Sunday, September 24, 2017

Exploring Watkins Glen


Several of the blogs I reviewed had highlighted Watkins Glen as a “must do” when in the Finger Lakes.  Last Sunday promised to be a beautiful day in the mid-80s, so we made our way to the south end of Seneca Lake, with the goal of hiking the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail and taking a boat tour of Seneca Lake.

There’s a new large parking lot across from the main entrance, and the entrance area of the Gorge is still under construction.  It looks like it will be very nice when it’s complete . . . probably next summer.

Need a walking stick?

We picked up a map and headed into the Gorge.

There were several walking sticks left at the entrance . . . but we had brought our own.  I was glad we had them with us – very helpful on all those steps!

Through the first tunnel, and over Sentry Bridge,

Sentry Bridge

Looking out from the gorgewe could take a look back out of the Gorge, towards the Village of Watkins Glen.

We soon reached our first waterfall – Cavern Cascade (in the background).

Our first waterfall

As we walked into the Gorge, we were climbing toward the top of the canyon.  There were a lot of steps – but they came in batches, leveling out in between, so it wasn’t bad.

Cavern CascadeThe shale underneath Cavern Cascade has worn away, allowing the trail to pass behind the waterfall.

Tom at Cavern Cascade

We passed under the suspension bridge, which connects the South Rim Trail with the Indian Trail along the north rim,

Suspension Bridge

and reached the section of the Gorge referred to as The Narrows.

The Narrows

The Gorge open up after the Narrows – an area called the Glen Cathedral,

Glen Cathedral  - the gorge widens

the one area where the walls of the canyon can get dry.  The majority of the Gorge trail is shady and damp, which on a hot day feels really good. 

Leisurely hike in the cool gorge

Next up is Central Cascade,

Central Cascadewhere the trail crosses the gorge on a scenic bridge, and we walk past the Glen of Pools that feed into Central Cascade.

Central Cascade

Pools in the gorgeGlen of Pools which are fed by Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is another area where the trail passes behind the waterfall.  It must be really spectacular in the Spring when there is much more water flowing in the Gorge!

Cascading FallsTom took this opportunity to clean the mud off his hiking stick!

Walking behind Rainbow Falls

We crossed the bridge back over tot he other side of the Gorge, with a view of the pools down below.

Looking down at the Pools

Back on the other side of the Gorge, we entered Spiral Gorge,

Spiral Gorge

a dark and narrow area of the gorge where very little vegetation can grow.

Spiral Gorge

I love the contrast between the dark, bare rocks and the bright green vegetation up on the top of the canyon wall.

One more set of steps,

Did I really climb those steps!?!

and then we came to a decision point – do we turn around and go back the way we came, or do we take one of the rim trails back to the main entrance?

Which way to go now?

We decided to walk back along the rim, and chose the South Rim Trail because it was supposed to be shadier.


We climbed to the top of the canyon, and followed the edge towards the main entrance.  The trail was fairly easy, although with some loose stones in areas, and quite a few tree roots.  We couldn’t see the Gorge from the top, but there were a few interesting sights along the way.

Cabin on the South Rim Trail

An old picnic area?

Stone Tables

Maybe a picnic shelter in a past life?

Abandoned Building

We reached the suspension bridge,

From the Suspension Bridge

and walked across to check out the view from up high.

Looking down on the Gorge

Looking out at Watkins Glen

Down the last couple sets of stairs, and we were back!

Climbing back down

After our hike through the gorge, we had about an hour to kill before the next boat tour of Lake Seneca, so we walked through a few shops in the village and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone at Ben & Jerry’s. 

There are some interesting places in Watkins Glen.

Trailer Motel

World's Smallest Diner

At 3pm, we arrived at the Harbor and checked in at the Stroller IV.

Stroller IV

We met Captain John, and with just 6 people on board it was time for our tour.

Captain John

It was a breezy day, and there were some pretty good waves on the lake as we travelled north.

Sailboat on Lake Seneca

There were quite a few sailboats enjoying this beautiful day on the lake – the temperature was perfect, and the breeze really helped them get around.

It was a really windy day

As we made our way up the lake, Captain John provided some of the history of the Finger Lakes area,

Captain John and Tyler

and then our first mate, Ryan, explained the salt extraction process that takes place on the lake.  US Salt is one of the major producers of salt and is located on Seneca Lake.

US Salt

There is a large salt vein deep below the lake.  The company drills into the vein and injects water into the salt.  As the salt is dissolved in the water, it’s pumped up into the holding tanks at the plant, and heated to evaporate off the water, leaving the salt behind.

One thing that I was surprised to learn was that all salt – table salt, rock salt for the roads and water softener salt all come from the same place.  Interesting!

The rest of the tour was a leisurely ride around the lake.  We continued to watch sailboats as they moved past us,

Big Sailboat


We passed by a waterfall (not a lot of water flowing right now),


and some petroglyphs on the rock – some ancient, and some not so ancient.

Petroglyths (at the bottom)

Captain John also pointed out an old foot trail that the Indians used to reach the lake (diagonal line in the rock, right to left).

Original Indian Footpath

We made our way back around the southern end of the lake,

Sailboat with Watkins Glen in the background

and back to the harbor.  The tour was very enjoyable – we learned a lot about the area and it was nice to be able to see the landscape from the water. 

A beautiful day on the lake

We asked Captain John for a recommendation for dinner in town, and he sent us to the location where all the locals hang out – Seneca Lodge.  It’s at the top of the gorge, across from the state park campground.  We decided to give it a try, and it was very good. 

All in all, we had a great day in Watkins Glen,

Watkins Glen Harbor

it was definitely a highlight of our visit to the Finger Lakes!


Friday, September 22, 2017

Our first visit in the Finger Lakes Region–Grape Heaven!


Last Thursday, we left Sackets Harbor and travelled south and west around Lake Ontario, through apple and peach orchards,

Driving through apple country

until we reached Junius Ponds Cabins and Campground. 

Junius Ponds site 240

Time to relax!

It’s a really nice campground just north of Geneva, NY, which puts us in a pretty centrally-located homebase for exploring the Finger Lakes.

Geneva is a cute little college town (home to Hobart and William Smith College), at the north end of Seneca Lake, the largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes.

Geneva Waterfront

Seneca Lake

After our arrival, our first order of business was to pick up some fresh vegetables (I still had a pretty empty refrigerator after our trip into Canada!), and then to make a list of things we wanted to do in the area.  I’ve been reading through the blogs of various other RVers who have been here and putting together our list!

Brussel Sprouts


The real bonus was that I was able to pick up a basket of my favorite fruit – concord grapes!

Our first basket of grapes

We picked these up at a roadside stand, along with a mini version of a grape pie – something we had been hearing about, but weren’t sure we were going to like!

Small grape pie


As you drive around the Finger Lakes, you can’t help but notice all the grapes growing on the hillsides surrounding the lakes.



Most of them are wine grapes, and there are hundreds of vineyards and wineries surrounding each of the lakes.

Wine grapes

We’ve visited a few wineries while we’ve been here, and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to take south with us.

Wine grapes


Grapes are a big deal here . . . and there’s even a Grape Festival coming up this weekend in the town of Naples.



We visited Naples last Friday and it was pretty quiet, but today we drove through again and the place was hopping – everybody is getting ready for the festival to start tomorrow!

DSC_0536We stopped in at a roadside pie shop,

and Tom was able to get his full-sized grape pie!  We haven't dug into it yet, but it looks good!

Grape Pie!

They were working hard – getting ready for the festival weekend!  Lots of pies packed in boxes and loaded into the truck,

Pies for the Festival

and even more waiting to get packed up after they cooled off!

Lots of pies for the Grape Festival!

Our destination for the afternoon was Jerome’s U-pick farm.


They’re celebrating the 200 year anniversary as a family farm this year, and their 50th year as a U-pick operation!

It’s a beautiful farm!

Rows and rows of grapes

There were multiple varieties of grapes available for picking, and when we asked how to know what to pick, they said, “Just try them, and pick the ones that you like!”


They even had purple wagons for pulling your boxes around!

Purple wagons

My favorite is still the traditional concord,


but there were some others that were really good, too!


Picking grapesWe got busy picking . . .

and eating!

Concord grapes

Tom’s favorites – Canadice!


We had so much fun picking grapes . . . we got a little carried away and ended up with 17 pounds!  All those grapes for just $6.80!!  Amazing!


Oh, but they are so good!!

The farm is getting ready for the big festival weekend, too . . . they have plenty of grapes ready to sell!

Ready for the grape festival!

That was a fun experience . . . our first time picking our own grapes!  I am definitely in grape heaven!