Hiking the RMNP

RMNP, Colorado – August, 2017 We were certainly enjoying our time on the western edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We took several walks in the area but a couple of hikes were our most memorable.

One weekday we hiked to Grand Ditch via Red Mountain. We parked at the Colorado River Trail Parking Area. The parking lot had been packed every time we passed it so I expected a popular trail with lots of company. Instead we arrived at 8 in the morning and were about the 3rd car there.

We hit the trail and didn’t see another soul for an hour or so. Then a couple caught up to us and trailed us most of the trek. On our way back down the trail we met a few more hikers headed up the trail and a couple guys that had been backpacking several days and were on their way back to civilization.

The day was very overcast and I was grateful we never got rained on. Most of the trail was a pretty steady climb. Parts of it were rough and rocky.

I had developed a fascination with the local mushrooms ever since I discovered these red ones were not exclusively associated with small men with beards.

This romp through the woods gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph them.

Jim started enjoying the hunt and pointed many of the toadstools out.

These little orange ones covered an entire hillside.

I seriously took a hundred photos of fungi.

Our walk was occasionally interrupted by a beautiful mountain pond.

We finally made it out of the woods and enjoyed a view of the surrounding mountains.

A short distance from there we came to the Grand Ditch. Apparently this is a water diversion project to bring snowmelt from the Never Summer Mountains to the eastern plains farmers. The result is plenty of waterfalls.

Jim is often a reluctant model in my shots.

I believe the exact words before this shot were “Where are you? Please get back in the frame.” I am grateful, he is so patient!

The hike to Grand Ditch via this route was 6 miles roundtrip. I must admit the hardest part was the trip down. Our feet and knees were screaming on the descent.

I wanted to do another hike of similar length before we left but Jim wasn’t feeling it. I weighed my options for a solo hike. I read the park’s literature on hiking in bear country and I appreciated their advice.

The 3 primary rules were; don’t hike alone, make lots of noise, and hike in the middle of the day. I’d prefer to have a hiking buddy but given the option between hiking alone or not at all, I’d rather take a hike. Make lots of noise I can manage. I have a bear bell, I’m not above singing to myself, and when I get tired of my own voice I will happily play music on my phone.

The rule I most disliked was hike in the middle of the day. I am a morning person. I’d much rather put in several miles before lunch. If I have to wait till later it’s likely to not happen at all.

So I considered their advice and chose a hike where, despite hiking alone, I was unlikely to be alone. I decided to hike the Green Mountain Trail to Big Meadows and return via the Onahu Creek Trail. We had never passed the parking lot for these trails without them being almost completely full.

According to the trail map it was supposed to be just over a 7 mile roundtrip but my GPS recorded it closer to 6 miles.

I arrived at the trailhead around 8 am on a Sunday morning and snagged the very last parking space. A couple were just hitting the trail in front of me and I lolly-gagged a little to give them a head start so as to not crowd them. I never saw them again.

The trail climbed steadily and I stopped often to catch my breath. Despite the very chilly morning, it didn’t take long for me to shed my down jacket, and shortly thereafter, my long sleeved shirt. The trail map looked pretty straightforward but the trail turned out to be a little more complicated.

There were several paths leading in various directions that were not on the map. And some of the distances were not entirely accurate. But in general it wasn’t terribly difficult to follow the directions and I was able to get to where I intended.

I didn’t meet another soul until I reached Big Meadows. Supposedly it is not uncommon to see moose here in the early mornings. But I was not hopeful on such a popular trail and shortly before arriving there I could hear people making quite the commotion from a nearby campground. It was still a pretty clearing.

I met a couple young fellows on the trail and basically asked them if they thought I was going the right direction. They agreed I was on the right track. Turns out most of the people I met, and presumably most of the cars in the parking lot, belonged to those who had hiked in to campgrounds for a night or several.

The first half of the hike was pretty uneventful and not terribly scenic. But once I reached Onahu Bridge which was, surprisingly, an actual wooden bridge, the trail got much prettier.

The trail criss-crossed Onahu Creek for the remainder of the hike.

I passed a half dozen other hikers that morning, not exactly as busy a trail as I expected. But I never felt unsafe and I enjoyed my solo hike immensely.

Of Moose and Men

Grand Lake, CO I don’t know exactly when I became fixated on moose. Somewhere around 20 years ago I suspect. I have no idea what started it but my love for these beasts is not waning.

Despite this my affection seems unrequited. They do not seem to be a fan of me. I have had very little contact with the creatures.

I was sure we would see lots of them when we vacationed in Alaska in 2006. We rented a class C and drove all over the state for a week. We saw a lot of amazing things but not one moose until our last night in the RV.

We stayed at a park on the outskirts of Anchorage. We were told we would almost certainly see a moose there. Sure enough at dusk a couple ladies made their way down the highway and bedded down near the entrance to the park.

This was my one and only moose encounter up to this summer. And it just wasn’t the kind I was hoping for. It was not the same as spotting a moose, preferably a male with a huge rack, in the wild.

So you can see why I was so excited when we had our run in with the moose near Flaming Gorge. Ok it wasn’t exactly up close and personal. But it was a bull and it was in the wild.

Our next stop seemed to promise more moose encounters. The town of Grand Lake sits on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. We fell in love with this little place and ended up staying 2 weeks.

Our very first morning there we went for a drive in the nearby national forest. We spotted a bull moose in the trees on the side of the road. Jim turned the truck around and the moose had crossed the road and climbed way up a hill.

We also saw a large female nearby. After further driving we saw 3 more moose! A young male …

and two females.

They were pretty near the road so I was able to get several good pics.

Thank goodness we had such a positive early experience because we didn’t see any more moose the remainder of our stay. We know they were around, we saw moose tracks and moose poop. Jim was walking along a river and a fisherwoman said “did you see those two moose that just passed?” Nope, he did not. But that’s OK, because we saw 5 moose in one morning!

Despite not seeing more moose we did have a wonderful time. The town was just big enough with great restaurants and nice gift shops. We had pizza the day we arrived at Grand Pizza and it was so good we went back for more before we left.

We also went out to breakfast one Saturday morning. The Fat Cat had the most amazing breakfast buffet. The chef was English I think and every dish was outstanding. I know, 3 meals out in only two weeks, what were we thinking?!

I don’t think the calories hurt us though. We did plenty of hiking, mostly in the national park. I’ll share that with you in my next post.

The town of Grand Lake is on the shores of Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. It is not overly crowded and moves at the slower pace that Jim and I prefer. It had everything we wanted and we didn’t have to share everything with throngs of people.

One weekend while we were there they held a regatta. They had races for kayakers, SUPs, canoers, and rowers.

Another weekend they hosted a free corvette show. There were at least a hundred corvettes on Main Street.

We visited Shadow Mountain Lake and checked out the dam where they release the lake waters and they continue on for a few miles as the Colorado River before backing up and becoming another lake, Granby. What we saw there got my fisherman pretty excited. The trout and salmon were going crazy trying to jump up that dam and continue their trek upstream, impossible.

We returned to the spot several times and Jim enjoyed the fishing.

He had some luck and we have some trout in the freezer.

This was the perfect area for us because he was entertained and there was so much for me to explore. I hiked along the east side of Shadow Mountain Lake which is part of the 3,100 mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This is a trail that, when complete, will travel along or near the continental divide from our northern border with Canada to its southern terminus at the Mexican border. It is currently only 72% complete and for now requires some travel on motorized roads.

The mile and a half hike beside the lake was a bit difficult because of the number of downed trees I had to go over, under, or around. There were about 20. I counted them on my return trip. But it was worth it. The lake views were outstanding and I ran across a deer and her fawn. They were a little skittish but in the end they decided I wasn’t a threat.

That trail continued on south of the dam and was less difficult. Jim joined me on it another day when the fishing was disappointing. He is so much better than me at spotting wildlife. He saw this osprey which was just a blob in a tree and I had time to get my telephoto lens out before he flew away.

I also walked many miles through the on-site campground, Green Ridge, chasing photo opportunities. The hummingbirds were plentiful but just won’t be still enough for a good shot. The chipmunks were a little more cooperative.

The lake was just gorgeous in the mornings.

We spent the first 10 days of our stay at Elk Creek Campground, an extremely nice, if a bit tight, RV park just outside the town of Grand Lake. We planned to stay 3 nights and then find a boondock in the national forest. But it was just so convenient there so when they said they had a cancellation and could accommodate us for another 7 days we decided to stay. Their daily rate for the full hookup site was $49 and the weekly rate was $309. It was definitely a splurge.

For our last three nights we moved over to our new happy place, Green Ridge Campground. We moved to the first come first served site early on a Friday morning. By early afternoon the place was packed. We paid $21 per night for a sight with zero amenities.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce, Utah – July, 2017 I was beyond excited to finally see Bryce Canyon. When we came this way in early May of 2015 it was still too cold to visit. This national park sits at close to 8000 foot elevation.

The weather forecasts at that time of year were not at all appealing. We weren’t interested in freezing our butts off! Now that we were planning a visit in July, that elevation was very welcome.

We could not get a reservation inside the national park so we chose a private campground about 20 miles from the park’s entrance. Red Canyon RV Park was a good jumping off point. Our full hookup pull thru was around $40 per night.

We arrived and got set up before lunch as is our M.O. After a quick bite we were ready to get a look around and do some hiking. We didn’t want to drive to the national park that afternoon.

We were in luck. We only had to head east a few miles to reach the Dixie National Forest and the scenery changed dramatically. We were soon engulfed in vivid red cliffs.

We stopped at the National Forest visitor center and picked up a hiking guide. Several hikes left from their parking lot so off we went. There were many intersecting trails so we weren’t sure what trail we were on all the time. Around every corner was a new view.

We were having so much fun we had wandered a few miles before we hardly realized it. We found these cool caves toward the end of the hike. We were too pooped to try to get up to them by that time although we really wanted to explore them.

Thankfully we only had to find a path down to the road and there was a bike path on the other side that easily got us back to our truck. Here is a view from across the road of the area we climbed around.

The next morning we jumped up bright and early and headed to Bryce Canyon. We drove to the visitor center, checked it out, and got a map. Then we waited out front for their shuttle.

Bryce has a shuttle that continuously makes the rounds of all the popular spots in the northern portion of the park. We love being able to hop on and off a shuttle at will. And it makes it so easy to hike between stops and not have to hoof it back the way you came.

The shuttle is optional in this park. You can drive everywhere if you want. But we usually choose a shuttle when available. Why hassle with traffic and parking when someone else is willing to do that for you?

This morning our plan was to ride to the end of the shuttle line, Bryce Point, and then hike the Rim Trail back to Inspiration Point. From there we could choose to hike further along the rim or ride a bus to each of the next viewing points. Here is our first good view of the canyon from Bryce Point.

And further along the trail, a look back at Bryce Point from the other side of the canyon.

In no time we put a couple miles behind us and reached Inspiration Point.

We then chose to ride the shuttle to the other easily accessible viewpoints.

The next day we took a guided tour of the southern two thirds of the park which is not serviced by the shuttle. The park service offers free tours each morning and afternoon. We reserved a spot on the 9:30 am tour. The bus can pick you up from any of several points in the park; the campground, the visitor center, the lodge. We chose to board at the bus terminal.

For this tour you stay with the same bus, driver, and group of passengers for its entire length. The tour is about 3 hours. You are driven to the southernmost viewpoint in the park, Yovimpa Point. Then the tour stops at each of the viewpoints along the way back.

I didn’t think the views were as spectacular as the ones in the northern part of the park. But they are still pretty awesome.

My favorite stop of the tour was Natural Bridge.

The tour was fun and better than driving the whole route ourselves. Our driver had lived in the area for something like 30 years and had worked for the park for more than 10. He was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining.

The next day we headed to Utah’s Kodachrome State Park which is about 20 miles southeast of Bryce.

We hiked the Grand Parade Trail before 9 am. This trail included a couple of box canyons which were fun to explore. It was challenging to photograph them at that time of day. But it made for a comfortable hike.

We then got back on Scenic Byway 12 and continued east through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It was an incredible drive with plenty of oohing and aahing, and head turning (on my part, Jim had to keep his eyes on the road). There were unfortunately hardly any places to stop and take it in. One of the only scenic pullouts afforded you this incredible view.

The pink cliff at the top is called Powell Point and the area below it is dubbed the badlands. According to the placard this was the “last uncharted territory in the continental US”. By 1879 Powell’s men had filled in the blanks.

We continued on to the town of Escalante and visited the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center there. We wanted to take a back way home and they gave us a Forest Service map and assured us that our truck could easily manage the route. Turns out almost any vehicle could drive the well maintained but gravel FH 17. It took us up and over a mountain for some spectacular views. Do you see the rain coming down on the left side of this picture?

We then headed down the other side of said mountain to the ghost town of Widtsoe. There are only a couple old buildings standing and there are some newer residences in the area.

The way the light played inside the building was really cool.

We then visited their old cemetery which was pretty interesting.

By then that storm was catching up to us so we headed the truck toward home.

Our last morning we again hiked in the national forest. Arches trail was only 2 miles from our campground.

Depending on whose description of the trail you were reading, there were one to two dozen arches that could be seen from the trail. This is probably because unless you inspected them closely it was not always clear what was a true arch.

It was also not entirely clear where the trail was much of the time. Nevertheless, it was fun trying to spot as many as you could while scrambling up and down the hill and around the various hoodoos and formations. And it was an enjoyable hike that was easy to complete before we got on the road to our next destination.

Kanab

Kanab, UT – July, 2017 We headed next to Kanab, Utah, just over the Arizona border. It was meant to be a stop on the way to the next place we wanted to be. But we ended up enjoying the layover very much.

We had driven straight through Kanab without stopping our first year out. We were on our way from visiting Zion to seeing Lake Powell. I recently read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Ingrid at Live Laugh RV, about tent camping in a state park near Kanab called Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. I thought “we were right there, how’d we miss that?”

So bright and early our first morning in the area we drove over to check it out. The park seems specifically designed to appeal to those with ATV’s (all terrain vehicles) or as they are often referred to in these parts OHV’s (off highway vehicles). The campground loop was pretty tight and I wouldn’t want to try to get my 5th wheel through it.

The sand really was a very nice shade of coral.

blog121b n park

We were most intrigued with trying to guess which animals the many footprints in the sand belonged to.

There was basically just the one viewing platform in the park. From there you could hike off across the sand if you wanted. We didn’t relish starting our day with sand in our shoes so we passed and left the park.

The views from the road just outside the park’s gates were so enticing that we stopped at the first pullout. From there you had no option but to climb a pink mountain if you wanted a better look. We decided to go for it and shake out our shoes later.

When we tackled the mountain we found that the sand had a wonderful powdered sugar quality to it. It was amazingly soft and for some reason not prone to getting in your shoes. You didn’t sink into it as much as expected and it didn’t fly around as much as normal sand.

At the second pullout after we left the park was a very large parking area. It appeared boondocking (free camping, dispersed camping, etc.) was allowed. It was too hot to consider this option in July but if we returned during the spring or fall we would absolutely consider camping there and exploring the fluffy, pink mounds some more.

You could easily stop at either of these pullouts to explore the sands and avoid the $8 per day state park fee. But we don’t begrudge the state a reasonable fee for protecting such an awesome area. We enjoyed meeting the work camper that collected that fee and talked to her about her and her husband’s life as hosts and full-time RVers.

Since arriving in Kanab, we had seen several of the same type of snake dead on the road. While in the state park we finally saw one alive, thankfully from the safety of our truck. He was crossing a parking lot.

He was quite lively so we didn’t really get close enough to tell if he was poisonous. We didn’t think he was. Even so it reminded us to stay on trails where we could see that there was a clear path in front of us.

Kanab was a very nice town with an outstanding visitor center, two small but excellent grocery stores, and a pleasant vibe. We inquired about hiking trails and were directed to a hike around the hill that dominated the skyline to the east of the town. The hill proudly displayed the town’s initial K on it. We stayed on the path but this entire family chose to scramble up the hill and onto said K.

The hill provided welcome shade at the beginning and the end of the hike.

And the path afforded excellent views of the town and the surrounding red cliffs.

Highway 89 through Kanab was the main thoroughfare we drove each day while exploring the area. It is a scenic highway and the views all along it are incredible. There is no reason to explore beyond the highway when it affords you views like these.

And this cool pond we passed every day. Apparently there used to be a campground here but it was bankrupt by a snail. According to our RoadsideAmerica app there was an endangered snail in this pond and the powers that be gave them so much trouble they had to shut the campground down.

I kept seeing the same striking blue bird in the area but never could catch a pic of it. I finally saw one that stayed still long enough for a photo op.

Jim was taken by this beautiful bloom. It had such detail for a small flower. It wasn’t much bigger than an inch in size.

I chose a campground 10 miles north of Kanab as the attractions in the area I was interested in were all just north of the town. The campground was called East Zion Riverside RV Park but it was part of the Thunderbird Lodge in Mt. Carmel. The rates were reasonable at $40 for full hookups but the perks were priceless.

They had a nice pool and a hot tub that were available 24 hours a day. We only made it to the pool one afternoon. But we were in the hot tub by 7 every morning of our stay and had it all to ourselves while the rest of the guests slept.

There is one day of our stay in Kanab that deserves it’s very own blog. I’ll get that post up within a few days!

Koreshan State Historic Site

Bonita Springs, FL – March, 2017 We had a cold front come through the middle of March and while much of the rest of the country wrestled with winter weather of the white variety, we enjoyed a break from the heat of our Florida winter. On a perfect day with a high of 75 degrees, a slight breeze, and a mostly cloudy sky we chose to visit the state park closest to where we are staying, Koreshan State Historic Site.

The Koreshans were a religious sect that started in New York State around 1880 and spread across the country with chapters in Chicago and San Francisco. They moved their headquarters to Estero, Florida in 1894 to avoid religious persecution. They planned to build a grand city here, a new Jerusalem, built on the principals of community property and celibacy.

At the center of their beliefs was the conviction that the universe existed inside a giant, hollow sphere with the sun and the moon in its center. Here is a representation of the way they saw the universe.

They stayed in tents for several years until they could get their homes built. They never quite accomplished the great city they had planned but they did eventually build a very nice compound. The arts were very important in their society and the entertainment hall was the center of their social lives.

It’s a beautiful, well preserved building.

There were seven prominent women who ran many of the group’s businesses. They lived in this beautiful home.

There were 7 bedrooms which served as the lady’s offices as well.

There was no need for a kitchen as all meals were communal. The woodwork in the home was amazing.

The founder of the religion, Dr. Cyrus R. Reed, had a pretty awesome home as well. I never did find an explanation for the round addition on the side.

Not every member of the sect lived in such luxury. But even their shacks weren’t all that bad.

They were a self-sufficient society with a bakery…

and a woodshop.

These were just a couple of the multitude of businesses operated on their members’ behalves.

They had some extraordinary gardens planned.

But the bridges they built stand out the most.

We enjoyed a nature trail along the Estero River which borders the property and were surprised how clear the water is. We were pleased when we could see a manatee approaching from quite a distance.

The bamboo along the nature trail was awesome. It made a nice wind chime like sound on a windy day.

Koreshan was a great place to spend an afternoon. Admission was only $5 per carload. They have a lot of demonstrations and events. We will likely time a future visit with one of these and/or bring our kayaks with to float the beautiful, clear river. The prior occupants were very interesting to learn about, the property was beautiful, and the walk along the river was entertaining.

We took our daughter and grand-doggy, Sasha, with and the park was very dog friendly.  Of course Sasha wasn’t allowed in any buildings so we took turns looking in them.  We also drove through the campground on our way out.  The sites were nice but close together with only a thin line of vegetation separating them.  But compared to the postage stamp we are renting in our commercial park they were huge.

The whole day we couldn’t help exclaiming often how great the weather was and how pleasant it was to have a break from the hot days we’ve experienced most of this season. We would never complain about the heat but this was a nice intermission from it and was really appreciated. We enjoyed a couple more days of cool weather before the hot days returned.

Catskills

Accord, NY August-September, 2016 We briefly visited the Catskills in 2004 and longed to return. When I say briefly I mean it was one stop on a 5 day, 5 state whirlwind tour of the northeast that we dragged our youngest daughter, then 12, along on. It was a marvelous adventure and the only time we could spare from our busy lives at the time. We do things differently these days.

We chose to stay for a week this time and picked a home base in Accord from which to explore this vast park. At first it was hard to choose where would be best to launch our explorations from but after some research it started to become clearer pretty fast. We couldn’t afford to spend a whole week if we had to pay over $50 a night to camp. The only reasonably priced option we found that was close to where we hoped to be was SoHi Campground in Accord which offered a weekly Passport America rate of $225.

Minnewaska State Park had been our primary stop on that long ago trip and was high on our list of must sees. There the lovely Peter’s Kill (kill means creek in these parts) runs through the park. A hike takes you along the creek to the top of Awosting Falls.

Then it continues down to the bottom of the falls. The last time we visited in the spring so there was a lot more water. Here’s my baby in 2004.

Here is the falls on this visit. That’s Jim standing beside it.

You can see the falling water a little better from the side.

The rocky bed of the kill itself was just as fascinating as the waterfall.

There are other waterfalls if you continue downstream or you can head up to a gorgeous lake and hike all the way around it if you choose.

This park is only 10 miles off Interstate 87 and well worth a visit if you are passing through.

One of our favorite day trips this time around was to Kaaterskill Falls. It is the highest two tiered waterfall in New York state. The moderate 1.5 mile hike into it is accessed from a pretty small parking area and then a short walk down the highway. You should get there early if you want a space because the next best alternative is a hike of many miles.

We arrived around 8am on a drizzly weekday morning and were about the 4th vehicle there. We didn’t have to share the trail in with too many people but by the walk out the trail traffic had picked up considerably and the parking lot was almost full when we pulled out around 10am.

The view of the entirety of the falls is pretty.

You can then walk up around a hundred stairs to get a better view of the upper fall which is downright stunning. The stairs then continue to the top but we didn’t proceed.

Jim pointed out this fellow to me on the way in. I have an especially strong dislike of millipedes and was careful where I put my hands the rest of the hike. He was around 5 inches long!

Each day we explored another direction and enjoyed views like this one from the truck. This was because there were almost no scenic pullouts. We took turns driving so one of us could concentrate on keeping the truck safely on the narrow roads leaving the other free to rubberneck.

Jim tried his hand at fishing the famous local trout streams. The most disappointing part of this endeavor was just how limited the access was to these waters. It didn’t help that his back was bothering him and just about all of the limited accesses we did run across required scrambling down steep embankments which he was not up to. It wasn’t too big a deal since we didn’t see a single other fisherman (or fish for that matter) which is probably because the stocked streams are fished out by late summer.

Despite this fact we enjoyed a couple hours at the infamous Junction Pool where the Beaverkill and the Willowemoc Creek meet.

We wandered the main street of mountain towns like Phoenicia and Roscoe. Both were charming but didn’t take long to explore as many of the shops were closed on a weekday. Woodstock was the exception.

We stopped in after our hike to Kaaterskill Falls. We had lunch at the Catskill Mountain Pizza Company where they sell pizza by the slice for very reasonable prices. Jim’s sausage slices were bigger than his head and all three of our pieces came to just $10 (cash only).

This town has a lot going on and doesn’t slow down because it’s noon on a Wednesday. There are plenty of interesting shops offering everything from healing crystals, to funky clothing, to palm readings.

If you get tired of walking you can grab a seat and the people watching will keep you entertained while you rest. The folks here are all about self-expression. I’m certain we saw a few hippies that came to the area for the summer of love and loved it too much to ever leave.

When I heard that there are 5 old fire towers still standing throughout the park I wanted to climb at least one. There is an organization that maintains the trails to these gems and even opens them to visitors on summer weekends. We waited toward the end of our week when Jim’s back was better and headed to the Red Hill Fire Tower, the easiest one to reach.

The trail was 2.8 miles roundtrip but was still a bit of a struggle because it was rarely a clear trail. It was full of rough rocks and tree roots most of the way.

The elevation gain was around 1000 feet and was a pretty steady climb. You finally come out of the dark woods to a view of the sixty foot tower built in 1921.

We had come on a Friday so the top was not open but we climbed up to the top of the stairs and enjoyed some spectacular views of the mountains and forest to the east

and of the Rondout Reservoir to the south.

We thoroughly enjoyed our weeklong visit to the Catskills. It wasn’t exactly what we remembered or expected but was extraordinary all the same.

Niagara Falls

August, 2016 – Niagara Falls, New York & Ontario I have wanted to visit Niagara Falls for many, many years. I can’t claim I’ve never been as there is evidence to the contrary.

I’d guess I was around 2 in that picture so it must be circa 1971 or so. It only took me 45 years to return. I’m so glad I did.

We spent the first full day there seeing everything we could from the American side. Our first view of the falls from Prospect Point took my breath away. The enormity of it is just hard to wrap your head around.

Goat Island is between the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Here is the view from Goat Island of the American Falls …

…and Horseshoe Falls. There is a perpetual rainbow, often two, over the falls, because of the large amount of mist.

Everything I read said we would be paying $10 per day to park but we were pleasantly surprised to find free parking at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. We bought trolley tickets there for $3 each. We hoofed it most of the day but it was nice to be able to hop the trolley back to the truck at the end of the day. The trolley driver said that on slow days they also don’t charge for parking in lot #3.

Our first day at Niagara had really wet our appetite and we could not wait for the next day so we could visit the Canadian side. We had every intention of driving over until the very last minute when Jim suggested we walk. We went back to the free parking we had found the day before, grabbed our backpack, and set off.

It was just two miles from the parking lot, across the international Rainbow Bridge, and all the way to head of the falls. Getting through Canadian customs at 8:30 in the morning was a breeze. There were only a couple people in front of us.  The official  asked us just a few questions and didn’t search us.

Here is the view as soon as you get past customs. The Canadian side was very beautifully landscaped all along the edge of the gorge.

We bought WeGo shuttle passes at the first welcome center we came to so we knew whenever we got tired we could get a lift. The shuttle passes were $7.50 each Canadian so after the favorable exchange rate and with the finance charge my credit card charged for the conversion we paid $6 American.

We weren’t in any hurry to leave the walkway along the gorge for a while. The view of the falls from the Canadian side is so much more complete than the American side. The view across from a waterfall is always better than from the top of it which is basically what you get from the US.

Here some brave souls zip line in front of the American Falls.

The crowds gather early above Horseshoe Falls.

We walked another half mile past the falls up the river admiring the landscaping, river views, and cool buildings. Then we decided we needed a rest so we hopped on a shuttle and rode it the 8 miles that it traveled down river. We rode past neighborhoods, and through downtown, and past every conceivable tourist attraction.

We were actually surprised how crowded the bus was at that time of the day. There were times when it was standing room only and at another point we were the only people on it. The bus turned around at Queenston Heights Park and we continued to ride it back through all the same stops and finally got off when we got back to the first stop after Rainbow Bridge.

We had our lunch in a lovely shaded garden and now that we were rested and nourished we set off to see more sites on foot. A couple people had suggested we visit Clifton Hill, a popular street near the falls. One person even compared it to the Vegas Strip.

So off we went up Clifton Hill. I was surprised to find the main section of this strip was only about a quarter mile long. And we found it to be more comparable to Branson than to Vegas.

But it was entertaining to see and at least the walk back to the falls was downhill. We had seen everything we came to see but I requested a return walk along the falls as the afternoon lighting would make for better pictures.

So we made our way along the now incredibly crowded walkway and admired more of the Canadians’ gardening.

We gazed a final time at the entirety of the American Falls.

And we got more pictures from the bridge, the best place to get a good shot of both falls together.

We were surprised by the 50 cent toll the Canadians charge to get back on the bridge but grateful they provide both a Canadian and American change machine and we actually had a dollar on us. The pedestrian and car lines waiting to get in to Canada in the early afternoon were extremely long. The line of cars waiting on the bridge to get into the US was shorter but we walked back through customs with hardly any wait, answered a few questions, and were back at our truck in no time grateful we had chosen to walk.

Our campground was an easy 15 minute drive from the falls on nearby Grand Island. The bridges to the island charge a toll to get onto the island but not to get off. So we paid something like $3 to get the fifth wheel onto the island and then paid $1 every time we left and wanted to return home.

We camped at Cinderella Motel and Campground where we got an electric site. The sites were close but they were extremely dark and quiet tucked way back behind the hotel. Those are traits we treasure as so many campgrounds have a lot of traffic noise and security lighting.

The Passport America rate was $30 for the first two nights then they charged us their regular rate of $40 for the second two nights. That was almost half what most campgrounds in the area charged. The very best deal in the area is free boondocking at the casino right by the falls. But it was just too hot during our visit to consider going without AC.