After the sun the rain;after the rain the sun…..

20 May

Moving further north in Pennsylvania the rolling landscape began to change, the hills grew taller the trees more dense, fewer homes and more space between the small towns. We drove along wooded valleys with streams tumbling down the side of the road, new leaves opening on the trees and wild flowers dotted in the under storey.

We stayed two nights at Bald Eagle State Park, took a walk to the lake where we should have been able to see the nest of the local eagles…. we did not.. then on to Sinnemahoning State Park, a small campground and quite rustic, again we were able to get out for some pleasant exercise and enjoy the environment.

On Sunday we awoke to rain, and by the time we arrived at our destination for the day, Leonard Harrison State Park, it was pouring, the campground had huge puddles everywhere and few campers! The campground sits alongside a gorge known as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania and we were hoping to hike its trails. Luckily Monday morning the rain had stopped, everywhere was very damp and a little misty but we decided to make the most of it.

With waterproof hiking boots and suitable clothing we set off expecting we may have another downpour before we had finished our walk. The trail is heavily signed with warnings about the steepness and rough paths, we wondered how far we would get after all the rain. Whilst the trail began a little steep and had several switch backs, as we got further along wooden steps took you down the steepest gradients and easy stretches between the steep parts made the trail easier. All around the woodland was bursting into life, so many delicate wild flowers enjoying the dappled light before the tall trees get their full covering of leaf and close out the daylight.


Some of the lower rougher parts of the trail were a little wet and muddy, water dripping from the banks and rocks above. Eventually we could here the rush of the water in the canyon and in the distance spotted the falls.


The water cascaded over ledges of rock and tumbled alongside our route until it came to the ‘creek’ in the valley below.


It wasn’t until we had retraced our steps to the top of the Canyon where the mist had lifted that we were able to appreciate fully the depth of the Gorge and how it lay within the landscape.


We were so lucky to have had a reasonably good day for our trip down the Canyon as the day after, once more, the rain poured down. We had thought we might take in another of the State Parks in this part of Pennsylvania but admitted defeat and looked for an indoor attraction.

We crossed the border into New York State to visit the town of Corning famous for its glass works. We had seen there was a museum there and thought it might fill a rainy day. We chose to stay at Camp Bell Campground just a few miles west of Corning, a damp but pleasant site with the requirements we were looking for.

Arriving at the museums large car park we spotted a banner announcing that it was IMG_0226open house on the 19th May with free entry, Robert did everything he could to convince the staff on the admissions desk they had got the date wrong (we were visiting on the 18th) but we had to pay our $’s.




The vast interior of the building and the scope of the displays astounded us. We stayed for around 6 hours and still had to skip some of the museum area in order to see the demonstrations in the afternoon. We could easily have spent 2 days here.


From an exhibition of contemporary work by Toots Zynsky where we were bowled over by the vivid colours.











These pieces were constructed with fine threads of glass laid together and fused with heat before being moulded using a technique where the warm glass ‘slumps’ into shape.

The gallery of modern glass art



A life size glass dress                           little floating glass ‘boats’

To the historical pieces


some so old (dating back to 1bc and earlier) its hard to believe they had survived the centuries.

Elaborate pieces both large


              and small



This 17th centaury beaded basket about 14inches across was so intricate, a photo really cannot do it justice.

We found the demonstrations very educational, we heard how fibre optic technology was developed, watched an intricate demonstration of glass model construction using rods of glass, much like you see glass animals made in many places. A demonstration explaining laminated glass and its strength and finally we sat in the auditorium of the hot glass show to watch glass blowing techniques from skilled craftsmen.

I think it would be quite possible for us to go back to the museum and spend almost as much time again viewing the exhibits we missed and maybe taking in one of the opportunities for a glass making experience.

Once again the night was a wet one and the morning damp and misty,while wet it is not really that cold but quite humid. Now we were in New York State we had to decide a forward route. We thought we would take a look at the Finger Lakes area, lured by the knowledge that this was wine country we thought we may be able to spend some more ‘wet day’ time quite productively!

From Corning we drove north to Keuka Lake, we had been told that Bully Hill winery was a good place to visit. Just outside the town of Hammondsport the road forks, one way winding along the side of the lake the other rising steeply, then running almost parallel. We took the bottom road, very winding but picturesque along the lakeside which has property all along its edge. When we reached Pulteney we realised that maybe we should have taken the other fork of the road! We turned up a steep hill which brought us to the upper level but at the opposite end to the winery, no matter, we had a grand view of the lake from up here and got to see the vines with leaves just emerging.


Finally at the winery we were able to enjoy a tasting of their wines before making a few purchases, well, you have to have a memento of places you visit – don’t you?

On a sign in Hammondsport I had spotted, amongst the winery names,  ‘Autumn Mist Alpaca farm and fibre mill’. On our  morning jaunt along the lake we had not seen the farm so we popped into the Visitor Centre to see if they could give us directions. Hmmmm we had been about a quarter of a mile from the farm which was right up near Pulteney! Still, it was too tempting to be so close and not visit, so we drove back, after first calling to make sure we would be welcome.

We were shown around the fibre mill where raw fleece is washed and cleaned before being carded and drawn out into roving’s, dyed then spun into yarn.


I knew a little about how the process took place but to see it up close I found fascinating. The mill processes fleece from the farms own herd and that of many other Alpaca farmers.

Of course we had to then go out and meet the stars of the farm –


These cria were indoors

while the ladies were out enjoying a little sunshine.


A couple of Llama live with the heard and became quite inquisitive


P1170453me and my new friend!

In the small store the farm sells yarn, roving’s for spinning along with small knitted items, sweaters and throws.

From Keuka Lake we drove east in the Finger Lakes area to Watkins Glen at the tip of Seneca Lake. The town is famous not only for the Glen but for the race way and the historical fact that it held the first, closed road, car race in the US after World War 2.

The State Park lies above the rim of the glen, a deep river gorge with many waterfalls. The campground was quiet when we arrived the wet weather keeping most campers at home. Yet again overnight we heard rain, torrential rain, which did not stop until the early hours. Even then the drip drip drip from the trees above us was fairly constant.

We set out to walk the paths of the glen around 10am, thinking the flow should be good after the last nights storm. After a short downhill walk from the campground we crossed the site of the old lodge, arriving at the suspension bridge. The water was thundering down the narrow gorge below us.


We could see the path below was a good paved route not the rough gravel path we had expected. The top side of the bridge the water was about eighteen inches below the height of the retaining wall. We walked along a higher path which led to steps allowing access to the lower paths, a footpath closed sign and a padlocked gate barred our way. Not daunted we decided to walk up stream only to find that route closed too. We retraced our steps to the opposite bank and a high trail which took us to the main entrance at the bottom of the gorge. Here we were able to discover from the attendant that the glen had been closed due to the high water – 5 inches of rain having fallen over night – I thought it had rained heavily!

We walked into the town of Watkins Glen and easily passed our morning finding the local yarn store and a brew pub, thus, keeping us both quite happy. We had a nice lunch in the cafe attached to the brewery then made our way back towards the glen. The attendant in the morning had not expected the footpaths to be reopened that day but, the water had obviously receded more quickly than first thought as now we were allowed to enter.

A tunnel through the rock leads to the first bridge and overlook, what a force of water was pouring through the narrow gap! This however was only the beginning just a few steps further on we saw an even greater gushing of water flowing from the rocks above.



It was at this point Robert explained to me that the footpath was actually going to go under the flow of the water – never – well yes it did!

The path you can see turns toward the water right at the end… then there is a wooden bridge followed by stone steps up the other side.

I walked towards the pounding water, the noise was incredible. Robert was encouraging me to walk on so he could take my picture, I have to say its the scariest safe place I have ever been in! It was obviously safe or we would not have been allowed there but everything was telling me I should be terrified of such a huge amount of water above my head.


and under the flow




it all looks quite tame from here!


This was taken further upstream and I am indicating where we think the water height would have been when we looked down on the path in the morning.


There were many more cascades along the path, now bathed in warm sunshine, water dripped from the rocks above us and in places we had to negotiate deep puddles of water. It was so obvious why they would have needed to close the paths in the morning.


Several sources told us that it was a rare occasion for the glen to be closed for flooding although not unheard of, also, in the summer months the water flow can be just a small trickle, I find that hard to take in having seen such a huge flow ourselves. What a great time to be able to view the falls!

So, our week began with us wondering what we were going to find to fill it. We have filled it with an amazing amount, even for us. I have just done a word count on this post and I have over 2000 words, I think that must be a record for one week, I also think its time to stop writing for one week. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as we enjoyed our entertainment!


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