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Ocean City and Assateague Island National Seashore The COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on everyone’s life. At the beginning of the year, I had planned out my vacation Continue Reading →
To many people talking about Watkins Glen brings forth an image of high energy. Watkins Glen was the home of the first auto racing in the United States after WWII, and is home to Watkins Glen International Speedway. Many of the country’s best races can be found at the speedway as well as special events. However, The area offers much more than auto racing. The glen offers activities for those who like the outdoors as well as those that enjoy the finer things in life.
The village of Watkins Glen is located at the south end of Seneca Lake. In the early days of automotive travel, it was a popular overnight destination. The village was halfway between New York City and Niagara Falls, then a two-day drive. The Finger Lake region of New York is a very popular destination for those wanting to get away from big city life. Known for the lakes and rolling countryside, The Finger Lakes region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau. The shores of Seneca Lake are less populated than most of the other Finger Lakes, still you can find many things to do in the area including wine tours, hiking, boating and camping.
If hiking and camping is what interest you, even mildly, then the Watkins Glen State Park is a must-visit destination. The New York Park website has this to say about the park:”Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet (ca. 122 meters) past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Campers and day-visitors can enjoy the Olympic-size pool, scheduled summer tours through the gorge, tent and trailer campsites, picnic facilities and excellent fishing in nearby Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek, which is renowned for its annual spring run of rainbow trout.”
The park has three entrances. The main entrance is located in the village and is the starting point of the Gorge Trail. There is also a welcome center and souvenir shop here. Parking is limited here with some additional parking located across the road. The Upper entrance is near the opposite end of the park and the furthest point of the Gorge Trail. One point to note: the main entrance is at a 440-foot elevation, while the Upper Entrance is at 1010 foot elevation. So walking from the entrance to the upper is all uphill. The south entrance is on the south side of the park and is the entrance for the camping and swimming pool. You can also access the trail system from this point as well.WatkinsGlenTrailMap
At the main entrance you have two trail options, the gorge trail which follows the water and the Indian trail that goes to the to of the gorge and connects to the north rim trail. When you enter the gorge trail from the main entrance, you start by entering a tunnel carved into the rocks. Then cross a bridge that looks down over the last waterfalls. This trail is moderately difficult mostly due to uneven wet surfaces. The views are breathtaking. The Indian trail starts with a flight of steps that take you up to the rim. Once at the top, the trail is tree covered and only a moderate climb. Along the Indian trail are some overlooks that peer down to the gorge. There are also a few points where you can take steps down to the gorge trail. There is a suspension bridge that connects the north rim trial and the south rim trail near the campgrounds at the south entrance.
The campgrounds have sites for tents and RVs. It also has some rustic cabins.
The park is just one of the many things you can do here. This is a great weekend getaway from anywhere in the northeast.
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The Greatest atrocities in the history of man kind started with the forcible relocation of a small minority group. Yet, this past week we see the government of the Town of Henrietta forcible relocate the peaceful Fairy village that has existed for the past five years in Tinker Park.
Without due process or a clear location where these fairies would go, the park staff removed the village. The reason the park staff gave? “WE” do not like the type of people that came to visit the Fairies. THEY stated that the Fairy Village attracted people to the park, causing the park to be used by more people. This resulted in the nature trails showing signs of use. Their complaint of litter is valid, but do you kill the goose that laid the golden age? Is it not the purpose of the park to get more people out to enjoy nature? Does the park not have an environmental message that those who are littering need to learn? Is cleaning litter an act that the park staff feel is beneath them?
What the next step? I and many other enjoy the wild life found in the park. Will the park staff start to kill off the waterfowl and deer that call the park home so fewer people will use the nature trails?
I enjoy walking the few trails the Tinker Park has. It WAS good to see young families walking the trails and the enthusiasm the children had while looking at the Fairy homes. I see the removal of the Fairy Village as a statement from the Park, that the children even the adults of our town are not important to them. I understand the concern about litter, but this is not the way to address the issue. The concern about the trail use? If more people using the trails are wearing them out, then increase the budget for the park. We need more people out in the outdoors, learning about nature and what we need to do to save our environment. Get them away from cell phones and online games and out to see the ducks, geese, squirrels and the deer that lives around the Fairy Village.
Bring back the Fairy Village. Protect minority rights.
While in Davao Philippines recently, I visited the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s conservation Center.
It took an hour by Grab to get to the center which is in the outskirts of Davao City. The Philippine Eagle, (Scientific Name: Pithecophaga jefferyi) also known as the monkey eating eagle after its favorite food, has a Critically endangered Status. It is believed that there are less than 400 pairs remaining living in the wild. Eagles found injured are brought to the foundation with the goal of getting them well and returned to the wild. If they can not recover fully and are unable to hunt for themselves they will stay at the conservation center. Birds at the center are also used in a research and a breeding program. There are currently 7 Philippine Eagles in exhibit for education while the rest are isolated for conservation breeding and research purposes.
The center is also home for other birds of prey who can not return to the wild.
From their website: The Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) is an 8.4-hectare area located at the foothills of Mt. Apo in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City and situated within the Malagos Watershed. The Philippine Eagle Center primarily operates as a conservation breeding facility for the critically endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and other birds of prey.
The Center is divided into different functional areas, such as:
The conservation center is a little underwhelming. Overall, it is very small but depending on the amount of time you watch the birds and other wildlife can take you anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to see. Three hours for photographers. There are a number of cages that each house one bird, mostly Eagles the rest other birds of prey. A audio video presentation is also available.
There is an “island” of Long-tailed Macaque. I will admit it was amazing watching the social interactions these primates had between themselves.
The foundation’s website also has this to say:
We need to protect the Philippine Eagle for the following reasons:
Entrance to the center is only 150 pesos for adults, less for children. That is about USD 3.
We took a Grap (merged with uber last year) to the center from downtown to the center for about 700 pesos, $14. Our return trip, we took a trike to the transportation center nearby for less than a dollar and from the transportation center took a L300 (a commuter style van) back downtown for about $1 each.
Overall a very nice outing.
They dream of the perfect dive vacation. Diving at remote dive sites with perfect visibility, warm waters and more marine life than they could ever imagine in one place. They want a liveaboard that is more than just a dive platform and someplace to eat and sleep. They want something comfortable, even luxurious, but not stuffy and snobbish. Someplace as suitable for a bottle of local beer as it is for a bottle of imported Champagne. It needs to be modern with all the comforts of home, but still maintain the feel of an era long ago past.
They see themselves watching the sunset with a love one as the rays of lights highlight the grain of the teak wood decks. When those dreams come true, they find themselves on a handcrafted Phinisi yacht sailing and diving the Indonesia archipelago. A vessel that pays homage to the culture and craftsman who created her. They find themselves on the Nataraja.
Nataraja is the Hindu connection between the spirit and the arts, and is the perfect name for this 32 meter Phinisi yacht. Since ancient times, the boat builders of South Sulawesit have been building boats. First it was simple fishing boats, so they can feed themselves, later larger vessels such as a Phinisi for exploration and trade. As the builders skills improved, they passed it to the next generation becoming in itself an art form. A Phinisi is a traditional Indonesian two-masted sailing ship, generally built from Ironwood and Bangkirai with teak being used as finishing. Yacht owners took notice of the craftsmanship of these vessels and soon the were being built as custom designed yachts.
The keel of the Nataraja was laid in 2015, making her first sailing in 2016. She was built with an eye on comfort and luxury. Nataraja’s deck plan is one with an open living concept as well as privacy. There is a large shaded dining area for al fresco dining, and a spacious lounge at the stern. Nataraja has 5 cabins aboard, 1 master cabin and 4 Double cabins with an optional 3rd Bed. The master cabin boasts a private terrace in the stern with two large windows, offering splendid views of the sea. It has 1 large bed and two smaller ones, with a bench and desk. Each cabin is air-conditioned and has a private bathroom with a hot water shower, sink and toilet. She is designed to carry 9 adult passengers and 4 children in four beautiful cabins, with the fifth cabin generally reserved for the cruise director/tour guide.
Depending on the season and your personal preference you can charter the Nataraja for sailing Komodo National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site or Raja Ampat.
Komodo National Park is best known for being the home of the Komodo dragon, the world’s last living dragon and the largest lizard. Komodo National Park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller islands. The scuba diving is some of the best in the world and there is diving for all skill levels. The Nataraja can take you to Pink Beach for an unforgettable picnic after snorkeling in the crystal clear waters with manta rays. Later trek to the peak of Padar for one of the most incredible views in the world. The balance between land excursions and diving is up to you, it is your yacht.
Raja Ampat translates to “Four Kings” a name to honor the 4 main islands. It is a land of breath taking land and seascapes. These easternmost islands of Indonesia have drawn adventurers and explorers for centuries. Today they also draw scuba and free divers. Indonesia is included in the Coral Triangle, the area considered the most bio-diverst in the world, and the Raja Ampat area has one of the highest number of different species within the coral triangle. Being remote and in an area of scattered population and low urbanization means you will find pristine conditions for both diving and sailing.
The traits and details that make the Nataraja the perfect liveaboard for scuba and free diving also lend themselves for making the Nataraja perfect for other styles of sailing vacations. Feel for yourself why yacht owners around the world hold Phinisi style yachts in such high regard.
Visit remote islands in the Raja Ampat that get few if any tourist. See what it is really like to live here. If you enjoy kayaking, let the Nataraja bring you to places that are so incredibly beautiful that words alone cannot describe.
Being the one responsible for planning a dive vacation for a scuba diving family or a small dive club is a daunting task. Even after shifting through dozens of suitable dive destinations, you then have to find a liveaboard that is just perfect for your group. Diving a Phinisi style yacht in Indonesia is the perfect solution.
As Summer was winding down, I decided to take a trip to the Thousand Islands. The Thousand Islands has a rich history that helped shape both the United states and Canada. It was a factor in the War of 1812, was popular with Presidents in the late 1800s, and many millionaires built summer retreats here in the 1930s. The area is still a very popular summer getaway.
Hover over the photo above to show the next arrow. Click on an image to go to the flicker album
For those not in the know, The Thousand Islands is in the area where the Saint Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. The Saint Lawrence River is the passage allowing the Great Lakes to empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The first fifty miles or so has many islands. While the area is known as the Thousand Islands, the official count is 1,864 islands. To be considered an island, the land must have at least one square meter of surface always above water. It also most have at least one tree and additional vegetation.
The Saint Lawrence River also forms the border between the US and Canada. So some islands are in Canada and some in the United States. The border is not a straight line nor does it follow the center of the river. A treaty at the end of the War of 1812 divided the islands so that each country received the same land mass. However, Canada received more islands. The division impacted the border.
The largest island is Wolfe. This island is about 29 kilometers (ca. 18 miles) long, with its width varying from around 9 kilometers (5.59 miles) to a few hundred meters at some points; its area is about 124 square kilometers (48 square miles). The smallest island is Tom Thumb.
Just Room Enough Island, also known as Hub Island is the smallest inhabited island in the world. The island is about the size of a tennis court. Purchased by the Sizeland family in the 1950s, the island has a house, a tree, shrubs, and a small beach. Local tour guides often misrepresent this house as being built by Bolt for his mother-in-law. Heart Island home of the Bolt Castle is the closest island to Just Room Enough Island.
Bolt Castle is a 120 room mansion that was never completed. There are many stories about it. I am going to borrow some text about it from wikipedia
“George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, and his family enjoyed an earlier frame cottage on Hart Island (the island’s original name) for several summers, which they greatly expanded. In 1900, George Boldt launched an ambitious construction campaign to build a huge masonry structure, one of the largest private homes in the United States. He engaged the architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt and hundreds of workers for a six-story “castle” as a present to his wife. In addition, four other masonry structures on the island are architecturally notable. Equally distinctive is a huge yacht house on neighboring Wellesley Island, where the Boldts had another summer home and a vast estate, incorporating farms, canals, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, and a polo field.
The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt’s wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. Boldt never returned to Heart Island, leaving this structure as a monument of his love. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Heart Island and the nearby yacht house in 1977, for one dollar, under the agreement that all revenues obtained from the castle operation would be applied towards restoration, so that the island would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. In the two decades after acquiring the property, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority spent some $15 million for restoration and improvements here, and work continues annually. The initial goal of the restoration of Heart Island was not to finish what had not been completed, but to restore the island to the state it was in when construction was halted.”
I remember 30 years ago taking a boat tour of the Thousand Islands and the tour guide pointing out the “shortest International Bridge in the world”. On the tour I went on, they also pointed out the bridge and added a story about the owner having to pay taxes in two countries. However, maps from both the US and Canadian governments show that both islands belong to Canada. Still, it a nice story and great photo op.
There are boat rides from both side of the border that will take you around the islands. Uncle Sam Tours from Alexander Bay is the one I used and highly rate it. The boat stops at Heart Island before returning to Alexander Bay. You can get off here and pay the entrance fee to visit the island and the castle. To return to the mainland you can take the next tour boat or a shuttle.
Having an unexpected trip to Delmava, I decided that I should check off one of the items on my to do list. Namely, visit the Assateague Island National Seashore and stay overnight. It was a fast look online for camping equipment and a trip to Field and Stream and I had a nice small tent and a sleeping bag. Both on sale I might add.
After finishing a car rally with my brother, I headed to Ocean City Maryland and then the nearby national seashore. I had bought a multiple agency senior pass last year before the prices went up and that allowed me free entrance as well as a 50% discount on the camp site.
I drove around the park and it was not long before I sighted a few horses. Sadly the only time I spotted horses was when I was in the car.
Being a chilly Sunday, the camp grounds were near empty. I found a wonderful site on the bay side, registered at the camping office and returned to the site to set up the tent. Then it was a another drive in the park, followed by a walk along the sand dune.
The walk was very interesting and I found out why they suggested aqua shoes instead of hiking boots. It was hard going along the dunes but much easier by the surf. I then went for a hike along one of the nature trails.
I did not see anymore horses, but did come across some deer.
The camping ended up pretty good, it was a little chilly but the sleeping bag was warm enough. Did not like the sleeping bag. I sleep on my side and the bag would not move well enough. So come spring, I will spring for a new bag.
For my first overnight camping trip in decades it went very well. Come spring, I will start camping.
Here is a link to more of my photos from Assateague Island National Seashore