Friday, November 8, 2013

When In Doubt...New York Part 1

How we initially ended up camping in upstate New York is a bit blurry to me now, but I know it had to do with Finnley. Finnley and his after the fact desire to see the New York mountains and his claims that we had previously talked about it. I also know it had something to do with being near, yet not near enough for my liking, to Niagara Falls. Regardless, it turned out to be one of the most challenging and unique experiences on this trip yet and I fought it the whole way. 

From Maine it was going to be a quite a drive so we ended up having to spend the night in an Econolodge in Westfield Massachusetts. The highlight of the first half of the drive was a stop we made in Hudson, Massachusetts at a grocery store called Market Basket. I understand the average person wouldn’t think much of their grocery store, but that’s probably because they haven’t been to a Market Basket. Now I’ve always been partial to Publix, but Publix has nothing on this store. It’s not only a clean grocery store, they also have a cafe, they can make custom sushi, pizza, ect. It’s like a Sam’s Club that you don’t need a membership for. I always ask Finnley if he misses Market Basket because I miss it. 

A couple hours later when it got too dark to focus on driving we stopped at the Econolodge. I’ve never stayed at a motel before so I was kind of weirded out about it and it didn’t help that it cost almost as much as a nice hotel. It wasn’t any form of a bargain, but I think it was probably because it was a Friday night. When we got in the room it wasn’t the most horrible thing ever, there weren’t any bugs and it didn’t smell that bad. It just seemed old and unkempt. At that point it was better than sleeping in the car in the cold so we just settled in and went to bed hoping to get an early start the next morning. We did end up waking up early enough and got our continental breakfast i.e. english muffin and juice. 

We finally set off for Allegany State Park in Salamanca, New York. It was cloudy weather most of the drive, which put me in a even more gloomy mood than I was already in. For some reason I wasn’t looking forward to going to this place. I think it was because I was sick of going to places that weren’t the main stops that we originally planned. Not to mention it was going to be a cold couple of nights in a tent. At one point during the drive we were on a road that had major deer problems. There were so many hit deer on the side of the road we had to stop counting because it was getting scary. 

Our arrival was later than planned so we had to rush and set the camp up before nightfall. We planned on staying three nights, but only booked two just in case weather turned bad or whatever else. Maybe mostly because I only wanted to stay two nights. The first night went smoothly enough. After we set up camp which was kind of a hassle because we kept braking stakes due to the rushing and whatnot, we made some dinner and tried to relax. The night however turned out to be very uncomfortable for me. It was so cold my feet couldn’t warm up no matter what I did. I literally wore my dads down jacket, long johns, sweat pants, and a fleece jacket to bed in a 40 degree sleeping bag with a fleece blanket and still my feet felt like they were in a tub of ice water and cubes.

The second day we had to wake up early to go to Niagara Falls since it was an hour drive there. The drive wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually a nice change going through a city. At one point Finnley and I smelled chicken and Finnley suggested that Tyson was somewhere near. We didn’t however realize that the Tyson Factory was right there until we were on our way back. When we got to Niagara Falls it was mighty cold and windy, but there was cool things to see all over. We had a nice walk through the park, which was more theme parky than I expected. We arrived at the lookout point of the smaller falls first, but were unaware of that and thought it was the big one. For a minute we stood there slightly disappointed at the smaller size until we looked behind us. 

That’s when we noticed down the way was the larger horseshoe falls. After taking a few pictures of the smaller falls we hurried over. The mist started to hit us from pretty far away. We got our cameras out and started taking pictures. Now this was what I was waiting for. The droning majesty of this waterfall is everything I imagined. It makes you stop in time and just appreciate the power of nature. Even with all the gimmicks and people around, it still can’t take away from the power of this sight.

I have always wanted to go on the Maid of the Mist so that was our initial plan, but as we walked to the other side of the park where it was we were distracted by the Cave of the Mists attraction. It was cool because you get to go down to the bottom of the smaller falls and walk around, plus you get some goofy Niagara Falls sandals that Finnley and I wanted, so we ended up deciding to do that. We got our sandals, but decided to wear our hiking boots since they are supposed to perform well in wet conditions. To get to the falls you have to take an elevator 175 feet down into the ground. This takes you right next to one of the smaller falls. The Niagara staff builds and take down platforms that go throughout the falls every year due to ice that comes down the river during winter. 

They also give you ponchos to wear because the falls get you wet or very wet if you choose. Finnley and I walked up and down the platform taking pictures and getting sprinkled on a bit. Then we came to the main platform which they called the hurricane deck and that one is the closest to the water and you get very wet if you go on it. So of course Finnley and I had to check it out. We climbed up the stairwell, wind blaring, and took the plunge under the water. It was so cold, but refreshing and I could just feel the water break everywhere through my water resistant clothing and my shoes that were supposed to perform well were sloshing and soaking wet with water as were Finnley’s. No worries though, when we got out of there we felt more energized and invigorated than ever. 

After we took the elevator back up we walked to the car discussing whether or not we should also go on the Maid of the Mist. We both agreed that we were concerned with funds, but decided what the hell and walked over to where we could buy our tickets. We lined up and waited for the ferry to come back. When we boarded the boat we went up to the top floor and situated ourselves on the sides by the lifeboats because the front was taken. I thought it would be cool to use the GoPro for this one because not only would it be a cool video, but it is also water proof so I didn’t have to worry about breaking my cameras trying to get pictures.

It was a smooth ride for the most part and it is definitely the best view out of all the options. Once we got up to the horseshoe falls it got a little rocky and very wet, but it was fun. Luckily they gave us more ponchos because I had ripped my last one and this adventure was just as misty as the last. We also ended up meeting a very nice family on the boat who we talked to for a while. One of the most enjoyable parts of this trip is meeting all the different people from different places and realizing that the world is full of nice, relatable, and all around good people. There really isn’t as much to fear out there as some people assume. Granted there is of course the fair share of not so nice too, but it’s still good to know it’s not the majority. 

When we got off the boat there was yet again another little stairway that takes you close to a part of the falls. Yet again Finnley and I found it necessary to go and enjoy being doused in the water of the falls regardless of the cold wind and other elements that caused Finnley to feel like he was getting hypothermia minutes later. Still every minute was worth it. There’s just something about being under the plunging water of a waterfall. It’s the same feeling I felt before at Dunns River Falls in Jamaica when I was younger. I know magical sounds simple and possibly even juvenile so I’ll use the word my Non-Fiction professor used to describe my relationship with water from one of my stories: transcendent. 

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