Category Archives: Destination

A Trip to Ohiopyle and Fallingwater (Part 3)

(Continued from Part 2)

After a quick breakfast of coffee and cereal, we packed everything up, put up the awning and headed off to Fallingwater.  While it was only about 2 miles away in a straight line, the campground was up atop a high ridge that we had to backtrack along to get down, and it ended up being an eight mile drive.

We also had to travel down PA 2010 (which was just one last long uphill drive as we were getting in so late on Friday night), which has a pretty steep grade for almost a mile of the mile and a half we were on it.  There was an option of going another route, but that would have replaced the 2010 route with a sixteen and a half mile detour.  I decided to just plan on stab braking my way down, and it all went fine.

We drove back through the town of Ohiopyle and along 381 North back up to Fallingwater.  The ‘campus’ has a couple of nice parking lots, one of which is set up for about eight RVs or buses, so parking was easy.  It was a chilly day, and the area the education people had for display space for the architectural models was in an outdoor area with a roof but no walls shielded from the parking area by some lovely evergreen trees.  That meant that while it was really comfortable out in the sun, sitting in the pavilion was kind of chilly.

Luckily, we had the bus right there and I was able to run back and get a sweatshirt for the boy, and then some coffee, and then a jacket.  The kids showed their models, and our son worked with staff to get their laptop to run Minecraft and load his world in, so he could show his. We then got to tour the Fallingwater house.

We couldn’t take an pictures inside the house during the tour, but let it be said that it certainly is a Frank Lloyd Wright house.  Low ceilings and corridors make you feel squeezed, and subconsciously make you move to more comfortable places in rooms.

After our tour, our son was able to give a tour of his house on the projector screen, but a couple other kids couldn’t get their digital data off their iphones, which was a bit disappointing.  But when it was all done, the kids were happy, the folks at Fallingwaters were impressed with what our homeschool group had done, and we went back to the campground.

Again, we took the steep shortcut and just rode it slowly.  All was fine.

Back in the campground, I turned the bus around at the intersection made by a utility (water & power) access road instead of trying the way-too-tight loop, and we slid right back into our spot. More Boss Monster ensued, and we had another chilly night.

The next morning we repeated the process of getting back to Fallingwater, but were delayed getting out of the town of Ohiopyle by a train.  While tempted to blow the train horn at them to get back at them doing so in the middle of the night near our camp, there were too many people around outside.

We arrived again at Fallingwater and over the day, the kids had some classes on architectural drawing & scaling, building paper cantilevers, and perspective drawing,  My wife found that the information area had these small little pieces of colored paper, each with directions on how to get where you were going from Fallingwater, so we grabbed one that confirmed how we would get to I-76.  Afterward, we said our goodbyes to the folks staying another night, made a quick dinner in the bus before leaving, ate, and headed back to Buffalo.

We had already decided that we would take the longer (but faster) route home, going back up 381 to 711 (and avoiding the shortcut that got us lost) to 31 and then onto The Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) West.  It was nice to see all the places we’d missed in the dark, and I had noticed when we’d passed over the Turnpike on our way down, so I had an idea of where we were going.

The Turnpike was it’s own adventure.  I’d never taken the bus on a toll road, and rather than having a manned toll booth, there was just a machine that spat out tickets.  As I was looking for a way to figure out what class we were, a ticket came out and, well, we were a class 3.  I guess there was a person watching somewhere. So, onto the westbound ramp we went, and I worked at getting up to traffic speed.

The speed limit was a zippy 70.

I can push the bus all the way up to 65, but that’s all the way up at 2600 RPMs, so I feel tenuous about holding it there.  So I rode us along between 63-65 while the trucks zoomed around us.  Some $17 later we got off the paid section of the Turnpike we had been on, and our exit onto I-79 North which would take us from Pittsburgh to Erie.

And again the speed limit was 70.

But we made it to near Erie and got on I-90 East, and I promptly got us off to get some fuel – just 10 gallons, as we were close enough to to the Seneca Reservation near Irving that I could fill up fully there, which we did.

Finally home!

Destination: Central(-ish) New York Locations of Geological Interest (to us)

nysparksCentral New York has a number of geologically significant sites, and some of them are places that we would want to go/be able to go with the bus.  Many of the areas are State Parks, rather than National Parks, as New York State started to preserve its own natural areas about the same time that the National Park Preserves were instituted (Yellowstone was the first in 1872).

Niagara Falls in an 1882 Lithograph
Niagara Falls in an 1882 Lithograph

As proof of this, look to the Niagara Reservation State Park (protecting Niagara Falls, Goat Island, and ‘mainland’ areas adjacent to the Bridal Falls), which is the first State Park in America in 1885 (though legislation had been argued over since the late 1860’s)

A view of some of the Gorge at Letchworth.
A view of some of the Gorge at Letchworth.

Anyhow, the first place, going from west (Buffalo) toward the east, is Letchworth State Park, sometimes called the ‘Grand Canyon of the East.’  This is a State Park with camping near(ish) the Gorge Rim, and miles of hiking trails.

Falls and fall foliage.
Falls and fall foliage.

With more than 14,000 acres of space, there’s three waterfalls,  including the tallest falls in the State.  There are historic sites, like Mary Jemison‘s gravesite and the restored Seneca Council House, and the Glen Iris Inn.  There are plenty of winter activities too, but the camping sites aren’t open then, so it’s a day-trip for those.

Some of the cool stonework-lined walking trails through Watkins Glen.
Some of the cool stonework-lined walking trails through Watkins Glen.

Watkins Glen State Park  is another really scenic location we’d like to hit. The narrow gorge has several levels of trails, from right down by the water, to much farther up along the rim of the gorge with more view.  Run as a private park and resort from 1860, it was purchased by the State as a public park in 1906.

More of Watkins Glen
More of Watkins Glen

The gorge itself is as much as 400′ deep, and has 19 waterfalls, making it a continually visually enticing hike.  Unfortunately (for us), while they have almost 150 RV/trailer spots (and many more camping sites) that will fit a 30′ or smaller unit, our 35′ bus is too large to stay there.

Chimney Bluffs formations
Chimney Bluffs formations

 

 

 

 

The third place is Chimney Bluffs State Park, which I mentioned in a previous post. There’s no camping here, but the Lake Bluff Campground is only a mile and a half away.

Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls is another camping spot, though there’s only one (1!) site that would fit a 35′ RV, so book well in advance!  There are actually two falls within the park, and the creek flows along through the park to the shore of Cayuga Lake (one of the Finger Lakes) where they have a boat launch and beach!

the-salt-museumWhile not as geologically scenic as the other locations, the Salt Museum, in Liverpool, NY examines the history of the industry the salt springs along the shore of Onondaga Lake allowed, so productive that Syracuse, NY was known as the ‘Salt City’.  These springs of brine were slowly leeching away the salt from huge underground domes of salt evaporates from ancient seas.

Herkimer Diamonds in a cavity 'cache'.
Herkimer Diamonds in a cavity ‘cache’.

Farther east, the ancient seas also produced Herkimer Diamonds, pointed, faceted quartz crystals of high clarity.  There are two highly productive ‘mine-your-own’ mines right next to each other in Middleville, each with camping available.

People mining out Herkimer Diamonds
People mining out Herkimer Diamonds
A cleaned up Herkimer Diamond.
A cleaned up Herkimer Diamond.

The Ace of Diamonds Mine  has what seems to be a no-frills camping site and the Herkimer Diamond Mines is affiliated with the KOA thst is just across the road from it.  You can bring your own (non-power) mining tools, though the fee to get in to the Herkimer Diamond Mines gets you the use of a rock-hammer.  Closed shoes, durable pants, and eye-protection a must!

Howe Caverns
Howe Caverns

And lastly, Howe Caverns, its nearby rival of the Secret Caverns, and the relatively recently re-opened Cave House Museum of Mining & Geology.  Near Bramanville, the lower limestone bedrock has been eroded by water in places, making it pitted with cave networks, both large and small.

The signs for the Secret Caverns are all really awesome.
The signs for the Secret Caverns are all really awesome.

Some of the tours of Howe Cavern are undertaken by boat along flooded caves, while the Secret Caverns boast an underground waterfall (which depends on seepages from a swamp above for water – if you go during a dry spell, the waterfall may not be very impressive).

Tour boats 150 feet underground ...
Tour boats 150 feet underground …

And don’t think you need to spend all your time underground. Howe Caverns has also added a Zip-Line, Bungee, Climbing Wall, and High Ropes course, so you can really make a day out of your stay.  There’s a convenient RV campground just a few miles to the east in Central Valley, Hide-A-Way Campsites.  They have 60 spots, and look to have nice amenities.

I’ll be making another post about the Historical sites we want to go to, which will cross with some of these locations, making Central New York really rich and complex for our trips.

Destination/Trip: From Buffalo to the Almanzo Wilder Homestead

One of the destinations we want to go to with the bus is the Almanzo Wilder Homestead,  in Malone, NY.  On first glance, you might be asking ‘who’ and ‘why’, but this is the farm that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s (of the Little House books) husband grew up on before moving west and meeting her.

Now, not only is that a neat destination, but the trip there should be lots of fun.  Starting from Buffalo, our first likely stop is up on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation to top up our fuel for the trip.  While this seems like it would take us out of our way to Malone, it puts us right by the start of the ‘Cobblestone Trail’.

The Cobblestone Trail along NY 104. The 'X's' represent a cobblestone structure along the way.
The Cobblestone Trail along NY 104. The ‘X’s’ represent a cobblestone structure along the way.

Located along historic Ridge Road (NY 104), the route follows the dry areas of the geography of one of the terraces of the Niagara Escarpment, just north of the route of the Erie Canal.  Used by pioneers and homesteaders in the 18th & 19th centuries, it was the major ‘northern’ route into Western New York.

At the Cobblestone Museum Complex.
At the Cobblestone Museum Complex.

These buildings, often built using skills of masons who had been brought in to work on the building of the stone aspects of the Erie Canal, were expensive and durable, being made of cobbles left from the retreat of the most recent ice age’s glaciers.  They functioned not just as houses, churches, or workshops, but also as status symbols for the communities they were in.   Now, there’s a Museum for the Cobblestone Society comprised of three cobblestone buildings and four more 19th century wooden structures (at 14389 Ridge Road in Albion).

Irondequoit Bay Bridge
Irondequoit Bay Bridge

Farther along, north of Rochester, NY Route 104 crosses the mouth of Irondequoit Bay on a long, elevated bridge that gives a great view of both the Bay and out to Lake Ontario to the north.

Chimney Bluffs formations
Chimney Bluffs formations

Following along NY 104 to the east, just past Sodus Bay, is Chimney Bluffs State Park.  Another remnant of the glacial actions of the last ice age, the eroding glacial till is constantly changing, like the Badlands of South Dakota.   These formations continue to the east along Lake Ontario to Oswego.

Photograph by Will van Overbeek, National Geographic
Photograph by Will van Overbeek, National Geographic

Following NY 104 along that route, past Oswego, 104B heads northeast to Route 3, which heads north along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario to Henderson Bay, and just past Sacketts Bay, heading north on County Road 180 to 12E, which will take us up to Cape Vincent, where Lake Ontario flows out into the St. Lawrence River and through the Thousand Islands.  NY Route 12 ends at Morristown, but the route along the river continues as NY Route 37, and continues that way until Massena.  After Massena, the road turns south-east toward Malone.

Babbling Brook RV Park
Babbling Brook RV Park

Just ten miles short of Malone (and twelve miles from the Almanzo Wilder Homestead) is the Babbling Brook RV Park.  This looks like a great base to travel from to the Homestead.  There are only 57 sites, but a quick search for reviews comes up nicely positive, so we’re looking forward to trying them out!

Almanzo WIlder Homestead Historic Marker
Almanzo WIlder Homestead Historic Marker

Finally we can get to the Homestead itself.  The museum/home-stead consists of 84 acres of farmland, woods, restored original post and beam constructed farmhouse (1840-1843), reconstructed post and beam framed barns and outbuildings, a museum/visitor center/research library/ archives/gift shop complex, orchard, covered picnic pavilion, and nature trail to the Wilder family frontage on the Trout River.

The House of the Homestead
The House of the Homestead

We really think that this looks like a full day’s worth of exploration, so we’ll likely have another night at the RV Park, then head home.  While the scenic route could take us 8 or so hours (without extended stops!), the route back to Buffalo, via I-81 and I-90 could take us as little as 4 and a half.  But of course, there’s more to do on the way back if we go in a round-about fashion.  But that’s another post’s work.

And if you want to know more about Almanzo Wilder, or what the homestead was like when he was a boy, check out the book!

Farmer Boy (Little House) (Paperback)


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