Our Western New York Trip

We narrowed our vacation destination choices down to the western half of New York and Cape Cod in Massachussetts. We picked New York for no reason in particular except that it seemed there would be more we might enjoy there--and so we began planning. Very little reseach led us to Letchworth State Park, where I had visited long ago with my family. We could explore Letchworth, Niagara Falls was nearby, and the lilacs (of the Lilac Festival, in Rochester) were supposed to be in bloom.

Through ReserveAmerica we made a reservation for a cabin to spend the week in. According to ReserveAmerica, our cabin (D-3) was a two-person, no heat, no water cabin that included a stove, refrigerator, two cots, a table and two chairs. As that information is fairly vague, I called Letchworth for more details about it. She confirmed that the stove was full size (a range and oven), the refrigerator was dorm-sized, and that the cots were of the fold-up variety. Also included were a fire ring, fire grate and picnic table.

Oh yeah. "How big is the cabin," I asked. "About the size of your bathroom."

Saturday, May 22, 2004

On all of these "outdoor vacations" we always take my Explorer. We decided to take Sherree's Intrepid for this trip, though, as it gets better gas mileage and we'd be able to take turns driving (the Explorer is a stick). It was almost 9 am when we got on the road. We made several stops along the way but after an uneventful drive, six hours, and about 370 miles, we arrived at the main entrance--at the north end--to Letchworth State Park.

We pull up to the attendant at the gate and tell her we're going to be staying here. She tells us to drive 15 miles to the Visitor Center where we can check in. While driving to the Visitor Center we peered into the gorge carved by the Genessee River--the primary attraction of Letchworth. Upon checking in we discover that we've got another drive of about 5 miles to get to our cabin. So we continue our drive out of the western side of the south end of the park, over a bridge, and back into the park on the eastern side.

Looking at the map we were given, the eastern side of the park holds only cabin areas D and E, the parade grounds, and a number of trails; the western side of the park is where everything else is.

We found our cabin with no trouble. It's the first one you see when entering cabin area D, located at the top of a hill. No matter how hard we tried, the front-wheel drive Intrepid couldn't make it up the hill, so we had to carry everything. Looking at the cabin, we sighed in relief. While small, the cabin proved adequate. It's about 8' x 11', had a small (not full-size) stove, a fairly large (5' tall and 2-1/2' wide) refrigerator/freezer, and two fairly nice folding beds with 4" foam mattresses on them. Everything was in very good condition. With the beds folded up there is plenty of room for the two of us to move around and do whatever we want. When it's time for bed we move the table towards the door (it doesn't block the door) and lay out the beds; easy.

An outside view of our cabin. An inside view of our cabin. While unpacking we found several efts around. Photo by Sherree.

Throughout the week we wandered around and saw some of the other cabins. Some of the cabins are slightly bigger, about 10' x 14'. On the front of them is a nice porch, about 5' deep and 10' wide--the width of the cabin. That'd be a great place to sit to eat dinner or read or whatever, particularly during the rain. Chimneys poke out of some of those cabins, too, so I think they contain a fireplace. Some of the cabins are much larger 3-room cabins with equally larger screened-in porches attached.

After finding a place to buy some firewood I built a fire. We needed it to cook our hot dogs. While I splintered some wood for tinder it was sprinkling a little. Shortly after I got the fire lit, it was a steady rain.

I asked Sherree to cover the cooking grate with foil to place on the fire. A few seconds after that when the fire was going good, we had a full-blown thunderstorm with torrential downpours. I ran over to the fire to lean over it, trying to keep it from going out. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sherree come out of the cabin--I expected to see her carrying the foil-covered grate, which could cover the fire while it poured so I didn't have to stand there--and take a photo of me in that precarious position. I gave up on the fire and went in the cabin. The downpour continued, then turned into 1/2" hail!

I unsuccessfully tried to keep the rain off of the fire. Photo by Sherree.

Comparing my thumb to a hole in the foil made by the hail. Photo by Sherree.

The rain finally let up and I rebuilt the fire so we could cook our hot dogs and eat our dinner. Afterwards we went out to do a little exploring of our side of the park. We followed the sole road quite a ways and saw cabin area E, a bunny, deer and an overlook of the gorge. We tried to follow Big Bend--a gravel and dirt road--but the Intrepid couldn't make it up a hill to continue the route, so we headed back to our cabin and called it a night just as the rain began.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

We awoke to more thunderstorms and heavy rain. After breakfast we decided to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. As we drove southeast to Corning, the rain slowed and eventually stopped; we even saw a little blue in the sky.

Mostly, the museum exhibited a collection of glass products from around the world and different time periods. It was interesting to look at, but there were just so many pieces and many of them looked similar. I enjoyed the rest of the museum more, including a glass and technology area (fiber optics, creating optical-grade glass, building bulletproof car windshields, etc.) and the glass-blowing demonstration.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

This is a glass chess set, Catholic vs. Jewish clergy.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

Since we had already driven an hour to Corning, we decided to drive the extra 1/2 hour to Watkins Glen State Park. We parked in the south entrance, which was substantially less crowded and larger than the main entrance. We hiked the gorge trail, which goes right beside the Watkins Glen stream (fed by Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes), where we saw 19 waterfalls and were surrounded by 200-foot cliffs. Once we got to the north end of the trail we took the bus back down to the main entrance at the south end, where we hiked the remainder of the gorge trail and returned to our car. There were over 800 steps to climb there.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

We didn't get back to the cabin until almost 8:00, and we hadn't eaten dinner yet. As we needed coals to cook our pork chops and potatoes, I got a fire going. After I had created a small pile of coals we put the food on. And it very slowly cooked. I should have made more coals to cook on, or used the charcoal Sherree bought (though we didn't have any lighter fluid, either), but I didn't. We finally ate at about 9:30.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Again we awoke to thunderstorms. Yesterday by about 10 am the rain had stopped and the weather had cleared up; we hoped today would be similar. We took our time getting ready for the day and decided to have pancakes and sausages for breakfast.

Cloud cover was still thick but it stopped raining, so we decided to explore Letchworth some more. We drove over to the western side of the park and started at the south end. We saw the Upper falls, Middle Falls, Inspiration Point, stopped at the Visitor Center to buy some postcards, and then went back to the cabin for lunch. The clouds started to break up and the sun poked through. After lunch we continued our tour by visiting the Lower Falls, Tea Table, St. Helena's and the Gardeau Overlook. We stopped at every overlook along the way and hiked parts of several of the trails that ran near the gorge, ascending and descending several hundred steps along the way.

Upper Falls.

Both rainbows and small waterfalls feeding the Genessee River are common.

Middle Falls. Photo by Sherree.

Lower Falls and the only footbridge connecting the two sides of the river.

Photo by Sherree.

This is the Letchworth photo--it appears on all the travel brochures, postcards, and area attraction magazines. Photo by Sherree.

We made a stop at a gas station to buy some lighter fluid for the charcoal. After returning to our cabin I got the charcoal started while Sherree prepared everything to make chili. We cooked it in a dutch oven with the charcoal. For a snack that night we made banana boats.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Today we got an early start to visit Old Fort Niagara and Niagara Falls. Only a few clouds drifted through the sky and no rain was in sight! We spent about two hours exploring and learning about Old Fort Niagara through the self-guided tour.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.
A pressed and imprinted nickel souvenir from Niagara Falls.

Afterwards we moved on to Niagara Falls. We didn't have time to visit the Canadian side, but we fully explored the American side. We went by the Great Lakes Garden, through the Visitor Center, and saw the view of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls from Prospect Point. We walked over the Pedestrian Bridge to Goat Island, where we visited Terrapin Point, saw the Horseshoe Rapids, visited Luna Island and the Three Sisters Islands. As we crossed the American Rapids Bridge back to the mainland it started to rain.

Looking over to Canada.

A View of the American Falls. Photo by Sherree.

We stopped at Susan's Family Restaurant for dinner. We also brought back two slices of pie for a snack while we watched the Monsters, Inc DVD on our laptop in the cabin while thunder, lightning and rain continued.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Happy 3rd anniversary to us!

Today we continued our exploration of Letchworth by visiting Hogsback, the Highbanks Recreation Area, Mt. Morris Dam Overlook, and several unnamed viewpoints. We also visited the Trailside Lodge, Trout Pond, and Council Grounds.

For dinner we ate hamburgers; afterwards we watched National Lampoon's Animal House as it again rained outside.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

This morning we headed to Adventure Calls to sign up to go rafting in the afternoon. After that we looked for somewhere to eat breakfast. We followed route 436 east with no luck. We followed route 436 west with no luck. We followed route 19A north with no luck. After about an hour of hunting for a restaurant we gave up and went back to our cabin for cereal.

We went back to Adventure Calls shortly after noon to get ready for our rafting trip. We wanted to bring a camera, but they would have been destroyed; we should have bought one of those disposable waterproof cameras just for this activity. A school group of about 25 showed up shortly after we did, as did another couple. After everyone was fitted with a life jacket and given a paddle we headed to the launch area, where we were given some brief training, safety practices, and information on how to handle ourselves should we fall out of the raft while going through the Class I, II and III rapids.

In an attempt to avoid some of the school group, Sherree and I paired up with the other couple and Ian, our guide and sternman. Almost immediately after setting out we were right into a set of rapids that left all of us wet. Sherree and I were in the middle of the raft while the other couple paddled from upfront; we switched positions about halfway through.

Seeing the gorge from this viewpoint--looking up at the nearly-400 foot cliffs rather than down into them--was quite different. Rafting through the river allowed an up-close view where we could see the erosion that formed the gorge taking place, along with countless small fissures in the cliffs from which tiny waterfalls sprang forward. Looking up at the cliffs it was obvious just how precariously all the rock was being held in place, none of which was evident from above. We made a stop where Wolf Creek feeds the Genessee River, where we got to see a waterfall that can only be seen this way; it's simply not visible from any other viewpoint.

It was almost 5 pm when the 5.5-mile trip was over. We enjoyed it quite a bit, though I think I would have enjoyed it more if we could have taken a canoe through it!

For dinner we went back to Susan's Family Restaurant (our choices were very limited!) Tonight we watched one of my favorite movies: 10 Things I Hate About You.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Today we headed north to Rochester. Our first stop was the Seneca Park Zoo. We made our way over to the Rochester Museum and Science Center, which occupied much of the day. Before heading home we went to Highland Park, the site of the annual Lilac Festival, which was a rather disappointing stop as there were very few Lilac trees in bloom. In a few weeks it'll probably look very nice, though.

Photo by Sherree.

Photo by Sherree.

A pressed and imprinted penny souvenir from Seneca Park Zoo.

A pressed and imprinted penny souvenir for the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

While watching Sgt Bilko we put some fillings (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cream cheese) into crescent rolls and baked them for our dinner/snack.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

We checked out and drove home. The trip home was quite uneventful.

Pinball had an eventful week while we were gone. Our neighbor found her crying and hanging half out of the window; she pushed Pinball back in and closed the window. And one day when Cathy checked in on Pinball she found her tied up in the window shade drawstring. And now that we're home Pinball is being very affectionate and doesn't want to leave our side!

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Dan & Sherree & Patrick currently uses Facebook for comments. Older comments are still here for readers, though. Read old comments »

Dan: Nice photos of Letchworth. My wife was
born and raised in nearby Perry. Beautiful park.
We last visited it about three years ago.
- Jim Tonne

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