Last week we took a short vacation-just 2 days!-and it was wonderful. We were booked for 2 nights at a hotel with an indoor waterpark and figured if nothing else it would be fun to stay in a hotel and just swim and swim. But of course we had to find more to do! A friend told us about beautiful Watkins Glen State Park, about 1 hour away from our destination. Although our trips are always fun and exciting with a big dash of serendipity and spontaneity, let me tell you how much they differ from what we plan. Here’s how I envisioned last Tuesday: 8:30-12:30 drive to Watkins Glen. Lunch up there. 1:30-2:30 visit state park. 2:30-3:30 drive to hotel. Check-in and be in pool by 4pm for rest of day. Here’s how it really went down. Although it seemed like we were leaving only 20 minutes later than planned, by the time we really were on the way, had stopped at Wawa, and got going it was 9:30am. When we got to Binghamton we thought we could duck into the city and find a place for a charming lunch. But first there was a bit of traffic, then we chose a poor exit (you are not finding a good lunch next to the bus station and stadium) and eventually we just left and got on the highway again. Then we were all very hungry and fortunately the next place we saw a sign for a was a diner that Paul remembered fondly from a meal there 15 years ago with his friend and friend’s parents, so we stopped. It was called the Blue Dolphin, which I found very funny in the middle of New York state. So diner lunch, then back on the road and finally at Watkins Glen at 3. We got a map, changed into sneakers, and in my finest moment of preparedness ever which I will undoubtedly brag about for the rest of my life, I put ponchos into my bag (it was thundering a bit.) We set off into the gorge. Because that’s what this state park is all about–an amazing gorge that you can hike through. It’s 1 1/2 miles from end to end. In the first mile you see 19 waterfalls! And there are something like 800 steps to climb. It was breathtaking.
Truly a magnificent work of nature. Everything made us exclaim, and Paul and I particularly couldn’t get over the beautiful smooth organic shapes that the force of water had created over thousands of years.
About 10 minutes into the walk a lady passed us quickly, saying, “there’s a storm coming.” And indeed it was a little more thundery and gray. And then it rained. A big summer downpour. We hid in one of the little overhangs/tunnels and decided to just keep going. I whipped out the ponchos to the awe and envy of all around us and we put them on and just marched along.
It rained the entire rest of the way, though letting up to a drizzle sometimes. We were pretty much the only ones on the path and I can’t tell you how proud I was of the kids for not whining or complaining, but just keeping going. And it was so worth. These waterfalls and rock formations were beautiful.
We got to the end, used the restrooms there, turned around and headed back-this time on a different trail that was mostly above the gorge.
By the time we got back to our car it was after 5:30. We toweled off, put our soaking wet shoes and socks into a bag, and were soon warm and cozy in the car heading to our hotel.
We arrived at 7:15 to find out -crimp in plans!-that the mid-week hours of the pool were only noon-8pm. Raced up to our room and into our suits and down to the….wave pool! I’ve never swum in a wave pool before and it’s my new favorite thing. All the fun of gentle ocean swells with none of the sand in your suit or sea creature worries. It was very nice and then we had a late dinner in the hotel restaurant. Our room was charming and had a fireplace that we kept going to dry our things. In the morning we followed directions and drove through the adjacent state forest to get to a town that had a Tim Horton’s. to our delight and surprise it turned out to be the same one we had stopped at on our way to Syracuse in June! So we had a happy Tim Horton’s breakfast and then found 5 geocaches, which included a nice playground where the kids played for a while. We picked up sandwiches at a local dairy/deli, as well as some of their own ice cream to bring back our room, since we had a kitchen in it. we cleverly ate lunch in the room and then went down to the pools shortly after they opened. The pools included the wave pool, an outdoor pool, an indoor/outdoor hot tub, indoor slides for kids, a big water tower and some tiny slides, and a couple of big slides that grown ups could go on, too. I refused to go on the big spiral slide that you had to lie down in, but the slide that you sat on a tube in was loads of fun.
We did it all for many hours before taking a break for the arcade and a trip into town to eat a burrito at a local Mexican place. Then we headed back for evening swimming until it closed. Back in the room it was ice cream and games before bed. It really was a lot of fun and we all had such a good time. The next day we pretty much just headed home. It was a really nice getaway!