Sometimes you experience a weekend with friends that is just so jam-packed with goodness that you just have to share it with the Internet. And if you’re really, really lucky, one of those jam-packed weekends will take place just a short walk away from Watkins Glen State Park in the New York Finger Lakes area. Win-win situation here, people.
My good friend Robert Cornelius, a photographer and Photoshop artist (this guy can make anybody look like a magical creature that leaped off a page of a fantasy novel) and his wife Sara Cornelius, creator of the cutest illustrated food blog Cake Over Steak (who you may remember from our Search For Saint Pizza post) invited a group of our friends to stay with them for a weekend up in New York. I mean, how could we say no? Robert grew up across from Lake Seneca’s pier and a few blocks away from the absolutely coolest waterfall paradise known as Watkins Glen. I know right? Let’s just take a second and be jealous of this atmosphere. Our stay there couldn’t get much better.
My first experience in Watkins Glen was a hurried one. Actually, it was an hour before Sara and Robert’s wedding! You know me. I’m always, always down for some last minute travel… but feeling rushed in such a beautiful was definitely not the greatest. I think I might have sweat off all my pre-wedding makeup and curled hair. Whoops… But, hey, at the time I had no idea if I would ever see the gorges and waterfalls again. Turns out, I would less than a year later!
This time around, I was lucky. In between the amazing trips Sara had planned for us to the Ithaca Farmers Markets, a whiskey tasting at The Finger Lakes Distillery and a night of uninterrupted karaoke (this girl knows how to plan a good time), somehow a mid morning walk through the park was a free and available experience that just worked out for this gal. And I’m glad it did, because Watkins Glen stayed just as gorgeous (or should I say gorges?) as it was the last time I had been there.
The spring’s running waters and greenest greens were in full blossom, almost making the whole park feel alive and buzzing. Watkins Glen is pretty renown for its layers upon layers of rock stacked on top of each other, etched from the river path. For good reason too. The sinking, topsy-turvy shapes of the gorge were weird and wonderful all at once. And I mean, forget what TLC said, you better go chase those waterfalls! Every turn led to another babbling brook that toppled over onto a lower ground.
Some tips for those wanting to adventure around the park:
1. The main trail is approximately 800 steps upward, making it a fairly light hike to the top of the gorge that most people would be able to manage.
2. For those looking for a more rigorous hike, pick up a map and go off the beaten path. There are many different trails to follow that lead to just more of the park’s goodness. My favorite is the Indian Trail on the way down. Hello suspension bridge!
3. Wear sneakers, regardless of which route you choose. The path is wet and slippery in certain sections.
4. Bring your camera. Duh
5. Oh, and block out the tourists and small children (if you happen to be there on a busy day) with your favorite fairytale-like soundtrack. Thank me later!
And for anyone looking to enjoy a good, long weekend in the Watkins Glen / Lake Seneca area:
1. Although it’s not technically in the Watkins area, the Ithaca Farmers Market was the coolest freaking market I’ve been to in the US. Napalese food next to a French crepe station next to a homegrown honey stand… you get the idea. Plus, the market is right next to a dock for you to nosh picnic style til your heart overflows with happiness.
2. Experience Lake Seneca’s Wine Trail. I’m particularly biased towards Lakewood Vineyards because our amazing host Norrie Cornelius works there!
3. Take an evening stroll down to Lake Seneca’s pier. So peaceful!
4. Eat a BLT at the Glen Mountain Market and attempt not to order a second one immediately after finishing your first one. Also check out Chef William’s Creations hot sauces they sell there!
5. Visit The Finger Lakes Distillery and order yourself a sample of three whiskeys or gins of your choosing. Or if you’re not a whiskey lover… go to Ithaca Brewing Company’s tasting room and play awesome outdoor frisbee games in the sun.