Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No, We Haven't Disappeared!

Funny thing about going home again...can you really go home again? It's still our house (until the closing anyway), but it doesn't FEEL like our house. Packed up, boxes everywhere. What is amazing to me is the FREE thing; not enough stuff for a yard sale, but some stuff we don't want to take south is too good to simply throw away. So you put it at the end of the driveway with a giant orange FREE sign. And it disappears by the end of the day! Amazing. Well, at least its going to be useful to someone else. Mentally, I'm moving on. I will return for visits as I still have siblings here, but won't be staying in this driveway again. Sad. Moving on.

Keeping pretty busy here. Lots of appointments with doctors, financial people. Our lawyers are friends, more like a visit than business. Have to take care of the closing paperwork as it will take place after we're gone. Al has been busy everyday, seeing friends, ambulance members, fishing, golf. His first sea bass he caught made him realize why fresh water fishing hasn't clicked with him yet! I must get him fly-fishing lessons and a guide while in Colorado. He'll enjoy it much more once he knows what he's doing :-).

Most everything in the house is ready for the movers except for the daily necessities. They come on October 13, and then we all head out together (Al and I, his mom, sister and our friend Patti) on October 14 to go to Virginia Beach. Al has family there that we'll visit until the 19th. Then the ladies head towards Homosassa Florida, while we go over to Campbellsville Kentucky. We start our jobs at Amazon on the 23rd. Should be interesting.

Meanwhile, we continue to visit and spend time with family. Wish the weather would clear a bit, seems like its cloudy and raining all the time! Oh well. Good for cleaning. Also taking the time to clean out closets and cabinets here in the Cougar. Too many clothes.

I plan on taking some pictures here of our home area, as soon as the weather clears. It really is a beautiful area, and we will miss being so close to the ocean. But, there's a big country to see out there, and as long as we have the will and the means, we'll keep on traveling!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday was our last day in the Finger Lakes, and not having any specific game plan, we decided to go for a drive and see what we could find. We knew the historic town of Seneca Falls was a few miles north of us, so we headed in that direction. Seneca Falls is important to this area for two specific reasons: it was the setting for the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848, and was also important in the development of transportation and water-powered industry. I thought it would be interesting to wander around the area and visit the various exhibits. However....

We became distracted by signs for the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. We decided to stop off there, see if there were trails we could walk with the dogs. Most of the time, NWR's are NOT dog-friendly, but this one was! How nice is that? There were several different trails we could choose from, as well as a driving tour through the refuge. We ended up spending the whole afternoon there. It was really very nice.

Off we go!

I don't think you can go anywhere without seeing Canadian Geese and Seagulls

This is The Bargeway, a part of the Seneca-Cayuga canal connecting the two lakes

first signs of fall

Sure enough, here comes a barge pulling some construction equipment

Still plenty of wildflowers blooming

A beautiful hawk flying across a field

Heron fishing

These birds flew in as a group in front of us, I thought they looked kind of neat. 

The obligatory group of heron and egrets

Headed down a second trail. The Orchard Trail, around the pond, and return on the Ridge Trail. LOTS of mosquitoes, thank goodness for OFF!

Views of the pond

More wildflowers, and bright red berries...I would have thought there would be some kinds of birds gathering these

Find a good patch of grass, and life is good!

A new life bird for us; the juvenile female wood duck. I never saw a duck sit in a bush before :-0. Guess she wanted to check us out a bit closer.

We stopped at one of the Amish Farm stores on the way back to the campground and picked up a few necessities: noodles, bacon, jelly (mixed berry oh my is it good!) and cinnamon rolls. :-). I love going through areas with good food :-).

Thursday was moving day. We departed the Finger Lakes, and headed towards Cooperstown, New York. Al wanted to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum so long as we were going by. We'll be here in Hartwick, NY at Hartwick Highlands Campground. Its very nice here, and very quiet as well! And cold!! It was raining when we got up in the morning, but as it was just a short ride we waited until the storm clouds passed by, and managed to get hitched and on the road without getting too wet. But the cold front came through, and it never got out of the low 50's all day. Today, Friday, was a bit better, sunny and in the high 50's, but we have a (shudder) frost advisory tonight!! This is abnormal, but really, to go from air-conditioning to needing the heat on?? Seriously?? 

Al visited the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum this morning, and found it quite interesting. I couldn't find kennel facilities nearby, so I stayed back at the campground with the pups and baked a peach crisp with some fresh farm peaches ;-). After lunch we all headed out to Glimmerglass State Park for a walk. "Glimmerglass refers to Otsego Lake, which is the Glimmerglass of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. It took a bit longer than anticipated to reach the park, however, as the road leading to it from the south has been washed out in the last two storms that have gone through the area, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. So we had to backtrack, and go around the west side of the lake and come in from the north. Its a really beautiful park, and has a lovely campground, if you don't mind boondocking. We drove around the campground to see if we could have fit in any of the sites, and there were some. We'll have to keep it in mind for the future. While here, we walked the Sleeping Lion trail, which, although only 2 miles long, was a butt-kicker in elevation change! My legs are some tired today, but I'm glad we did it. I need to do more of that to get ready for Colorado next summer!

We're not sure what is on the agenda tomorrow. There's a Harvest Festival at the Farmer's Museum, so I think we'll check that out. Hopefully the dogs can walk around with us. We'll also be getting everything ready for an early departure on Sunday morning, as we head back to the Harbor to see family and friends after 6 months on the road :-). It'll also be the last time we visit as New York homeowners and residents. But not the last time we visit!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Watkins Glen State Park, New York

I can't believe that I have lived in New York my entire life (until now!) and I have never been here before. It's beautiful! It is definitely worth the ride from wherever you are. It's that awesome.

The Finger Lakes overall was a beautiful area to spend a few days. We stayed at a campground in between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. The farmland and vineyards were delightful. If interested, a history and geology of the Finger Lakes can be found here. Today's post is mostly pictures, and even they don't do justice to the beauty of Watkins Glen.

Many know of Watkins Glen New York as a NASCAR racing destination, but a short distance below Seneca Lake is Watkins Glen State Park, which features a spectacular narrow gorge where you can hike alongside Glen Creek past deep pools, water-sculpted rock and nineteen total waterfalls. The gorge was first opened to the public in 1863 by Morvalden Ellis, a journalist from Elmira. It was privately owned and operated as a tourist resort until it was purchased by New York State in 1906. Tunnels were dug, and sturdy concrete walkways and railings were installed through the gorge, but most were destroyed in a disasterous flood in 1935. After the flood, the Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the walkways,  constructing beautiful stone stairs, bridges and walls designed to blend in and harmonize with the natural beauty of the area.

There are three trails in the park: the Gorge Trail ( the main attraction, and of course the one that we could not walk the dogs on), the Indian Trail and the South Rim Trail. We developed a game plan: we would both walk the Indian Trail with the dogs to the end. Then Al would walk back on the Gorge Trail, while I walked them back to the truck. We then had some lunch, and drove up to the north entrance, where I then walked back down the Gorge Trail and met them at the entrance. BIG TIP: If at all possible, this is the much easier way to walk the Gorge Trail. Its 3/4 of a mile long, and encompasses a total of 800 stairs steps. All uphill from the entrance. And if you want to go up to use the facilities at the north entrance, "Jacob's Ladder" staircase awaits you at the end:
This is about halfway down, and note the hairpin turn as they keep ascending up. It's a long long climb!Anyway, on to the pictures. They don't do it justice whatsoever, but we did the best we could.

Our first view from Indian Trail. This is on the suspension bridge 85 feet above the creek.

The unassuming head of the creek

You walk down a spiral staircase from above this waterfall, and then walk behind it to the other side. It's really cool.

I noticed this pattern made by the action of the water...I thought it was really neat, and would like to know...what do you see??


Rainbow Falls

Lord of the Rings fans...doesn't this look like a scene right out of Rivendell?

The Narrows

The Gorge narrows a lot here, and the force of the water coming through the small space is amazing, it almost seems to be spiraling downwards

Close-up of the spiral motion

The entrance falls, if you start at the Gorge Entrance, rather than the back as we did!

A short video of different sections of the Gorge

It was an amazing place, and even with the crowds of people there, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It is easily in the top walks we have done so far...and was basically in our "backyard" all the time!

If you would like to see all our pictures from this day, I have them posted here at my Flickr account. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Taughannock State Park

Yesterday we set off towards Taughannock State Park, about 12 miles south of here. It was cloudy to start, but turned into a bright sunny day in the 70's, perfect for doing some hiking. Taughannock Falls, the centerpiece of the park, is the highest vertical single-drop falls east of the Rockies in the United States. Falling 215 feet in a single drop, it is actually 30 feet higher than Niagara Falls....the difference is in the amount of water!

Water, in the form of glaciers, covered New York state several times, dramatically transforming the land in its path. When the last glacier receded north over 10,000 years ago, the steep sided troughs that were left were filled with water, creating the 11 Finger Lakes, including Cayuga Lake. We are camped right near Lake Cayuga, and the state park is bordered on it's east side by the lake. Taughannock Creek, which starts to the west of us, pours down Cayuga Lake's glacially-steepened hillside, cutting away its soft sedimentary rock. This on-going process has formed the 3/4 mile, 400 foot deep gorge and the spectacular falls.

Our first task at hand after finding parking, was to find the trail head for the rim hike. We decided we were going to walk completely around the gorge, starting at the South Rim trail, crossing over the creek at the top of the falls, and heading back down the North Rim trail back to the parking lot. It was about a 3 1/2 mile loop hike. I packed the water bottles and dog bowl, and off we went.

Steep trek uphill to start, but remember, we did have to get UP 400 feet to the top of the gorge! I didn't think the stairs would ever end!

View of Taughannock Creek from the top. You couldn't really see the falls from the South Rim, just a peek; but you could hear them!

View up the gorge from the midpoint. Its higher than it looks in the photo, there's nothing in there to give any perspective

As we came back down the North Rim side, there's an overlook with a full view of the Falls. If you aren't able to hike to it, there is a drive-in to this overlook.

Taughannock Creek runs under HWY 89 and empties into Lake Cayuga

By stopping in several spots, taking pictures and taking our time, it took us about 2 hours to do this walk. We don't like to rush :-). I heard a pileated woodpecker calling in the area, and a hawk screeching on the north side, but never saw either one. It was now time for lunch, and as we hadn't any sandwich material left, we drove down HWY 89 to a small roadside cafe we saw, The Creamery. They had sandwiches, burgers, etc for lunch, as well as tons of ice cream! Lunch was great, as was the ice cream, and we'll be stopping back for some home-made ice cream sandwiches for the freezer :-).

Back at the park, we set out on the Gorge Trail, to walk to the foot of the falls for some pictures. Chelsea looked at us like we were crazy as we got ready; I think one hike a day is good for her :-).

Headed down the Gorge Trail. This is an easy, level 1 1/2 mile round trip walk to the base of the falls. No climbing!

The Lower Falls

Close-up of the blocky ledges making up the lower falls. This is all natural, not man-made

Taughannock Creek, below the main Falls area. See how shallow the creek is as it runs over the bed?

In fact, half of the creek bed isn't even covered by water. I found this so interesting, especially after all the rain the area has seen the past month. The storms are one reason why the falls are so impressive right now. Many times, during a dry summer, the falls and creek are nothing but a trickle.

Chelsea and Casey cooling off in the creek

Finally...Taughannock Falls at the base. If you can see the V-shape at the top of the falls, that was formed by a huge rock falling out of the top of the falls several years ago. Erosion at work.

A little perspective...and yes, I'm really here, here's my picture again :-)

One last picture of the falls

View up the gorge wall...that's a long way up!

Heading back out of the Gorge

The park also has a campground (I had checked, we wouldn't fit so we couldn't camp here), beachfront on the lake, a small marina and boat launch area, several picnic and playground areas, and fishing piers. Its a really beautiful park and well worth a day trip to come and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. 

Grocery shopping and laundry awaited our return, so that's it for yesterday. Today we are heading to Watkins Glen State Park for some more adventures. If Chelsea will get off the couch, that is :-). Have a great day!