Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer 2017 - Part 5 - New York

August 6, 2017             I Can See Canada From Here!

We have been camping along the St. Lawrence River in what is known as The 1000 Islands Region of New York for the past three days. We plan to drive across into Ontario tomorrow so it is time to update this blog.

Since we left Johnstown about 10 days ago, we have found ourselves in familiar places from past travels. We spent a few days in the Allegheny National Forest and made sure to visit the Kinzua Sky Walk where a tornado came through in 2003 and toppled most of a 100 plus year old railroad viaduct. We were able to walk out onto the remaining and restored part of the bridge and look down at the valley below through one-inch thick glass at our feet. The Visitor Center has well-executed interactive displays. Allegheny NF is rumored to be the stomping grounds of Bigfoot. We didn't see him, but we did see three osprey on a nest near our campground.

       Kinzua  Sky Walk

looking down from the Sky Walk
Twisted support towers from the railroad bridge

looking down through the glass section

Hiking in Allegheny National Forest - Bigfoot's campsite?

Tree growing on top of rock outcrop - Allegheny NF

Before leaving NW Pennsylvania, we detoured a bit to find the oldest cache in Pennsylvania and make a visit to Titusville where the first oil well in the U.S. was dug in 1859, the Drake Well. On the grounds of the park, there is old drilling machinery that shows how the technology of the mid- 19th century looked and operated.

We moved north into New York State to wonderful Letchworth State Park for a return visit. We are usually up with the sun around 6:00 a.m. every day and have learned that we can avoid crowds of fellow tourists by getting out and about early in the day. This worked to our advantage when we arrived at the Lower Falls in the park by 7:30 and our truck was the only vehicle in the parking lot. We hiked down to the Falls and had the trail all to ourselves. Same with the Middle Falls – just us. (Note: The access to the Upper Falls is closed due to construction.) Much of the infrastructure in the park is the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps circa the 1930s. You can see CCC handiwork all over this country including many Texas state parks. They sure knew how to build things to last.

We have it all to ourselves!

Lower Falls and gorge

Middle Falls

Middle Falls rainbow

Hard to choose a parking spot

Genesee River, Letchworth State Park
Setting sun highlighting the wall of the Genesee River gorge

CCC Statue

We went to Buffalo, NY to the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site. Great exhibits and a tour of the house where TR took the Oath of Office after President McKinley's assassination. (We visited McKinley's tomb in Canton, Ohio a few weeks ago.)

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National  Historic Site, Buffalo

The room where TR was sworn in as President in 1901

Another National Park Service site we wanted to visit was Women's Right's National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY. Quite interesting to see what has changed over the years and what has not changed. I bought a t-shirt to recognize the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment coming up in three years. Seneca Falls is a very nice town and is thought to be the model for fictional Bedford Falls in the movie “It's A Wonderful Life.” We walked across the “George Bailey” Bridge in town and attended a live music concert in the evening in the town park.

The past three days have been spent retracing our steps from 2009 when we came to northern New York for our son, Joel's deployment ceremony at Fort Drum near Watertown. We revisited Tibbetts Point Lighthouse where the water from Lake Ontario begins its course in the St. Lawrence River.  This is where we said good-bye to Joel the day before he left for Iraq.  We passed through the village of Cape Vincent and recalled with amusement how we accidentally found ourselves driving the wrong way through the town's annual Pioneer Days parade in 2009.  It wasn't quite so amusing at the time it happened.

Joel walked on the St. Lawrence in Feb. 2009 - Alexandria Bay, NY

     Boldt Castle seen from the town of Alexandria Bay on the St. Lawrence.  We didn't take a boat   across to visit this time as we did with Joel, my sister and niece in 2009.  We saw July 4th fireworks from this location back then.

    If you have one of these air fresheners, check the label.  It was made in Watertown, NY.

     We visit public libraries all over in our travels.  This is "Tree of Knowledge" sculpture in front of the one in Clayton, NY.

We have experienced lots of cloudy, blustery weather with some heavy rain for the past two days, but were treated to a spectacular sunset last evening. The next two weeks should find us visiting Old Quebec City and the land of my ancestors along the St. Lawrence. We hope to drive all the way around the Gaspe Peninsula and down into New Brunswick. Stay tuned!

Sunset over Canada from Grass Point State Park, NY

Seen while geocaching:

abandoned trolley cars in the woods near Johnstown, Penn.

a cemetery in New York

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Summer 2017 Part 4

July 25, 2017      History, Family, Groundhogs!

Soon we will be roaming the countryside again so an update is in order.  Our Pennsylvania visit was punctuated with a brief sojourn into eastern Ohio before the gathering of family members for the Luther reunion.  Great visits with long-time friends and cousins will be fondly remembered.  Needed maintenance on the truck was performed and a new foam mattress for Brian was purchased. 

After a few quiet days with Brian's mother, we journeyed to visit two national historic sites in southwestern Pennsylvania - Fort Necessity (where the French and Indian War began with a young George Washington in command) and Friendship Hill (home of Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury for Presidents Jefferson and Madison and instrumental in the Louisiana Purchase and funding of the Lewis and Clark expedition).   We enjoyed camping at two Ohio state parks, a visit to a huge coal mining machine, and historic sites in Canton.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Mount Washington Tavern near Fort Necessity

Friendship Hill, home of Albert Gallatin

Brian is dwarfed by the bucket from the world's largest walking dragline used to mine coal
known as "Big Muskie"

This photo shows how big the dragline was compared to the bucket.

seen while geocaching

President McKinley Memorial in Canton, Ohio - 108 steps to the top - good exercise!

tomb of President and Mrs. McKinley

the memorial from another angle

seen while geocaching in Ohio

The Pennsylvania All Counties Challenge Cache - we have found caches in all of the Pennsylvania counties.
Back to Johnstown, PA:
Kim and Jared drove up from Houston for the family reunion.  We never visit Johnstown without taking a ride on the Incline Plane (steepest in the world). We had never ridden it at night and we made sure Jared experienced the biggest attraction in town.  We were the only people around on a Saturday night.

riding the Incline Plane - you can see downtown Johnstown behind us
downtown Johnstown from the Incline

the rails are outlined with lights
We made a daytrip to Punxsutawney to see Gobblers Knob and the home of Punxsutawney Phil.

We found some of the fiberglass statues around town:

Wizard Phil

Scottish Phil

Fireman Phil


the town's namesake

seen while geocaching - "Groundhog on Steroids"

Kim and Brian with his mother, Shirley
 Texas delegation - the Kissells and Jared Shaw
Ted Luther descendants - the largest group of the 75 relatives who attended.
We will attend again in July 2019 with Brian serving as reunion president.