27 May 2011

Moving on -- overland

Since we were told on Monday night how this trip was going to have to play out, given the persistently high water in the Oswego Canal, I have experienced a mirthful delight at very idea of a tour of historic waterways by bus.  But, after packing our bags and leaving them in the corridor and after one last breakfast -- this one including waffles, pancakes, apple wood bacon, fresh fruit, that is precisely what we set out to do today.  Two buses arrived in the RV park.  We were loaded in moments, our goodbyes said to the crew, and on our way, abandoning the boat in the woods.  My last glimpse of the Grande Mariner was from the bridge over the canal, the boat alongside the dock, all flat, wide and streamlined, and Lake Oneida on my right.  Sigh.

It was a three-hour drive to Buffalo.  We were riding in the back, by choice.  Lots more leg room.  A little more solitude.  I didn't bring a map with me on this trip, since I wasn't going to need one.  Google Earth was on the screen on the lounge almost all the time, that or the captain's sailing charts.  So, today I've felt a little lost.  In a church parking lot somewhere on the outskirts of Buffalo we paused long enough to rendezvous with two step-on guides who stayed with us through our visit to Niagara Falls.

Our first stop was at the New York Power Authority visitor center, about 4.5 miles downstream from the falls, where we ate box lunches -- which had been prepared aboard the Grande Mariner.  (Have I mentioned recently not liking having had to leave the boat?!)   High above the Niagara River Gorge and called the Power Vista, the visitor center overlooks two power plants (the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant on the US side and the Sir Adam Beck #2 Generating Station on the Canadian side) and the graceful Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Taken from the Power Vista on the American side of the Niagara Gorge -- Beck on left, Moses on right.

After that too-short visit -- didn't get to explore the exhibits or roam the grounds, we traveled along the Niagara escarpment, eventually ending up aboard the Maid of the Mist, all clad in what looked like blue, hooded dry cleaner bags.  Great fun, very wet, too short.

Despite some graduate work in architectural history, to include landscape, I didn't know that Frederick Law Olmstead did work at Niagara Falls.  In the late 19th century the site was heavily industrial, as well as having been commercialized (like it isn't now?).  New York state established a state park (called a reserve at the time) in 1883 (making it the oldest state park in the nation), which was then designed by Olmstead, collaborating with Calvert Vaux.  Our visit was on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, the place choked with visitors, the design carrying the load, but just barely.  I can only imagine what the next three days will be like.

The American Falls from the observation platform at Prospect Point

The rapids on their way to the brink of the American Falls

A view of Horseshoe Falls from Goat Island's Terrapin Point

Made from a 100
year-old Silver
Maple damaged in
a storm in 2006
To the hotel with us, the Buffalo Hyatt Regency in downtown.  What was one of the first things I saw from my backseat perch?  A "statue" of Frederick Law Olmstead alongside the driveway!  Yes, it does lean back quite a bit.  What do you think?  Chisel or chainsaw?

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