From Niagara to the Saint Lawrence Seaway

We had a great stay in the Niagara area, but there are thousands more places to see and we are in the travel mode. So, off to the east we have headed to visit another friend and a cousin of Connie’s.

Our next stop was in the Finger Lake region of northern New York. We camped just north of Geneva, New York which made it fairly handy for us to visit the folks we wanted to see in the area and also do some exploring. As a secondary benefit, the campground was located near a very wide two lane road with no real steep hills for me to run on. Having said that, the heat and humidity made those run days seem never ending.

We arrived early in the afternoon, so once we got settled I went out for a ten mile run. As I was returning, Connie was on her way to a wine tasting at the RV park sponsored by one of the many and I do mean many wineries in the area. While I was cooling, stretching and showering Connie was tasting and buying some pretty neat wines. When we talked about her experience we decided we needed to sneak in a day of winery visits. There will be more on that part of the story later.
From our campground we were only an hour or so from Cornell University and more importantly the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. One of the Loons and Larks, the group I write so much about, is an employee of Cornell University and she agreed to meet us at the Lab one morning for a look around the visitor center and some hiking along the trails within Sapsucker Woods. We had never met Connie before, but she had no trouble recognizing us and when she got out of her car I knew immediately she was who we were looking for. After a short walk around the visitor center and a bit longer time watching a video describing how personnel from the Lab have gathered vocalizations of rare arctic birds on tape and a few minutes in a sound lab listening to some of the recordings we struck out for a mid-day walk through Sapsucker Woods. Our hike netted us some fifteen species with no rarities spotted. However, of more importance we spent that time getting to know Connie and she us. It was really a wonderful time on a beautiful albeit hot and humid day. After completing the circuit we all struck off to get some lunch at a nearby restaurant which came highly recommended by our new friend, Connie. She was absolutely correct! We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the patio where we were treated to a wonderful view of the southern tip of Cayuga Lake on the outskirts of Ithaca.
Following lunch we headed north to Taughannock Falls State Park. The three of us hiked up to the base of the falls. We were only three of several hundred people wanting to see the same sight. Along the way we saw a lot of people beating the heat by soaking in the lower falls area where the water drops only a few feet making it a great place for the young and the young at heart to cool off and have some fun. As we got to the bridge just below the falls Connie was dismayed at the relatively small amount of water flowing over the brink. Connie (my Connie) and I were none the less very impressed. I took some photos that are in the web album linked below. Judging by the width of the once wetted rock it is quite obvious that the water flow is much reduced from the normal. This part of New York has had a pretty dry spring and early summer, so it is no big surprise that the flow is low. We walked back to the parking lot and then drove a bit further up the road to a higher location where we got a completely different view of the falls. From the higher vantage point we were also further away from the falls making the panoramic view much more dramatic. I captured a good image from this location as well.
As it was getting late we said our goodbyes to Connie before she drove south back to Ithaca and we drove to the northwest and back to the Geneva area. It was a great day and we got to have another face to face meeting with another of the Loons. This summer is turning out to be a lake and Loons tour summer.

After my run the next morning we struck out to visit some wineries. It seems that in New York they do wine tastings a little differently than in California. Our first stop was at the Montezuma Winery and Distillery. This was the winery that came to the RV Park for a sample tasting. For a dollar each we were treated to something like eight different wines. We tried to not sample the same ones, so we effectively doubled what we tasted. Well, that takes some time. We must have been at Montezuma for nearly two hours. By the time we left we were already looking for lunch. We wound up driving nearly the entire length of Seneca Lake to our second stop, Wagner Winery in Lodi, New York. We picked Wagner because they advertise a restaurant. We were not disappointed in our choice. The back deck of the restaurant looked out over the vineyards and down to the lake. Even though it was quite warm, the breeze kept us comfortable enough to enjoy the scenery while enjoying an absolutely delightful lunch. We lingered over lunch a bit and then went over to the winery for some tasting. We spent a good while there tasting several more wines. Although we liked several we purchased none.

By now it was late in the afternoon, so we simply drove up the west side of the lake to return to our campground via Geneva. Later we headed back to Geneva for dinner and a driving tour of the city. So, our wine tasting tour of the area was long on hours, but really quite short on wineries. We did however, enjoy the day and I didn’t have to worry about driving impaired.

The next day we headed to Syracuse, New York to visit Connie’s cousin Sally. Sally is retired from Syracuse University where she had a long and successful career. In her late years at the University she was teaching computer stuff to young folks who thought they already knew everything there is to know about computers. Of course she made sure to introduce them to things very early on they had no idea about. I had only once before met Sally, back in the mid-nineties when Connie and I lived in the Northern Virginia. We had a mini family reunion for Connie’s family and Sally honored us by attending. It was therefore wonderful for me to have an opportunity to get to know Sally a little better. My only regret is that we were not able have this visit much earlier and then repeated frequently. Sally and I live on the same page.

We spent the afternoon at Sally’s house, then went to dinner at one of her favorite local restaurants where we enjoyed an outstanding dinner, some good wine and of course much more great conversation. After dinner we went back to Sally’s for a bit longer then Connie and returned to Geneva.

On our last day in the area we drove the short distance to Seneca Falls, New York, the home of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. We have visited a lot of parks and museums and this one compares favorably to the best of them. I was absolutely absorbed by the exhibit and the history it represents. I also fell in love with the town of Seneca Falls. In some ways it is frozen in time dating back to 1848 when some 300 women and men gathered in the Wesleyan Chapel in the first Women’s Rights Convention. The main street is populated with old buildings now housing the fourth or fifth business since being built. Even the Wesleyan Chapel has been transformed over the years even serving as a laundry at one point. The building is currently being restored as a chapel, although there are no records to show how it really looked in 1848.

That first Women’s Rights Convention was held on 19 and 20 July in 1848. This past weekend the 2010 edition of the convention was held in Seneca Falls. I would have liked to have been there for it. I suspect the dynamics have changed a good bit since 1848. The following link will take you to the official web site for the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.

The next day found us on the road again. And for the third or fourth travel day in a row we didn’t make it much further than 150 miles before arriving at our next stop, Clayton, New York. Clayton is situated on the St. Lawrence Seaway. From our base at Clayton we would be able to take a day trip along the seaway and learn a little about its history and about how people in the area live now.

I have to make a comment about the RV Park we stayed in outside Clayton. You have to understand that RV Parks in this part of the country are really fairly widespread. Most have developed a seasonal clientele leaving very few spaces for people traveling through the area. Since there are so few available spaces and given that the season is so short, these small family operators tend to charge a lot for those limited daily rental spaces. We have come to understand this fact and learned to live with the reality. However, when we arrived at this campground, which I will not name here so as to not jeopardize their future business, we were really surprised to see the site that had been reserved for us. The park is part of a larger property that also has a motel and cabins with access to the river. Apparently the owners saw a need to have more spaces for recreational vehicles, so they put in two more electrical outlets, a shared sewer connection and a four-way splitter on a potable water spigot and just like that two more spaces had been created. The only down side to this plan was that the two sites are in the grass. One is on a rather severe side slope. That is it is severe for a large motorhome with about a foot difference in height from one side to the other of an axle. The other site is perpendicular to the first and much more level. However, the earth below the wheels was much softer than I really felt comfortable driving across. I was remembering back to last summer when we nearly got stuck in a friend’s yard in Montana. Anyway, after surveying the layout and discussing the safest way to get onto the site we decided against the recommendation of the manager, which was to drive through the not yet rented site with the severe slope while trying to make a hard left turn onto the soft surface probably guaranteeing a cabinet emptying event while possibly getting stuck. Instead, I made a three point turn below the office area and then drove back out to the highway and then cut across the side of the office building on the grass, testing it for softness as I went. Connie directed me into position and happily we only sunk into the turf about two inches. Nothing solid other than tires ever touched the ground. However, when we put down the levelers we pushed our blocks nearly three inches into the ground. That gave me a lot to think about the entire time we were there. I was not looking forward to driving out of this spot as I had to make a u-turn across the grass. To make matters worse we would get a couple of inches of rain in the area while we were there. More on the exit later.

Connie picked up a local newspaper while we were checking in and found that there was to be a 10K on our last day in the area. After we got settled in we drove to the town of St. Vincent to visit the Chamber of Commerce so I could enter the race. As it turned out this was to be the 30th annual running of this beautifully scenic road race. We chatted with the lady at the chamber and got a description of the route. On the way out we met a local business woman who as it turns out has two adult children living in Austin, Texas. She and her husband are thinking about getting an RV and spending their winters in Austin. She was delighted to learn that we had found a great RV resort in the area. Her limited research and that of her daughter’s had not produced any RV Parks close enough to make it worth the effort. She was pretty sure that she could be happy out near Lake Travis where we were this last winter. We exchanged e-mail addresses and we hope to maintain some sort of contact and maybe see her next winter in Texas.

With the race on Sunday, that left us with only Friday and Saturday to explore the area. We spent part of Friday restocking the pantry and refrigerator with a shopping trip to Fort Drum Army Base while it rained throughout the area. On Saturday we took a drive along the scenic by-way that parallels the St. Lawrence Seaway. We drove, stopping several times along the way, to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Visitor’s Center and the Eisenhower Lock outside Massena, New York. The Eisenhower Lock is one of fifteen locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Twenty-two million gallons of water are used during each transit to raise and lower ships more than 40 feet in less than ten minutes. Ships measuring up to 740 feet in length and a beam of up to 78 feet can transit the lock.

Having seen the St. Lawrence Seaway and having the opportunity to watch a ship get locked in and moved up river towards Lake Ontario, Connie and I have seen each of the major components of this incredible system of lakes, rivers, locks and ocean.
While we were able to watch a gasoline tanker transit the lock since the ship did have a flammable cargo on board we were not allowed to be on the observation deck during the transit. Therefore, the images we were able to capture are not the best. The link below takes you to an official web site for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. I have selected the page that is designed for students and educators. You can explore the site and learn much more about the entire system should you like to.

This section of the St. Lawrence Seaway is known for its 1000 islands. The truth is there are some 1800 islands, but the name 1000 Islands seems to have stuck. The islands were formed by glaciers scraping across the landscape hundreds of thousands of years ago. Many of the islands have homes or businesses while others are too small to support human inhabitation. However, this is the region where 1000 Island Salad Dressing was invented. It is the only geographic region in the world to have a salad dressing named for it. As the story goes, an innkeeper’s wife developed the dressing in the inn’s kitchen and named it for the region. The dressing was a success and it has been spread over salads around the world. How is that for doing my research? It took me days to get to the truth.

Well, the highlight for me during our time in the Clayton area was participating in the Tibbett’s Point 10K on our last day in the area. I was using this race as a tune-up and indicator of where to take my training program for the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. I wanted to do well, but more importantly, I needed to be around other runners to see how the interaction would affect my motivation and intensity. I won’t bore you with the dirty details, but I will say that when there were other runners around me I pushed harder with less perceived effort than while alone. That is a good thing. I will also share that I finished third in my age group. That was good and when considering that I am in the last year of a ten year age group, I would have to say I did pretty well. I did pick up a few things I need to work on for the fall, but that is okay. I need a goal to keep improving. My time for the 10K was not as good as I expected it to be. That is not good. I am not sure how much faster I can get between now and the end of October, but I really would like to trim several more seconds per mile from my current pace. We will see.
We spent the afternoon tasting wine and shopping in downtown Clayton, another very old downtown area with wonderfully preserved buildings. It was neat to see how the use of these buildings has transformed over the decades. Actually the wine tasting was done at a winery just down the road from where we were camped. We got to talking to the young woman who was conducting the tasting and we learned she is an Army wife. Her husband is in intelligence. As we talked we learned that they recently lived on post at FT. Huachuca in southeast Arizona. That is one of our favorite places to visit. It was fun talking to her and the wines were pretty good as well.

That night it rained and rained and rained some more. That made me even more nervous about our departure the following morning as I was certain the turf was just too soft for our 25 thousand pound motorhome. Connie and I decided not to hook-up the car to the motorhome until we were clear of the park so I wouldn’t be trying to drag the car at the same time I was trying to not get bogged down. Well, our underway started with a little backup maneuver that allowed me to dodge the ruts from the previous occupant of our site. Then I made a slow but continuous U-turn through the grass ending with an exit via the ditch off the shoulder of the road. I made a left turn onto the roadway and didn’t stop until I got to the location we had agreed to as our rendezvous point where we connected the car to the coach prior to continuing on to Lake Placid, New York.

The web album linked below should provide additional details of our adventures as well as some great scenery. Enjoy and stay tuned for the next edition from the Placid Lake area.

From Niagara to the St. Lawrence Seaway


Scroll to Top