Buffalo, Canada, and Some Famous Falls, Eh?

Trip Start Sep 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hartland RV Park
What I did

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Leaving Cleveland and entering New York State was quite a contrast. We went from the bad roads and hectic pace of Cleveland to the quaint villages and farms of Western New York.

A good percentage of the houses in rural New York date back to the early 1800s and some as far back as the mid 1700s. We found several cobblestone houses, which were popular in the area in the 1700s because bricks were expensive and farmers would build houses from the material most ready at hand - the thousands of stones in their fields (deposited by a glacier long ago and then smoothed by the tides of an ancient Lake Erie). This not only gave them free building material, it got the stones out of their field so they could plant crops.

The only real city we encountered on this leg of the trip was Buffalo. My image of Buffalo before this trip was formed only by what I'd seen on Monday Night Football telecasts - people using snow-blowers to clear their sidewalks of the deluge of snow. it looked cold. It wasn't cold when we were there, but the overwhelming impression I got could be boiled down to one word: industrial. There were a lot of abandoned factories and spooky looking buildings. I'm sure there's more to the city than that, but these old buildings dominate the skyline, so it's hard to notice anything else. It would be a good place to film a horror movie, but didn't really inspire a long visit from us.

Finally we reached our campground, which turned out to be a cool little spot in Hartland, NY -- with farm animals running around, a pleasant woodsy trail for walking, and some little ponds and creeks. We liked it so much that we stayed for five days, about twice our typical stay.

Among the local wildlife was a roaming gang of guinea hens that did NOT like people walking in their space. They made it very clear that they were prepared to go to war with you if you intruded...so we kept our distance. On the plus side, Wren had a great time chasing these green and brown frogs, which she called "meep frogs", because if you got too close, they would scream "meep!" and jump away. Not sure how the frogs felt about it. They were probably frightened to death. The only other thing of note near the campsite was a local store run by the Mennonites that had the best crab salad ever. I mean...mmm. We bought it three times in five days. This was a small taste of what was to come in New England. More about that later...

The real reason for visiting this part of the world, of course, was to see Niagara Falls. Wow. You can't really explain to someone who hasn't seen it just what it's like. Yes, it's a huge waterfall, a couple, in fact. But the sheer power you feel standing near the falls is breathtaking.

We first crossed the border and went to the Canadian side to check out Horseshoe Falls. The Canadians have a really nice visitor center and some paid attractions, like the "Behind the Falls" adventure, where you go down these tunnels they've drilled to go behind the falls, and peek out at the thundering water, just a few feet away. There's a short video of this below. Overall, the Canadian side was much cleaner and more updated than the American side...although the parking was $20!

After buying a lot of maple candy and souvenirs with maple leafs on them, and taking our pictures with a giant stuffed moose and bear, we crossed back to the US side to check out American Falls. Parking was $5, much better. But the town and area were fairly run down and dirty. There weren't many cool attractions on the US side, just a railing to look over to view the falls, and a tower structure you could walk out on to get a better view. Sorry to say it, but the Canucks win this one.

We loved our time in Western New York. In our next blog entry, we venture through New England and up to the Maine coastline. Stay tuned!

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