Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Finger Lakes on the Fourth

So, over the fourth of July weekend, we took off out of the city with our neighbors and we spent three days camping at the south end of Seneca Lake, the deepest of the Finger Lakes. Overall it was a fabulous weekend, with plenty of hanging out on the lake (horse balls and beers), good food, good wine, a solid, if unspectacular hike (it would have been a lot better if it had not been so hot/buggy or if the waterfalls had been running) and, most importantly, some of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever encountered. In the center of Watkins Glen, a small, tourist town at the south end of Seneca Lake, is Watkins Glen State Park, wherein a fabulous, paved trail winds its way around 19 gorgeous waterfalls ... which have cut their way down through hundreds of layers of rock creating an incredible, striated gorge which highlights the flowing water like nothing I have ever seen (you can see more pictures on my Facebook page). As you can see by the pictures, the running water and the shadows and sunlight mix to make up a really magical place.

But before I got to the waterfalls on the first evening at camp, we explored Cool-lea camp ... a nice, grassy parking lot of a camper area, with some wooded areas (one of which we camped in) by a smallish, algae-filled but pretty lake (Lake Cayuta). Just after we arrived, the neighbors got embroiled in a horse shoe competition and I headed out to see the falls. Dinner and drinking followed on my return, and afterward we enjoyed some local fireworks (which almost, but not quite, set the forest on fire).

The next day (the 4th)we spent the wine drinking good reisling and poor to average red wine at a variety of different wineries along the Eastern shore of Seneca lake. The area is known for its reislings, and we had a number of good ones, most memorably at Standing Stone vineyards, where the wonderful woman helping us taste was far and away the most pleasantly talkative person we met. She was also a great saleswoman (or it could be that that winery had the tastiest wines), because between the many tastes and the dips and spreads we were eating we ended up dropping a pretty penny for some excellent vidals, reislings and ice wines. All in all we hit I think five wineries before lunch, but Standing stone was definitely the most fun. After picking up lunches at Stonecat (catfish sandwich for me, quite good), we swam in Seneca lake, stopped back by Watkins glen and then enjoyed another excellent meal (burgers and chicken kebabs), before drinking our way late into the night. A fun and fabulous day, you can read more about some of the other wineries in this article my friend Ali wrote.

On the fifth, we got up relatively early, ate a quick breakfast and went out to a near-by hike ... which was nice but probably would have been a lot nicer if it had not been 97°C and really huid and buggy. And if the waterfall we were supposed to be hiking too had been running. Give huge props to everyone for sticking it out, because even though it was a pretty forest and a nice trail, it was a hot, tough day for that kind of exertion. I heard several "I cannot remember ever sweating this much" comments, and I have to say I was myself fairly disgusting. After the hike we rampaged an ice cream store and ate far too much (at least I did, the large was aggressively so) and then headed back to the lake, where everyone but Aviva and I relaxed and took a powder while we went back to see the waterfalls again. Still absolutely stunning. The last nights dinner was an excellent crab risotto Aviva masterminded, and then we turned in relatively early before heading back to the city. Great place, great food, great company ... fantastic weekend!!

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