Watkins Glen, New York, a community of about two thousand people, is at the base of Seneca Lake. The local Chamber of Commerce boasts of more than forty wineries, craft breweries and a distillery. They obviously are courting those who love alcohol (I couldn’t find a term for such a person that wasn’t pejorative — except for wine lovers. Can you suggest one?).
A couple we met while having dinner in Cortland, N.Y. recommended we visit Finger Lakes Distilling. We were interested in the distillery because it was said to create alcoholic products from things like apples, pears, berries and maple syrup (?) in addition to the normal, corn, barley, wheat and rye. We could see the still through a window in their shop, but tours were not offered and no effort was made to explain what we were seeing — perhaps under the assumption everyone knows how a still works.
Watkins Glen is possibly better known for auto racing. A high school friend and I were avid fans of Formula One Grand Prix racing and watched the race at the Watkins Glen, part of the world championship. But was a long time ago. Indeed, that race ceased being part of the championship series in the 1980s. Other major races continue today.
Our visit to the village was more vigorous than watching but less challenging than actually racing. We walked up through the glen from which the town derives its name.
Morvalden Ells opened this park on July fourth 1863 as a private enterprise. Now it is a state park. One walks along a stream through Watkins Glen. But it is no ordinary stream. In the course of two miles, it descends four hundred feet over nineteen waterfalls. Of three trails, the Gorge Trail near the water is the most scenic, passing by two hundred-foot cliffs.
Sometimes one can walk one way and take a shuttle bus from the other end of the trail back to your beginning point. The shuttle was not running when we were there or we would have been very tempted to take it back down — it’s not the distance, it is the 832 steps that gets to these old legs and knees. Alie went part way and waited for Michelle and I to return.
When starting at the bottom, one first passes through a tunnel hand-cut into the rock in the early 1900s.
Before long, we walked behind Cavern Cascade and then up a spiral staircase before continuing on.
If one stays on the Gorge Trail, one passes under a suspension bridge 85 feet above the water. During the flood of 1935, the water reached a point five feet below the bridge. Obviously it was a very damaging flood, and most of the stonework we saw was built after the flood.
One then passes through a narrow cool moist micro-climate like a forest where ferns and mosses thrive. That is followed by a wide area where the sun reaches down drying things out. It is another micro-climate with wildflowers, grasses and shrubs typical of a field.
Central Cascade, at over sixty feet, is the highest of the Glen’s 19 waterfalls.
We visited on an overcast day, but on a late sunny afternoon, the thin sheet of Rainbow Falls creates the rainbow its name suggests.
The 1.5 mile long trail is shorter than the meandering stream. We considered turning back when we reached “Mile Point Bridge.” Or we could have walked the rest of the way along the Indian Trial which is more sloping but has fewer steps. But the Gorge Trail’s last half mile seemed relatively level, and we wanted to walk the entire trail.
Did I mention our old legs and knees? Near the very end of the trail, that nice level walk finishes with the 180 steps on “Jacobs Ladder.” But we did it. How else could we say we walked the entire trail!
Click on photos to enlarge.