Mention Watkins Glen to most people, and they will think of auto racing. But some of us know what Watkins Glen is really all about.
Watkins Glen is a village, and a state park, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, right at the bottom of Seneca Lake. As a kid, I camped there with my family. Glen Creek runs through the park, and has cut a stunning one-and-a-half mile gorge full of waterfalls and wonder. I don't know how many times we visited, but the last time had to be sometime before 1965, so I was pretty young. I remembered that I loved it, though, and went back in about 1983 on my own for a brief walk-through on my way between a family wedding and an old-friend reunion.
800+ steps carved into the stone.
Since we moved back east in 2007, I've been thinking about the glen off and on. I wanted to go back! But our time was so limited during those seminary years. I despaired of showing my own kids this favorite childhood place. But we were given a gift of time, and found 3 days for vacation. Only 3 days! But enough time to drive the four hours north.
View of the creek from above.
I haven't lived in New York since I was a little girl and certainly don't think of New York as home anymore. Yet as we approached the border I felt this odd sense of coming home. I was so excited to be in New York State again. I was ready to motor right on up to the Glen and get on the trail through the gorge. But we had decided to stop in Corning at the Corning Museum of Glass. That was interesting and enjoyable, but I was restless. I wanted to get moving!
There are 3 falls you can walk behind.
By the time we reached the village of Watkins Glen, everyone was tired and hungry. We went to our motel, rested a minute and then went to find dinner. By the time that was done, it was near dark and too late to go to the park. Our motel was just across the street from one of the entrances, but... I had to wait.
The Suspension Bridge, 85 feet above the creek. One year, flood waters came within 5 feet of the bridge.
The next morning I woke up early, way too early. Thunder! The forecast had mentioned the threat of rain, but not till the afternoon. We thought we had the morning for our hike. Once again I felt restless and couldn't go back to sleep. Finally I got up and dressed as quietly as I could. The rain had stopped. I slipped out the door and walked across the street to the park. I didn't really want to get into the gorge till I had my family with me. I just wandered a little bit and stood over the creek on the suspension bridge. That is above the gorge trail, so technically I wasn't on it. Finally I felt as if I could breathe. I was home!
When I got back to the motel, people were starting to move. I tried not to be impatient and hustle them too much. I endured breakfast at Burger King and then we were off. Rather than walking to the entrance close to the motel, we drove to the main gate. I didn't want to start the trail in the middle. Though I don't have a good picture of it, there is a tunnel through the stone to begin the trail. I wanted my family to experience the Glen that way.
They were as enchanted with the Glen as I was. Who wouldn't be? It is a truly magical place.
We spent the morning hiking, then went off to spend the afternoon on other adventures. But this morning, the last day of our trip, Eleanor and I got up early and slipped out together. We went to the playground and checked out the lily pond. We also looked at the pool and made our plan for the day...
Was the pool there when I visited as a kid? I don't know. If there was one, it wasn't this huge beauty of a pool. Before we hit the road to come home, we stopped in for a couple of hours of swimming.
We did do some other fun things on this short trip, but the visit to the Glen was the highlight for me. I don't know if I'll ever go back. If I don't I hope my kids will. And their kids, and their kids...
Some Watkins Glen linkage for you:
Slide show of the gorge and park information from nyfalls.com
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preseveration