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Friday, May 30, 2014

Niagara Escarpment - Rattlesnake Point

Today we hiked the Conservation Halton park at Rattlesnake Point.  It is located along the Niagara Escarpment.  The ancient history of the escarpment is described in our previous blog entry on Crawford Lake.  Interestingly, while the photo below shows that the escarpment runs northwest from Niagara Falls, in fact, the escarpment extend southeast further downward to the three falls of the Genesee River located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, which we described in our blog entry on Letchner State Park.

The park kiosks point out that the park is the northernmost point of the Carolinian Life Zone, which is characterized primarily by deciduous trees and cedar firs, located in the southern Great Lakes Region.

Much of our hike was along the local section of the Bruce Trail, which follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment (see photo above), from the Niagara Peninsula of Southern Ontario in Queenston, Ontario, on the Niagara River, not far from Niagara Falls, to the northern end of the Bruce Peninsula between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.

We drove to the point and walked over to the edge of the escarpment.  We could see west...

... and south toward Mount Nemo:

Rattlesnake Point is used by rock climbers for training purposes.  Here are some ropes attached by carabiners to numbered pitons secured in the rocks.  We chatted with an instructor, who said that Conservation Halton inspects the pitons periodically and certifies that they are secure.  Rock climbers pay a fee and then can hook to any of them to practice climbing.

Rattlesnake Point has several viewpoints.  This is Nelson Lookout, which was constructed in 1964:

From Pinnacle Lookout, we could see part of the rockface of the Niagara Escarpment and beyond that, the valley below:

Here, David inspects the Nassagaweya Canyon Lookout marker:

As you hike along the escarpement, you can see where ice and water have split part of the rocks away from the main shelf.  Sooner or later, the rocks on the left will tumble into the canyon, leaving the rocks on the right as the new cliff face:

We hiked further north along the Bruce Trail, to the Buffalo Craig Lookout, which provided an even broader vista of the valley below:

Periodially, we could hear woodpeckers, but we seldom saw them.  However, halfway along our hike, we found evidence of their work on one poor tree:

As we hiked further toward Crawford Lake, we disturbed two turkey buzzards, who flew up and into a nearby tree.  We've never seen buzzards roosting in a tree, and this was quite interesting. This first photo shows both turkey buzzards flapping their wings and flying to another try in response to two hikers who passed us making too much noise as we tried to photograph the raptors:

One turkey buzzard settled on a limb and was patient enough to let us take its photo:

We reached our turnaround point and celebrated by drinking icy cold lemonade. As we rested, we were soon passed by 30 students on an after school hike. You gotta love the Canadian school system. The trip back to the truck went quickly, not counting the puppy petting stops. We're looking forward to our next outing to the Niagara Escarpment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Niagara Escarpment - Crawford Lake

Hi Blog! Sorry we have been away so long.  We have been helping our son's family relocate to Toronto, Canada. We've been doing a lot of grandbaby sitting in the big city while the parents went out apartment hunting. However, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, we took a break from going downtown and finally got a chance to explore our campground neighborhood. We are staying near Campbellville, Ontario, which is about 40 miles Northwest from Toronto in an area of Canada referred to as Escarpment Country.

By way of background, the Niagara Escarpment is 450 miles long and runs predominantly east/west from New York State through Ontario.  It began to take shape over 450 million years ago as the bed of a tropical sea. During the millions of years that followed, the sediments were compressed into rock, mainly magnesium-rich limestone (dolostone) and shale. The progressive action of glaciers, water flows and the elements caused the more resilient dolostone to weather at different rates than the shale, resulting in the very dramatic land forms that we see today: sea stacks, karst formation caves, deep valleys, scenic waterfalls, rugged hills, and perhaps most remarkable, the spectacular cliffs along the Niagara Escarpment itself.

There are hundreds of parks and conservation areas all along the escarpment. There are six in our neighborhood. We are going to try and visit them all while we are here. Today we visited Crawford Lake. We stopped in the Visitor's Center to get more information. The ranger suggested that we start off by hiking and then come back to the Center for a 2:15 p.m. film and tour. There were several school groups visiting and it was a bit loud, they would leave at 2:00 p.m., so off we went. The first part of the trail to Crawford Lake is paved and is home to several wood sculptures.

Here is Kathy getting up close and personal with one of the residents.

Here's Dave taking a break on a beautiful sculpted bench.

Crawford Lake is meromictic, which means it has sequentially-deposited seasonal sediment laminations called varves at the bottom; these allow for accurate dating of sediment cores and makes Crawford Lake a prime site for archeological and geochemical studies. Using pollen analysis, reconstruction of the history of the area over several hundred years was possible. The pollen analysis revealed the agricultural history of the native Iroquoian Indians and the presence of a pre-European contact village. The lake itself is also very pretty.

The woods around the lake are very dense.  Some of the trees grow in spirals to give them more strength against wind and snow.

The protect the fragile wetlands around the lake, a boardwalk was constructed. Here is Dave demonstrating his Jedi light saber technique with his trekking poles.

After a quick loop around the Crawford Lake, we headed out on the Woodland Trail to look over the Nassagaweya Canyon. On the way, we hiked through a forest of ancient Eastern White Cedars. A tree with circumference of a few centimeters could be hundreds of years old. The 400 to 1000 year-old trees can be found growing right out of the rock of the Escarpment. The tough living conditions keeps them small and Yoda-like.

As we look across to the Milton Outlier, we can see several turkey vultures circling up and down the Nassagaweya Valley. Glacial melt waters cut a 4.5 mile channel in the escarpment leaving a large island emerging from the surrounding lowlands.  The island is called the Mount Nemo Plateau.

For part of our hike, we followed the historic Bruce Trail, Canada's oldest and longest marked footpath, which provides the only continuous public access to the magnificent Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Running along the Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory, it spans more than 500 miles of main Trail and over 250 miles of associated side trails. The Bruce Trail is white blazed, just like the Appalachian Trail back home.

As we finished our three mile loop and headed back toward the Visitor's Center, we could see evidence of past farming and logging activities in the area.  These large boulders were piled up to make corrals and foundations for buildings.

Back at the Visitor Center, we started our tour of the Wendat-Huron village with a brief video. We then walked over to the site of the original village. A new village has been reconstructed based on many years of work by archaeologists, historical references, and First Nations oral traditions. Our guide shows us the basic framework of a longhouse. Each pole was placed in the exact spot where evidence showed a pole had been before.

Here is what the long house looks like when the construction is completed.  It is as close to historically accurate as they can make it, but the roof material is modern to protect the structure.

The inside is set up the way a traditional long house is, but without the over two years of supplies and personal belongings of the clan. Each of these long houses belonged to a particular family, with the oldest woman being in charge. Wendat women will live in the same long house their whole lives.  If they marry, their husband will come and live with them. If more generations are born, they just keep adding onto the long house. Each house in this village probably held about 30 people and there are five houses they found so far.

The site, which is administered by Conservation Halton (a nonprofit conservancy), has been well researched and documented and, because it is not commercialized, was very interesting.  The guide admitted that the conservancy made some mistakes early on in interpreting features of the long houses and village, but by working with local First Nations representatives, they are slowly correcting interpretive errors.  The trails are very well maintained and marked, but extensive efforts have been made to preserve and protect the wetlands and other wilderness areas and the flora and fauna in them.  We are looking forward to exploring more of the parks in the Niagara Escarpment.  There are several of them, and each features and protects a different feature unique to the Niagara Escarpment.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Goodbye, Watkins Glen

One of the days we stayed here, we walked around the town of Watkins Glen, which is situated on the south shore of Seneca Lake.  The view up the lake from the waterfront is beautiful:

The town has built a little observatory, out on the end of a pier, which we explored:

The observatory is closed on three sides, permitting the hardy to watch the lake even in inclement weather:

Near the observatory, and situated on a train line that runs through the town, is Seneca Harbor Station, originally the train station built in 1876 but now a restaurant, where we ate lunch:

Remarkably, the town has little character of any sort:  not much in the way of historic buildings, no big, thriving tourist retail district, not a lot of antiques or art around.  In short, the town itself was disappointing.  One building sported an original mural that caught our eye:

A new hotel has also been built on the waterfront, but, over all, it appears that tourists who come to the area stay outside the town and focus on Watkins Glen International Raceway (affectionately self-named, "The Glen"), Watkins Glen State Park and the Glen Creek Gorge, which we blogged about earlier in our stay here, any of the 50 waterfalls in the area, including Montour Falls, which we mentioned in an earlier blog entry, or the hundreds of wineries on Seneca Lakes and in adjoining areas.  We think this is sad and a big missed opportunity for the town.  The town does have some necessary services, but aside from a Walmart, one grocery store, a pharmacy and numerous restaurants, even the services area sparse.

After our walk around town, we did drop over to Cayuta Lake, which is drained by the trout stream, Cayuta Creek, which we fished the other day.  The lake appears to attract lots of fisherman.  Here's a panoramic photo of Cayuta Lake:

The area has had to much to offer us, however, that we feel sad leaving it, and we fully intend to get back to the Finger Lakes District later this season.  Nevertheless, for now, we must say, "Goodbye, Watkins Glen."

National Soaring Museum in Elmira, New York

Today was due for thundershowers all day, and we need to prepare today for our move tomorrow to Toronto, so we decided to make a short visit to the National Soaring Museum in nearby Elmira, New York. The museum is located on Harris Hill, which is the site of a glider airport that has been deeply involved with soaring and sailplanes throughout their recent history.

Our tour began with two videos - one that explains the sport of soaring and what you would experience if you took a sailplane ride; and one that illustrated what it would be like to earn your glider pilot's license, by following a New Zealand teenager as she navigates the skills required to fly and land a glider.  The second video was exceptional just for its breathtaking glider's-eye-view scenery of New Zealand's South Island, which made us think of Dave's sister Lizzy and her family, who live outside Auckland.  Here is a scene from the video showing gliders as they navigate the air over a sound on the South Island:

The museum explored briefly the history of humans' attempts to fly, including Leonardo Da Vinci's and others' designs of fantastical flying machines.  But, for practical purposes, the history of soaring begins with the Wright Brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and the museum displays part of the cloth covered wing of that history-making airplane:

For years, until World War II, gliders were not borne aloft by being pulled by motor-driven aircraft.  Rather, they were generally pulled by a car or truck bearing a winched towrope, which could be released once the glider reached appropriate airspeed.  Here is a truck and winch that was actually used in the 1930's:

Because land-borne motor vehicles could not manage a tow rope long enough to let the glider get very high aloft before cutting loose, a location such as Harris Hill, which is high and overlooks a flat valley that is a source of strong updrafts and thermals, was ideal for helping a glider then achieve elevation even after it has cut loose its towrope.  This is one of the reasons Harris Hill played such a big role in the sport.

Before World War II, Germany, as a result of the restrictions placed on it by the World War I armistice, could not build motor driven aircraft (that is, of course, until Hitler's regime simply decided to ignore the prohibitions and build a mighty air force).  Frustrated by the inability to build engine-propelled aircraft, Germany nevertheless actively explored the engineering and design of non-motorized aircraft, and consequently became the undisputed leader in the design, production and manufacture of gliders going into World War II.  Recognizing the need to match Germany's military advantages, Britain and the U.S. only began to develop military glider capabilities with the beginning of World War II.

Most people who know the history of D-Day are aware that many U.S. paratroopers and other soldiers and military equipment were flown into Normandy behind Germany's shore defenses, by the use of large gliders.  These were, essentially, single-use aircraft.  Their success in landing without crashing was decidedly mixed, and many lives were lost in their flights; but, on the other hand, the successes they did have were crucial in helping the Allies storm Europe.

The museum has part of one of the World War II gliders, and makes it available for visitors to step inside and experience what it might have been like to fly in the glider:

Kathy took her place dutifully on the paratrooper bench:

David opted, instead, to try out a more modern glider, just big enough for him alone:

Many people don't realize that the Space Shuttle program owes its success in no small part to the study, enhancement and development of glider technology, as the space shuttles were, on landing, without engine power and needed to fly and land safely based on glider principles.  So Kathy gives her pictorial nod to the space program's involvement in soaring by posing for the photo below:

The National Soaring Museum is one of only two significant museums in the world that exhibit the sport of soaring.  It has dozens of gliders, from historic to modern, on display in its large hangar-like space, and it exhibits models of every significant glider model ever built, describing the significance of each model, the importance of major glider designers and manufacturers, and the glory of major glider pilots.  It was a visit well worth making and left us pondering whether we might take a glider ride someday.  Kathy says she'll discuss it with her acrophobic alter ego and let David know what they decide.

Fishing Cayuta Creek

Hi Blog. As you know, we spent the winter down in southern Arizona.  Didn't get a chance to do much fly fishing down there.  It has been months since we tossed a line in the water. We will be spending the next five months bouncing between Toronto and New Haven. Because it is a long drive, each time we travel between the two destinations we will stop over somewhere in New York or Massachusetts. We thought we would spring for New York fishing licenses and put all that time to good use. Our first foray was to Cayuta Creek.  Here is Kathy arming herself for battle.

We read good things about Cayuta Creek. There are plenty of fish and easy access to the stream. What more could a fly fisher need?

Well, we found the access easy, but tossing a fly around with all the trees and bushes proved to be a challenge.  The effort caused David to declare that he's going to get himself an additional shorter fly road for these small, brushy creeks.

Kathy hadn't even got her first fly wet when she hooked a small rainbow trout.  Here she is setting it free to grow up some more.

For the first time all week, we didn't get any sprinkles this morning.  It was almost too sunny to fish.  With all the recent rains and flooding, the stream was running a little high and still had a slightly milky tinge to it.  We were uncertain whether fish that had been in this area had had a chance to return or not.

We didn't get another bite the rest of the morning, despite finding a few deep pools and nice riffles.

After spending several hours exploring the creek and losing flies to underbrush, we decided we needed to reward ourselves for a morning well spent.  Here is Dave tucking into a vanilla milkshake.  Yum!

And so ends another adventure. Wishing you tight lines!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hiking the Gorge Trail in Finger Lakes National Forest

We're beginning to prepare for our move this Thursday to a campground near Toronto, and the more we've thought about it, the more complicated it is, getting our cell phone, internet and GPS systems ready to function in Canada.  We'll be in Toronto for a month, and then will be in and out of Canada several times this year.  In 2015, we'll be spending nearly four months in Canada.  In 2016, we plan to spend almost 3 months traveling through British Columbia on a trip to Alaska. This has required more upgrades than we expected:  a new mobile hotspot that's Global Ready, added global roaming for our cell phone and hotspot, probably a new prepaid basic phone in Canada, and a new GPS with Canadian maps for our truck.  So there's been a real flurry of electronic activity the last couple of days.

We still make room for the outdoors, so this afternoon we drove across to the east side of Seneca Lake to take a hike on the Gorge Trail (as well as a side hike on the Interloken Trail).  It was a short hike of just under 4 miles, an easy outing to stretch our legs as we start to increase our running mileage after the Broad Street Run and begin training for the half marathon in Schroon Lake, New York with Katie in late September.

The hike is a pretty one.  It starts near Gorge Pond, which is very picturesque this time of year, with all of the deciduous trees really leafing out.  Kathy is enjoying the scene at the pond:

Just as we rounded the pond, Kathy spotted a goose family; unfortunately, the goose family spotted us at the same time.  By the time David could get the camera on them, they had turned their little goose butts on us and started making out for the far shore of the pond:

Well, the hindquarters of wildlife is better than no wildlife at all.

We got to the trail junction of the Gorge Trail and the Interloken Trail and David assisted in holding up the sign:

Spring and its signs are everywhere.  Here are some beautiful, delicate, fuchsia-colored wildflowers:

...and some delicate, lily-like flowers down in the wetlands by the stream:

The hike follows a stream down into a verdant gorge.  Finally, the stream came into view between the young, leafy trees:

At the bottom, the stream is stony, and David inspected it as we walked:

We counted at least five widow-makers just waiting to fall on some unsuspecting hikers' heads.  Kathy inspects and tags this one to make sure it does us no harm:

Our trail led down the stream to the base of a hill, which we climbed up to a trailhead at another parking lot.  We refreshed ourselves with some cool lemonade (Kathy had a specially homemade Arnold Palmer) and headed back upstream toward our own trailhead.  As we hiked, we could see little falls and rapids:

The stream valley was peaceful and no one else was on the trail.  We lingered and watched the sunlight dapple the stream with light and shadows from the swaying trees:

Back at the trail junction, we turned up the Interloken Trail to seek out a lake that showed on the Forest Service map for our trail.  Not long after, we found some strange sort of mushroom growing right in the middle of the trail:

After about a half mile's walk up the Interloken Trail, we couldn't find the lake where the Forest Service map showed it would be.  We checked our GPS, which showed no lake in that position. We hiked on until we found a landmark that we knew was past the supposed location of lake.  No lake.  So we turned back down the trail the way we had come.

No sooner did we turn back than we finally found the lake!  It was at least 20 feet wide and 60 feet long:

We named it, "Lake Disappointment."

Back we hiked to Gorge Pond, and found it looking particularly fetching in the bright afternoon sun:

Even the cattails were out in force:

The predicted 4:00 pm showers never materialized.  We appreciated this and headed home in the truck, slowed only by two stunod drivers of trucks and horse trailers that decided to block the entire road to unload some horses for what Kathy supposed was a planned trail ride.  Some quick reconnoitering found us an alternate route and we were back on our way home... soak our bones and muscles in the hot tub for what we think was a day well lived!