Sept 8, 2016 Seneca Falls, NY

Thursday morning we left the Adirondacks and headed west to Seneca Falls, population 6,700. We thought it was going to be a short three night stop on our way to Niagara Falls without much to see or do. Boy were we wrong!!
We camped at Cayuga Lake State Park near beautiful Cayuga Lake, one of the longest of the Finger Lakes. During the past million years, glaciers covered New York state. As they moved through river valleys they carved deep troughs with steep sides. When the glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago, water filled these troughs, creating eleven Finger Lakes. Cayuga Lake is thirty-eight miles long and 435 feet deep at its deepest spot. Cayuga Lake is named after the Cayuga Indians, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois in New York.
I was looking through some literature about the area and came across Watkins Glen State Park about thirty minutes from our campground. I read that in 2015 it was voted the third most beautiful state park in the country in a USA Today poll. All the reviews I read talked about a gorgeous 1.5 mile (three miles roundtrip) hike with 832 steps and nineteen waterfalls. We both love waterfalls so even though the 832 steps seemed a bit daunting, we decided to give it a try.20160909_111629
20160909_093118We headed out early Friday morning. On the way to Watkins Glen we came across a plaque in the small town of Waterloo. We had no idea that Waterloo, NY was the official birthplace of Memorial Day, with the first ceremony held in 1866. Some of the interesting things we just happen to stumble across is amazing to us. 20160909_093044We drove beside Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes and the deepest lake in the state.
We didn’t realize that the town of Watkins Glen is renowned for auto racing and is considered the birthplace of American racing.   Since 1948 Watkins Gen has hosted international automobile car racing and in 2015 was voted the best NASCAR track in the country in a USA Today Reader’s Poll.  The town has an International Motor Racing Research Center with 5,000 square feet of racing history.  From April through September they host NASCAR sports car and racing events. This weekend was the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix and as we drove down Main Street they were getting ready to close off the street for a parade. To our dismay we discovered that even though the state park was open, the parking lot was closed. We asked where we could park and they said our only option was to find a parking lot or side street parking, which seemed highly unlikely on a parade day in a tiny town. Across the street from the park was a restaurant and Bill decided to go inside and ask if we could park in their restaurant parking lot for a few hours. I told him there was no way they would allow that on parade day. We pulled into the lot and I stayed with the car while he went inside to ask. He came back a few minutes later and said the owner said no problem and refused to take any money. Yeah!!
We grabbed our walking sticks and headed over to the entrance. We had an idea what was ahead when we saw a beautiful waterfall at the entrance. This park certainly lived up to its #3 best ranking. Everywhere we looked there was beauty. We were apprehensive about the steps but they were nice stone steps put in years ago by the CCC and easy to climb. I had worried they might be uneven and slick, but no problem. The hike on the Gorge Trail was not tiring at all because we were constantly stopping to gaze in wonder and awe at the beauty. We followed the gorge trail as it wound over and under waterfalls.20160909_11111420160909_11403320160909_11431820160909_11592220160909_12072320160909_12192020160909_12201920160909_12264920160909_11234620160909_135502
At the end we walked up the last of the stairs which were steel steps called “Jacob’s Ladder”. Once at the top we could either walk back down the 832 steps or take the easy “Indian Trail” back. We chose the easy hike and once we were back to the car we put our hiking gear away and decided to go into the restaurant for a late lunch. We thought it was a small way to thank them for letting us park in their lot. Bill had lunch and I had a big slice of fresh blueberry pie! On the way home we took a different route and followed Cayuga Lake seeing wineries along the lake.20160909_154053
20160910_14073820160910_142224On Saturday we decided to spend our last day in Seneca Falls exploring the small town and finding some geocaches. First we stopped by the town Visitors Center which had a fantastic museum detailing the history of the town. European settlers first moved to the area and began farming. In the 1820’s the construction of the Erie Canal changed Seneca Falls to an industrial and shipping center. We were surprised to see all the items designed and manufactured there from water pumps, TV picture tubes to wooden rulers.20160910_13314820160910_13425520160910_13505320160910_140408
20160910_150328Seneca Falls is the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement led by resident Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The first women’s rights convention was held here on July 19-20, 1848. Today there is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park, established in 1980, in the middle of town. We stopped by the park, saw a film and looked at the exhibits. Amelia Bloomer, for whom bloomers were named, lived in Seneca Falls. She didn’t invent bloomers but wore them and promoted them in magazines.20160910_15050020160910_150738
20160910_14312620160910_143112Our last stop of the day was at the “It’s a Wonderful Life” museum. In 1945 Frank Capra stopped by Seneca Falls to get a haircut on his way to visit his sister. It is said that he was so taken with the quaint little town that it was his inspiration for the fictional town of Bedford Falls in the famous Christmas movie. There are several similarities between Seneca Falls and the fictional Bedford Falls, including they are both mill towns, had a grassy median down Main Street, homes of Victorian architecture, a large Italian population and a toll bridge. The free museum opened in 2010 and is full of memorabilia from the film that fans have donated or loaned to the museum. We were the only visitors there when we stopped by and enjoyed talking with the guide who obviously loves the movie. He said he has lost track of the number of times he has seen it. Every year in December they celebrate with a parade and all sorts of events. This year will be a big celebration since it is the 70th anniversary of the movie.20160910_144641 20160910_14471220160910_14474820160910_142407The guide so enthusiastically described the upcoming celebration it almost made me want to brave the snow to attend. Almost, but not quite!
Yes, tiny Seneca Falls far exceeded our expectations. We could have stayed a couple more days but Niagara Falls was calling!

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