Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Great Outdoors

I decided a while back to take Columbus Day off of work.  Jacob was off from school, of course, and Carter's daycare is closed on that day for staff development, so I knew that one way or another I would have two kids with nowhere to go.  I had plenty of vacation days, so it seemed like a good idea to use one then.  It turned out that Craig got the day off, so in the end it probably wasn't essential, but it was a nice excuse to have a fun family day together.  Add in the fact that Craig is getting knee surgery tomorrow and the weather yesterday was in the upper 70s, and it seemed like we really needed to make the most of the day.

Every fall I have it in the back of my mind that I want to go to Letchworth State Park.  I remember going there a couple times as a kid, and a couple more times in college, since it's practically down the road from my alma mater.  I also visited quite a few years ago (2006, maybe?) for their annual craft show, which is giant and also happened to fall over the three-day weekend this year.  Letchworth is considered the "Grand Canyon of the East", and was recently voted the #1 State Park in the country.  I think all of the Letchworth enthusiasts rocked the vote a bit, because I'm sure there is some pretty stiff competition out there, but it is a pretty amazing place.  I've never really explored a whole lot--mostly I've gone wherever my friends wanted to go, looked out from a couple spots, and moved along--but I've always wanted to go and do some exploring when the leaves were changing.  Usually schedules and weather put the kibbosh on those plans, but when I saw the forecast for Monday, I decided I really wanted to make this work!

As usual we were a little slow getting moving yesterday, and I was getting a lot of pushback from Jacob, who just wanted to stay home and hang out.  However, I knew that a day like that would involve a lot of bickering between the kids, and I just felt like I'd spend too much time trying to get things done around the house, rather than hang out with my family and enjoy the weather.  So, after lunch we loaded in the car and I prayed that Carter would catch a nap during the hour drive.  Both boys slept, actually, and after a long but lovely drive, we got to exploring.  Of course, we had to be a little cautious with exploration, with a clumsy two-year-old and Craig being a little cautious with his knee.  Still, we managed to see plenty!

This was part of our first stop.  The first picture is the view to the left, where you can see the Genesee River in between the trees down below as the gorge bends, and the second is off to the right.  The river is a bit in the shadows.  The colors were pretty, but are a couple weeks behind at this point.  On the bright side, there aren't as many bare trees as you get when some of the colors hit peak.


The boys probably weren't as impressed as I would have liked, but I think they thought it was at least a little cool.

We moved along to another stop near the Lower Falls, but that one had a long, uneven stairway down to a prime view of the falls.  Carter was drawn to a nearby playground, so Craig stayed with the boys while I ventured down.  I'm glad I did.

There was a separate rock formation off the path that would have given me another view of the waterfall, but I liked the view from the other end just as much.
Our next stop was a place called Inspiration Point.  Even the short walk to the edge was pretty...

And yes, it was inspiring.  The Middle Falls are straight ahead, and the Upper Falls are the other white spot in the distance. 

Above the Upper Falls is a railroad bridge.  There happened to be a train crossing as we stood there.

Here's a slightly closer view...

And this was me playing with my camera settings.  I put it on the vivid color to see if it better captured the leaves.  The sun was so bright that it was washing things out a bit, but I do feel like it felt a little closer to this.  Maybe somewhere between the picture above and the picture below...
 
Craig got this picture of Jacob, and it encompasses pretty much every place we've ever gone with Jacob where they have the pay-per-view binoculars.  Keep in mind that we refuse to pay for them because they're not worth it and he's not tall enough yet...but he does this anyway...
 

We checked out the Middle Falls near the famous Glen Iris Inn, and I loved it there because Carter could stand there himself without having to be held up to see the water.  He really seemed to like that one.

On the way back to the car from that stop, I couldn't help but take this picture.  I loved the colors of the flower and this one was just too perfect...

I knew there was a spot to get a great view of the Upper Falls, but we ended up overshooting it and almost needlessly walked down an absurd number of rustic stairs.  We stopped a couple flights down because I didn't remember doing that the last time I saw these falls in college.  Turns out one road we'd driven past was actually the spot to get this lovely view...

Of course, while we were at the wrong spot, we saw dozens of people going directly past the "No Trespassing" sign to go up on the bridge in the picture above.  I was up on that bridge when I was in college, though I swear at the time I must have been told the tracks were no longer in use.  Clearly, based on my picture above, they are very much in use and it scared me a bit that people (and kids!) were going up there, climbing under the fence, and taking pictures.  The view is absolutely stunning, though...
This is a scanned picture from college.  You can see the Upper Falls directly below, and the Middle Falls further up where the white water disappears.  Pretty amazing, huh?

...but YIKES.  Given the number of people that I saw going into places that were marked as dangerous and not for public access yesterday, I'm surprised there aren't more people that end up dead in the park.  Once in a while you hear of one, but I'm shocked there aren't more.  And these rule-breakers aren't fancy, well-equipped hiker types, either.  These are average Joes out for a day with their family.  It's crazy.  I'm all for a good shot, too, but geez...is it worth risking your safety?

Anyway, I just love how there are so many nooks and crannies in the Upper Falls.  Even the trickles off to the side are so pretty.

We had promised the boys that we'd find a good spot somewhere in the park to play lacrosse for a bit, and we decided this was the stop for it.  While they played, I took a quick walk a little further away from the falls because I could tell there was some gorgeous stuff happening with the rapidly setting sun.  I just loved the golden glow of the trees and how it reflected on the river.

When I headed back, I caught Jacob playing goal in front of this picnic table.  Pretty good spot, actually!  Carter was taking shots on him.  I have some video of this, too, and I will do a video post soon!

Jacob then took some shots on Craig, and even though this shot was blurry, I loved how Jacob looked mid-shot.  The ball is on Craig's knee (and yes, it happens to be the knee that's getting operated on).

Carter got a little cranky at one point and went off by himself to play with pine needles.  He wasn't happy I was trying to take his picture, but he always looks cute, so...

Craig took this picture at the end of the lacrosse game, and this pretty much encompasses how our day went...
Head to toe chaos!

After we wrapped up the lacrosse game, we started making the long drive out of the park.  We came in one entrance but left at the other end.  It is a really long park!  We made one more stop on our way out, this time at the Mount Morris Dam overlook.  I remember being here a few times.  I remember one trip in particular, a spur-of-the-moment Sunday evening drive during my first semester of college.  One of our good friends interrupted our usual Sunday night studying and we just hopped in the car and went!  We looked at the dam, drove through a bit, and then had to head home because it got dark, but it was fun!

It also happened to be getting dark last night when we got there, but I wanted Jacob to see the dam so we could teach him about what it does.  There was an amazing picture of the dam from during Hurricane Agnes in 1972, where the water was only a little bit from the top on the one side--more than 700 feet high, I think.  Yesterday that same side was just muddy, almost completely dry.
 
You can see that there was some pretty color on the other side.
 
One of the things we noticed earlier in the day was a giant flock of birds flying around.  We guessed correctly that they were turkey vultures, which was ironic since a turkey vulture was the latest addition to Jacob's stuffed animal collection (no matter how we try to stop it from growing, it keeps happening).  When we were at the dam, the honking of Canadian geese constantly echoed through the gorge.  I caught this pretty shot right before we left...
 
The quality of this shot isn't great because there wasn't much lighting, but I thought it looked a little like an oil painting or something...
 
We stopped at our favorite gluten-free place for a pizza and our free dozen cookies that we won a few weeks ago, since it was along the way home.  In the end it turned out to be a pretty full day, and while I'm sure the boys might have liked a little more freedom, I think it was one of those family adventures that needed to be taken on such a rare, gorgeous, fall day.  And now I know a little better what we need to explore next time.  And yes, one way or another there will be a next time!

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