Finger Lakes, NY: Watkins Glen Is “Gorges”!

Leaving New Hampshire, the Lucky Charm headed to Watkins Glen, New York, and its gorgeous gorges!  Even better, we had a visit from family … daughter Kelsey came to play!

This is the land of gorges, and waterfalls, and sloping shorelines, and luscious rolling farm fields cascading down to a series of lakes called the Finger Lakes. 

 The Finger Lakes are exactly that … lakes shaped like fingers.  Vanna, show ’em the visual aid!  Watkins Glen is at the tip, the fingertip that is, of Seneca Lake.

The glaciers that formed the lakes also left behind rugged gorges.  Watkins Glen State Park is most well-known for its 2 mile Gorge Trail, though this sign would lead you to believe it’s a monument to Governor Cuomo.

On the Gorge Trail, be prepared to enjoy 832 steps …..

….. 19 waterfalls …..

…..  stacked stone bridges ….

….. babbling brooks and cool pools through 380 million year old sandstone and shale ….

…. and endless opportunities to get very very wet!

Frowning Cliff is narrow and receives so little sunlight that few plants can grow here.  So, sadness.

Andddddd, creepy weird tourists.

Watkins Glen is also well-known for its auto racing history.  Even the town crosswalks are painted like checkered flags, and everything is all “Finish Line Ice Cream” and “Fast Track Grocery” and whatnot.

In 1948, right on the streets of Watkins Glen, the first post-WWII road race in the U.S. was held.  The original 6.6 mile course can be driven in your own car (at safer speeds, of course)!

It ‘s crazy to imagine road races at top speeds on these climbing, twisting, narrow, dangerous roads, part of which were dirt at that time.  Indeed, many racers have died or been critically injured.

 The Chamber of Commerce publishes a map, and landmarks are clearly signed.  For instance, here is Cornett’s Stone Bridge.  In the 1948 Junior Prix, Denver Cornett flipped his MG into the creek running under the bridge.  He emerged, flipped it back over, borrowed parts from fellow racers and was rarin’ to go in the Grand Prix, where he finished seventh!  Now that’s a competitive spirit.

The tradition continues annually with the Grand Prix Festival, and classic race cars take to the streets once more.  25,000 people come to watch and participate in all of the events.

Watkins Glen International Raceway (cool kids call it “The Glen”) hosts all kinds of events and car races, including NASCAR and one of the largest vintage racing events in the U.S., featuring historic race cars from every era. 

It’s a GORGEOUS track in the middle of GORGEOUS farm country!

While we were visiting, the Porsche Club of America was ripping around the track at crazy speeds.  Philip’s friend Phil DeAngelis used to race (and win!) at this track for many years!

Besides the races themselves, every event has camping, parties on the deck, events and of course lots of people wandering around googly-eyed at all the gorgeous cars.  Lots to do and see!

Watkins Glen is not far from Corning, NY, and its fabulous, must-visit Corning Museum of Glass.

It’s part modern art museum ….

part history lesson ….

part science and learning center ….

part gift-shopping extravaganza ….

part photographer’s playground ….

part glass-making inspiration ….

And, most importantly, the place you can MAKE YOUR OWN GLASS PROJECT!

Kelsey made a spun glass flower.

Father Christmas, I mean Philip, made a blown-glass ornament.

And I, seated at the Kids’ Table as usual, made a fused-glass windchime.

We all had so much fun!

Another day’s adventure took us to Taughannock Falls, a 215-footer falling from cliffs that are 400 feet higher than the floor of the gorge.  You can view from up top ….

or hike the easy 0.75-mile trail down below … 

…. to get up close and personal with the falls!

You can see all the little hikers on the right in the photo below, heading to the falls.  One Native American translation of Taughannock means “great fall in the woods,” so there you have it!

All around us … beauty created by nature!

And in nearby Ithaca, art’s beauty created by man!

The Finger Lakes area is well-known for its wine production, and the Seneca Lake Wine Trail will lead you to 31 wineries in the area where you can raise a glass.

We spent a relaxing afternoon outside at dog-friendly Americana Vineyards on Cayuga Lake (one lake over from “our” Seneca Lake), listening to a live band performing on their outdoor pavilion.  The variety of tasting rooms in this area is endless!

Besides wine grapes, guess what else they gotta LOT of here!  Taller than your head!

If you hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves in this area, it’s probably the Amish in their horse-and-buggy outfits.  It’s tempting to dream of eschewing modern amenities and embracing a simpler life (until, as my friend Carole pointed out, laundry day).

Watkins Glen and this entire area gets “thumbs-up” from us!  We loved the Finger Lakes and plan to return someday for adventures around some of the other lakes.

Sadly, Kelsey left us way-too-soon, and shortly thereafter we had to skeedaddle, too, with plans to head through Pennsylvania to Ohio, two more new states to for the Lucky Charm!

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