with you but reminiscences and time spent together are things that last a lifetime. This is something that I hope we have passed onto our children. I am also a man who feels the pressing weight of days... let's just say, I like to escape. And so, ‘getting away from it all’ with the family is something that I/we take pretty serious. In that vein I wanted to jot down some of the highlights of our adventures.

7/2/10 – We climbed into our Ford Explorer, said a prayer and took off leaving New Jersey behind for higher latitudes. “Judy”, our Garmin Nuvi (yes, Judy Garmin) is better than Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer when it comes to navigation. I remember a time when I was nervous about finding the right exit or off ramp on whatever 3 – 7 lane highway we found ourselves on. Those days are over. I am a transportation machine with the assistance of Judy.

Our first real stop was Fillmore Glenn State Park. We went there to swim and take in some of the local sites. The Three Chicks and I hit the ice-cold spring fed waters while Mother hen hit the trails for a series of bridges and waterfalls. After a freshwater leach attached itself to Chicken Little’s small toe we got out of the water. When we all met up again Mother Hen said that we should really check out Cow Shed Falls which was right around the corner from where we were splashing about before the leach attack. Cow Shed Falls gets its name from the rock out-cropping that hangs over the valley next to the waterfall that drops some 40 feet or so into the gorge that feeds the stream where we were swimming with the leaches. Years ago farmers would find their cows cooling themselves off under the rock shelf and drinking from the waters of the falls. Cow Shed stuck. What a beautiful park. If you are in the area you ought to stop by… just watch out for the leaches.

We piled back into the Explorer and hit the road once more. We made our way to our home away from home, a Days Inn in Syracuse. Mother Hen found a really great deal online which got us a room for three nights. We only slept in Syracuse. It was our flophouse. It did not need to be a 4 Star hotel or a 3 Star hotel; just the 2 Star hotel that it was. A place to lay one’s head; which after a day’s worth of driving and leach adventures, was a welcome sight. We grabbed dinner at Denny’s and retired to our room.

7/3/10 – Gas, ice, Dunkin Donuts and the open road. I long for the gypsy life style. Our next stop was Thousand Islands, New York where we boarded an Uncle Sam Boat Tour shuttle to Heart Island to tour Boldt Castle. Heart Island sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. George Boldt (of Waldorf Astoria Hotel fame) built this castle for his wife, Louise. He built it for her but when she died abruptly at the age of 45 all construction stopped. The island and castle were ornate and beautifully kept but the project remained unfinished and it is to this very day. There are paths, coves, towers, a power house, tunnels and spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. It is an amazing stone and mortar, six-story construction that begs to be explored. Here is what Wikipedia, my favorite second brain, has to say on the topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boldt_Castle. We loved it and, if you are ever in the area, Gentle Reader, so would you.

After a tailgate lunch of tuna fish in the parking lot we hit the road once more. The Chicks fell right asleep which left Mother Hen (shot gun) and I (driving) to ourselves to behold the sight of three huge Crow standing what looked to be about 12 foot a piece.

“Did you see that?” we asked each other.

I had no time to reach for the camera and we were on a highway heading towards our next destination. It is only now that I can find out the details on this gigantic murder of crows. Here is what Roadside America has to say on the subject: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/1793. Keep your eyes open out there… you never know what might present itself when you keep your eyes open.

Our next destination was Fort Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego New York. We just missed being able to get into the fort but we enjoyed dipping our toes into one of the Great Lakes and finding out some of the local history. The view of the lighthouse from the park is reportedly a wonderful place to catch a sunset. We weighed our options for our next adventure, I was either going to walk out to the Oswego Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse for a Virtual Geocache or we were going to slide over to Wal-Mart to replenish some supplies for the cooler. Wal-Mart won but not before we paid a visit to the H. Lee White Marine Museum. The museum was closed but we were able to see the Army tug boat, “Nash” that took part in the D-Day invasion and a formally sunken dredging canal barge that has been restored. I met the curator of the museum, a nice lady who encouraged me to tell my friends about their non-profit museum. That being said, Gentle Readers consider yourselves encouraged: http://www.hleewhitemarinemuseum.com/.

We asked some locals where would be a good place to eat and they suggested an Italian place called, Canale’s. Oh, they were sooo right. Listen to the locals. They know where the good spots are as well as the ones that should be avoided. Canale's (http://www.canalesrestaurant.com/) is one of the good ones. If you are in the neighborhood of Oswego you CAN NOT go wrong eating here. I had Eggplant Parmesan that was unbelievable. Mother Hen pointed out that they have marinara for sale in the restaurant and on their website. I’m looking forward to receiving our order.

After dinner we trekked back to Syracuse and our room at the Days Inn.

7/4/10 - Gas, ice, Dunkin Donuts and the open road. Our next stop was Niagara Falls. On the way into the city of Niagara Falls, New York the Niagara River is to your left. One can see motion and currents at work within the water and it is possible to catch a glimpse of mist from the Falls that drifts into the city. Prior to getting into the city itself one can see the rapids and the waters churn and boil around rock formations on their way towards the Falls and the Niagara Gorge. This is just on the way into the city.

The city of Niagara Falls was hopping. The streets were teaming with people from nations all over the world celebrating the Fourth of July. A sightseeing helicopter was buzzing around shuttling tourists from the helipad to the falls and back again from the time that we got there until just after 9:00 PM, an hour before the fireworks display. Once we found a place to park we hit the ground running. I had water and granola bars in my backpack and I was not afraid to use ‘em. In said hustle and bustle was the EC-5.

You hear the falls before you see them. When you see them you are struck with the power and timeless force at play before your eyes. The roar of the water… the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on its way to the 167 foot drop to the bottom of the Niagara Gorge. To paraphrase it is simply ‘poetry in motion’. There are two sides for viewing the Falls, the Canadian and the American. In honor of the birth of our nation (and the fact that we do not have passports) we saw the falls from the American side. Some say that the view is not as good as the Canadian. The view from where I stood was mind-altering and humbling. Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niagara_Falls. Who knew it but it appears we visited 134 years to the day that Maria Spelterini crossed the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope.

You go girl.

On the American side one can also find the Observation Platform, which looks much like an uncompleted bridge. It is through here that thousands of people pour into to see the Falls from a higher elevation and to purchase tickets for the Maid of the Mist, the boat tour of Niagara Falls that has been in operation since 1854. The Observation Platform houses the elevator that takes you from the view from above the Falls down into the Niagara Gorge, where the Falls surge into. It is here that you board the Maid of the Mist.

“Oh right, now I have to buy a ticket and wait in a line?”

Yes; and why are you so snappy all of the sudden? Suck it up (consider decaf). Look, I do not care how long the line is (we went on the Fourth of July) or how much the ticket price may be (currently $13.50 for an adult and $7.85 per child) it is worth the wait and double the price. A trip on the Maid of the Mist is something that you will never forget. You owe it to yourself, your significant others and/or your families to take the trip if you are there. It is called the Maid of the Mist for a reason. You will get wet even through the blue poncho that you will be wearing. You will see the American Falls, the ant like people as they clamor up the Gorge side and the “Cave of the Winds” side next to Bridal Falls and the boat will take you into the horseshoe of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. After our boat ride we climbed the steps up the Gorge to be hit with the gale force energy of the surging spray of the Falls themselves. Do this as well when you go; it is part of the entire experience. The power, the sound, the fury and the striking beauty of Niagara Falls are surreal and simply unforgettable. I could continue to throw adjectives around like peanut shells at a steakhouse but the fact remains that Niagara Falls is something best experienced for oneself than it is described by another. You should make the trip.

We found a patch of grass in the park and sat down for the fireworks display above the Niagara Gorge. It was a wonderful Fourth of July; one that I will carry with me for the rest of my days.

7/5/10 – And now, after 1,205.4 miles, we have returned. Unlike the Hobbits of Tolkien lore who wish to go there and back again I find that the going back again part is less and less appealing.

I just want to go.

I am Evil Chicken and I am actively planning our next escape.


mommanator said...

Great sounding trip. I have been there many times. I just love Niagara and the surrounding area. And always ask where does all that water come from and how come it doesnt stop! and thank God it doesnt many would be without electricity!
One time we stayed near Syracuse at a campground which we rented a cabin, @ thanksgiving! It was cold in them darn hills!

Evil Chicken said...

THAT would be a cold Thanksgiving in Syracuse!

The area was simply gorgeous, Momma J. I'd love to get back there to the Niagara area again soon.