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The Wonder of Watkins Glen | Lessons From The Road USA

You ever see promotional materials for a place or a thing and you think “Wow that’s really something! I need to put that on my must see list.”

Promo material and the risks of the must-see list

You carve out time in your calendar, make plans, figure out the best route to take to get there and check the weather for days ahead of event. As the date approaches, you can barely maintain your enthusiasm that you are going to see this amazing thing that you saw on the promotional materials.

The fated day comes and you get up, shower and put on just the right outfit, specifically picked out and laid out the night before for this event. You pack a lunch and snacks, careful to select just the right food for the activity of the day. You had dutifully gassed up the car the night before so you don’t waste the 15 mins the next day so you can get to this amazing place faster. You get in the car all excited! You drive several hours to your destination.

Sometimes, the reality doesn’t match the advertisement

You get there, and you get out of the car and look around. It looks like something akin to a ghost town but not nearly as cool. Nothing looks like the promotional materials. You wander in vain looking for the same things as in the pictures and slowly you come to the realization that you were duped and this particular thing totally sucked ass not just regular ass but big sticky ass. You leave shell-shocked, sad, dejected, frustrated that you wasted time for this and as you drive away, you get a little angry.

But, then, sometimes it does!

Waterfall at Watkins Glen

The walkway passes underneath a number of waterfalls

I remember seeing the promotional material on Facebook for Watkins Glen State Park in upstate New York and I was struck dumb by the images of waterfalls and beautiful old stone bridges. The images conjured up a wonderfully romantic fairy-tale place.  I exclaimed breathless, “Oh-my-God! I have to just go to that place, it looks amazing!”

Getting ready for the trip

I put it on my calendar, I planned for a weekend trip as it was over a three hour drive. In the preceding days, I went through my personal trip readiness process.

The day finally arrived and I was excited!

I made the five (ish)  hour trip up there from central Connecticut just to see how it was. Due to the fact that I had been duped in the past, there were some nagging thoughts of “What if it sucks? It’ll end up being a big waste of time and energy.” In the end, I figured that worse case scenario, I would do what I always do.  I would find someone to talk to and as always they will be amazing and it would make my day and probably result in an awesome people from the road blog.

Arriving at Watkins Glen

I get there, my GPS takes me to a large parking lot, that was fairly packed. They also had people monitoring the parking lot, helping with the parking process.  I saw this as a good sign. It means that it is a popular place.

What I initially saw was a couple of playscapes for children and picnic tables. I get nervous because I do not see nor hear any waterfalls.

I continue to walk and notice that there is a public pool, and a conference center as well as well maintained pavilions but still no waterfalls. I stop to take a bio Break and keep searching. I see this little sign indicating that I was on the right track to the gorge trail.

Long switch-back trail into the gorge

LOng Switchback Trail Down into the Gorge

Long switchback trail down into the gorge

I start walking down on a switch backed trail. Down, down, down… All I kept thinking was “Crap this better be good, because if it sucks and I have to schlep back up that hill, I am going to be pissed.” A few times I thought about turning around and forgetting all about it. I see a red-faced woman gasping for air coming in the opposite direction and I asked is it worth the walk back up the trail. She took a deep breath to speak and emphatically said “Oh Yea!!” I kept going.

Boy was I ever glad I did! I could hear the water and it sounded like a big grand waterfall and then it came into view and WOW just WOW.

The view exceeded the promo material

The view exceeded all expectations

The view exceeded all expectations

It was not what I saw on the Facebook promotional material. Oh no, it was so much more!  I couldn’t believe it how wonderful it was. That was the just the first view of many more beautiful views along the walk to the end of the gorge trail.  If you get the opportunity to go to upstate New York, I highly recommend to go to this place.

The promotional material didn’t even give an inkling what that State Park is all about. As I mentioned, they have everything you could imagine the have for a family to enjoy the day out including campsites.

The gorge walk is the crowned Jewel of the park for sure. Watkins Glen Gorge walk features 19 waterfalls, numerous cascades, carved out tunnels and stone bridges. All to make the two mile walk very magical and pass quickly.

A couple of things to note:

Watkins Glenn - The View Exceeded the promo material

Be aware that the trail and walkway will be very wet in places
  1. Wear sturdy shoes. Much of the trail is wet.  There are a lot of carved out stairs from the waterfalls as well. It can be a bit slippery in spots so take your time and enjoy.
  2. After you walk the gorge trail there is a series of stairs to get up to the top. There is a cute snackshop that sells awesome ice cream and beer among other things. There is a covered pavilion area and picnic tables.
  3. Hot Tip: Bring five dollars cash for each person.

I discovered that they also provide a shuttle to take you back to your car, which is great. Beware, the shuttle is not free and requires a cash payment.  So make sure you have some cash on you just in case you want to take the shuttle back. In my case, I had no idea that there was a shuttle and I would have loved to take the shuttle back, unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash. The snack shop does not have an ATM.

Returned by a different path

Up into the light and a different route back

Up into the light and a different route back

I ended up taking a different hiking trail back to the car that ran parallel to the gorge trail. It was a lovely walk through the woods and there were hardly any people or hills on that trail. It was a very pleasant walk back and in the end I was happy to get the extra time in the woods.

If you are a photography buff, Watkins Glen will be a very excited place to take pictures, but it will also be a very frustrating place to take pictures. Due to the popularity of the site, there are many many people. It would be double tough to get a shot without people contaminating the shot. The trail is fairly narrow in spots making it near impossible to set up a tripod.

In conclusion, the marketing materials, although great, did not do this place justice. I highly recommend taking the trip to Watkins Glen State Park to see it. It won’t disappoint!

Here is the official Watkins Glen State Park website: Watkins Glen State Park

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Margaret Webster

Margaret Webster

What happens when an upbeat, sociable, single, empty nester in midlife, outdoor enthusiast, critter gal, science geek, history buff, treasure hunter with an addiction to brown signs and the wanderlust, embarks on a 4 month road trip in her Chevy pickup truck, loaded with a tent, kayak, bicycle, 5 changes of clothes, her laptop, and cell phone, by herself, that essentially turned into a fulltime lifestyle?
Margaret Webster

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