Sunday Aug. 18
We have had a long and lovely day in Watkins Glen. We woke up to a cool morning; Joe made biscuits and we didn’t rush out. But around 11:00 or so we finally packed up a couple of sandwiches, some trail mix, and water in our packs and, leaving Roxy to guard the fort, headed through the campsites to a short trail which connects the campground to the South Rim Trail above the Watkins Glen gorge. Nearby was a long flight of steps down into the gorge (the campground is way up the mountain) and the Gorge Trail, which goes along the Glen for 1.5 miles.
We joined the Gorge Trail at the One Mile Bridge, so first we walked the half mile to the farthest end of the gorge. Then we retraced our steps and walked along the path until we came out at the main entrance, down in the town of Watkins Glen, about 1000 feet and 860-something stairs lower than where we had started.
We took our time and also lots of photo. The Gorge is beautiful, with many waterfalls (the path goes behind two of them), pools, wildflowers and ferns, and wonderful rock formations.
There were quite a lot of people, only to be expected on a Sunday in August, but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, not rushing and taking time to notice the details, such as a turtle and frog sunning themselves on a log in a pool below us. We were happy to have the water and trail mix to munch on, but were definitely ready for lunch by the time we got to the Main Entrance at 2:00. (Special note to Mommy: do you remember "When you've seen one waterfall, you've seen them all"?)
We sat at a picnic table and watched the people parade while we ate. Then we walked down the main street of Watkins Glen, about ten or so blocks, until we came to Seneca Lake and the marina. We were hoping to find some cute little shops, but it was surprising how few of them there were for such a touristy town, and a lot of stores were closed on Sunday. We sat at the marina for a bit (that’s where we met Zoltar, who co-starred in the Tom Hanks movie, BIG.), then I thought of looking for a grocery of some sort. We used up all our bread when we made lunch, and I thought we could pick something up. I googled “groceries in Watkins Glen” on my phone, and we found a nice natural food store a few blocks away. But when we got there, it too was closed (I never thought of googling the hours, oops!) The town is small and cute, though, and we enjoyed just wandering around.
Heading back to the Visitor Center at the park, we passed a large store which sold shoes, clothing, some souvenirs, and candy. Joe’s feet were really hurting, because his hiking shoes were not that comfortable. So we went in and I made him try on some good shoes. He found a pair of Merrell hiking boots, and was SO happy to trade in the old ones for something really good for his feet! I, meanwhile, found a pair of guitar-pick earrings commemorating Summer Jam ’73, the rock festival we’d been here for 40 years ago. So we left the store very happy with our purchases. Resisting the lure of the chocolates (just not in the mood, I guess), we stopped for ice cream instead before getting to the Visitor Center.
Our plan was to go back to the top of the Gorge at the far end by taking the shuttle bus which runs between the two ends of the Gorge Trail. Then we would have to walk down the dozens of stairs at the far end to the trail, go back to the One Mile Bridge, go up dozens of stairs again on the South Rim side, and so back to our campsite, retracing our steps of the morning. But we got very lucky—because it was so late, we were the only ones on the shuttle bus, and the driver offered to take us up the mountain right to the campground! So we only had to walk from the entrance of the campground to our site—maybe a quarter of a mile or so.