Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Four State Parks in One Day

Taughannock Falls
Monday Aug. 19, 2013 

We woke up this morning preparing to pack up and leave our beautiful campsite at Watkins Glen.  My plans for the day, however, were far from certain. There are a lot of waterfalls in this part of the world, and a lot of parks, too! Generally speaking, I had vague plans to drive to Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca, hike there, and then figure out where to spend the night.

We started out, however, by stopping at Walmart in Watkins Glen to deal with our extensive shopping list. We had a very weird collection of stuff, ranging from a new automotive battery for our RV “house”, to sugar-free hot chocolate mix!  We spent about an hour shopping, I would guess, and when we checked out, we joked with the woman at the register about our odd collection of purchases. We decided the strangest combination was the hatchet we bought (to split firewood) and the hot chocolate mix—obviously shopping for a diabetic ax murderer! We all got a good laugh out of it. Back at the RV, Joey connected the battery in sequence with the current battery, while I put away the groceries and other odds and ends. Our house battery got an immediate boost now that there are two of them, and we don’t have to worry about it running down as quickly.

We were hungry by then—it was 1:00. But we didn’t want to eat lunch in a Walmart parking lot with so many nice places in the area. We decided to drive to Buttermilk Falls, which our GPS said was only 35 minutes away. Well, the GPS apparently thought we’d be driving 60 mph… it took an hour at our speed, and on typical GPS back roads, to get there. Joe loves those back roads—they just make me nervous, because I hate not knowing where I am going! We did get to the park finally, however, and were very pleased because our Watkins Glen pass, which was dated as good through today, got us in without having to pay a day-use fee for the park.
Buttermilk Falls 

We ate some lunch and walked Roxy. Then we walked over to see the waterfall, which is right there (pretty but not spectacular) at the entrance to the park, with a swimming hole and diving board at the base! Too bad it wasn’t warmer, we probably would have enjoyed a dunk. But we weren’t in the mood and were still trying to decide what to do for the rest of the day. There are some hiking trails up into the gorge (every waterfall has a gorge!) but really weren’t in the mood for that either. We chatted with the attendant, who told us that there were campsites available, and gave us a list of the unreserved ones which we could choose. We figured that we might as well spend the night at the campground there since there was room for us. The mystery to me was, I had checked the campground before leaving home, and had made notes that there were no available campsites for us! Well, we drove up into the campground—a steep curvy drive—and now I understand the problem. There were no sites big enough or flat enough for our RV.  We found one which we could just deal with, but decided we would not be very happy there and we weren’t “feeling the vibes”.  So we drove back down the mountain again.

Another conference, and we decided to drive back down the road a few miles to Robert H. Treman State Park, and see if we could camp there. We were thinking that we wouldn’t mind spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing, reading, and just being mellow.  Our park pass got us past the entrance again, and as we drove toward the campground office to find out which spots were open for the night, I said to Joe, “This map is very weird. The road stops, then starts again—but there is a gap in it!”  After getting a list of available campsites from the office, however, we discovered the reason for the gap—the road goes right THROUGH Enfield Creek! We drove very slowly through the water to the campground on the other side (Joe was delighted, of course!
Road from parking lot to campground. The water falls off just beyond the stop sign. (I forgot to take a photo of the waterfall from the other side.)
Samantha crossing through Enfield Creek above the waterfall.

Unfortunately, the campground itself did not excite us. There were a number of spaces we could have stayed in, and they were flat, too (the area was right along the fast-moving creek). But they were just side-by-side parking spaces with picnic tables—no charm and no privacy. What happened to our gorgeous huge wooded spaces from the night before? Joe said, “I vote for going back to Watkins Glen!” It was definitely an option.
However, we did have one more chance—Taughannock Falls State Park, about 10 or so miles north of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake. I wasn’t sure about the campground situation—I’d made notes that there weren’t any “great sites” left there a couple of weeks ago, with no idea what that actually meant. But we figured what the heck, let’s go for it! So we drove up to the town of Trumansburg  (I keep thinking of the Truman Show). The GPS routed us right past the overlook to Taughannock Falls, and wow, we were NOT expecting this! The falls are the highest unbroken falls in the northeast, at 215 feet (3 stories higher than Niagara Falls), and just beautiful!  We spent some time there admiring the view, and feeling well rewarded for heading this way with no clue what we were going to see.
Taughannock Falls from Scenic Overlook

We then looked for the campground, which we came to even before the campground office. So we drove through it. We wrote down the campsites which were empty and where we thought we could get Samantha in—a lot of them were small, again, and once more we would be on the side of a hill. (I am seeing a theme here: Waterfall State Park = Campground On Side of Mountain.) We found a few places, and then went further down the road to the State Park entrance and campground office. Finally, some good fortune—our first-choice campsite was free for tonight! We immediately booked it. I also picked up a bunch of brochures about the other waterfalls in the Ithaca area (might have come in handy earlier on today!) and asked two really important questions: 1) is there a place we could put our kayak in the water? And 2) where can we get some ice cream?

As for the kayak, the park attendant said we could put it into Cayuga Lake right from the park shoreline. And she pointed us down the road for some home-made creamery ice cream which she said was the best in the area. So after a long day of indecision, we felt ice cream was the first thing on the agenda. It was delicious, and they had VERY good sugar-free ice cream for Joe! So good, in fact, that he had them make him up a pint of it to go home with us. My chocolate brownie ice cream was fabulous too. I now predict the future: More ice cream tomorrow!
View of Cayuga Lake from Route 89

After we totally spoiled our appetites for dinner, we finally headed back to the campground, and so we are here settled in. Our electrical situation has been improved not just with a boosted house battery, but we picked up an inverter as well, which is currently charging my laptop AND my phone off a battery pack.Our plans for tomorrow include a walk to the base of Taughannock Falls, and some kayaking, before heading north a little bit to Sampson State Park. Considering we only covered 71 miles today, we spent an awful lot of time in the RV (although in fairness to say, Joe loves just driving around!) I am hoping, though, to get out and have a little more variety tomorrow.

1 comment:

Aimee Sousa said...

Oh wow. Taughannock is gorgeous!!!! I'm loving your photos, as always. :) You're reminding me that I was determined to get back to the Finger Lakes after we were up there a few years ago.