Crossing into New York

It was only a matter of time before my journey took me over the border. I came very close to making a day trip into Canada while visiting Glacier National Park, and probably would have if not for a rock slide closing Going-to-the-Sun Road, and prompting my early departure.

I’m seldom on the lookout for the quickest route to my next destination, but traveling from Michigan across Canada to New York was an easy decision because there were two places of interest along that route. My good friend Tony, a kindred spirit when it comes to nature, suggested Point Pelee as a place I’d enjoy. Point Pelee National Park is on the southernmost tip of Canada, right on Lake Erie, and is a popular stop-over for migrating birds and Monarch butterflies. Since it’s “that time of year” I had high hopes of finding loads of beautiful winged subjects to photograph. Unfortunately, my timing put me there during a storm, with winds blowing so hard I could almost fly! By morning there was a break in the weather, and I took the girls hiking with me in the park before heading down the highway. We saw few birds, and no butterflies. I guess they were blown off-course. 

The other attraction that lured me across Canada is Niagara Falls. I’d been here once before, years ago on one of my solo photo excursions. I’ll never forget my reaction as I drove into the city of Niagara Falls. I booked that trip because I had just made my final leap into digital on a professional level, and had a big wedding in California looming on the calendar. I needed to become “one with the camera” quickly, and I knew no better way than to fully immerse myself for a few days. Niagara Falls seemed like an ideal place for that… known as a honeymoon destination, I figured it must be beautiful! I hopped on a plane to Buffalo, rented a car, and headed up the highway, crossed the border and bridge into Canada, and drove up the hill filled with excitement at the beauty I was about to encounter. My jaw literally dropped when I turned the corner to find wax museums and touristy trinket shops as far as the eye could see. I was stunned.

I’m happy to report that was not my impression this time around. Some of that still lingers, but the shoddy motels have been overtaken by much grander hotels that stand tall, overlooking the falls. The falls themselves though, are even more of a tourist trap. My first evening there I paid $18 to park a few blocks away, just so I could get near enough to photograph them. This was mid-week and off season, and still there were throngs of people pouring off tour busses to see these famous falls.

I understand the US side of Niagara Falls (seen in the image below) is even more touristy. I can’t imagine, but knowing that has kept me away.

These falls are truly stunning, and it’s no wonder it’s such a popular place, but the experience made me all the more grateful for the brilliant minds of our forefathers who saw fit to preserve some of our greatest natural landscape in the National Park System.

The following morning, before crossing the border into New York, I drug myself out of bed well before dawn, drove across town (and parked for free!), and enjoyed sunrise at the falls with Jazzy and Sadie by my side. THIS is my kind of morning!

Since there was no urgency to get on the highway we took a drive up river, meandered through a park I had been in before, and stopped at a pond that seemed quite popular amongst the birds, ducks and seagulls in particular.

I know seagulls are considered a nuisance by some, but I’ve always overlooked their annoying qualities and focus instead on their grace. I remember watching them as a child and wishing I could fly. I wondered if it was as thrilling for them as it seemed, gliding and soaring as they do. I find them quite lovely too… both the brilliant white of the adults, and the dappled colors of the juveniles.

While there, I left the dogs in the car so I could spend a little time photographing them. As seagulls do, they all flocked around expecting to be fed. I decided to treat them to a handful of dog food that I happened to have stored in the car. It was every bird for himself as they squawked and scrambled for the tasty morsels I threw, and those who didn’t get one squawked all the louder.

The adults tend to rule, as they peck and shoo the youngin’s out of the way, but there was one adult with a gimpy foot that got picked on by all. “Boooo! Bad form you birds!” is what I literally hollered out loud. “Three cheers for the underdog!” (or bird in this case). From that moment on he got all my attention. He immediately caught on that I liked him when I singled him out with a nugget of food, and suddenly a game was underway. He took off, circled back around, and hovered right above me. “Oh, so you want to play?” (Yes, I’m literally talking to the bird.) I tossed a nugget into the air, which he caught and circled around again. And again, and again, and again. The rest were scavengers who got what few pieces he didn’t catch. My bad if truth be told, I was throwing with my left hand, while shooting with my right. Quite a feat actually, and the Japanese tourists who arrived moments before were so amused they took pictures! 🙂

My next stop, which was highly recommended by my friends Bonnie and Scott, was Letchworth State Park. According to Bonnie I’d been there before, but I don’t have any memory of the place. I flew to upstate New York several years ago to photograph their wedding… while sick with the flu. I’m thinking I was holed up at the B&B, resting up for the big event, while the family and wedding party were enjoying the park. Either that or I was delirious with fever. I can’t imagine I wouldn’t remember such an amazing place!!

The park encompasses a beautiful gorge that the Genesee River meanders through, plunging three times over a series of magnificent waterfalls. The change of season, and turning of color was just beginning during my short stay, and I found myself wishing I could linger long enough to watch the autumn color magically unfold.

Lower Falls

Upper Falls

Upper Falls and the Norfolk-Southern Railroad trestle

Middle Falls

The Genesee Gorge

Middle and Upper Falls from Inspiration Point

In addition to the beautiful landscape, I tapped into a sense of history here. The stone buildings and bridges took me back to another era. I could easily imagine families vacationing in this park. Women in their long skirts and petticoats, strolling under parasols… Little boys wearing knickers and chasing about as little boys do… Couples playing croquet on the great lawns… Tables set out for tea… Yes, this is a place I would remember. I know I always will.

Letchworth State Park was yet another difficult place to leave behind, but wait ’til you see what’s around the NEXT bend in the road!




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