Day 11 - Always thought it was spelled Niagra?

Trip Start Jun 30, 2012
Trip End Jul 15, 2012

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What I did
Niagara Falls State Park
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of United States  , New York
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 11
Today was our longest traveling day of the trip. We drove around 8 hours (about 420 miles) plus took a 30 minute ferry across Lake Champlain from Charlotte, VT to Essex, NY. We were the picture of efficiency as we woke the kids up at 5:45 to get on the road in time to catch the 7:00 am ferry in Charlotte. Chanel was down and attached to the Tahoe in 20 minutes or so. The ferry was a lot of fun and a little chilly but Mary Claire and I still decided to sit outside on the second story bench to look at everything. When we got out into the middle of our crossing we looked north towards the larger part of the lake where it met the horizon. It was just like the ocean except for a tiny little cluster of trees that looked a little like an optical illusion floating above the lake. It is crazy to me that there are fresh bodies of water that big. 
 The drive we had that morning was beautiful. We were on two lane highways that cut through the Adirondack Mountains the whole way. We followed mountain streams and passed through tiny towns on mountain lakes. Thank goodness my husband always fills the gas tank when it is halfway empty because there was a stretch in there of two hours or so where we didn’t pass a gas station. I know this for sure because I had to go to the bathroom that whole time. I correct myself, I think we passed one gas station, but the car was being driven so fast that turning in was not an option. And much like eating your way through a sandwich, there is no turning back or pressing rewind or backing up when Will is driving. Any progress made is final. No worries, because I informed the driver that not only would he be in charge of buying my Depends when I am older due to chronic bladder strain, he will be in charge of changing them too. I digress.

When we joined back up with a major interstate it was almost time for lunch and we were near Rome, NY. In one version of our itinerary I had Rome as an overnight stop because Fort Stanwix is there. Fort Stanwix is a log fort that was built originally by the British in 1758 during the French and Indian war and was used in the American Revolution as well. It’s ruins had been buried below modern urban buildings, but in the 70’s extensive archeological research was done and the fort was rebuilt as close to the original as possible. It was completely worth the slight detour off of the highway and is a US National Monument. We swung by a Subway to get some sandwiches (we should have bought stock before leaving on this trip) and had a picnic on the grounds before entering the visitor center and then the fort itself. See pics.

After leaving Rome we finished up the trip to our campground, Branches of Niagara, on Grand Island just south of Niagara Falls. We arrived in good time, which was fantastic because this campground had so much to do (that we actually wanted to take part in). All of the buildings there are log structures and are fairly new. There is a lake with two zip lines across it and they rent canoes or kayaks for $5 an hour. There is a pretty fantastic pool that has an island in the middle, so that the kids travel around a little river and under a bridge connecting the island to the outer pool deck. They have giant checkers and putt-putt, a beach on the lake and two playgrounds. The crowning jewel is the log hut that is their “Activity Center”. It is open from around 9 am to 8 pm and there is ALWAYS a young staff person there to teach your children to weave bracelets or how to make birdhouses. They have two huge wooden picnic tables out in front on a covered porch that have tubs of crayons and coloring books. William and MC wanted to be at the activity center ALL the time. In the first two hours we were there they went swimming in the pool, they played giant checkers, William wove 4 different necklaces/bracelets with plastic thread, we rented a canoe and all went out in it and William took a kayak out by himself and successfully maneuvered it around the little island. It was awesome. You might wonder what was so attractive about these activities compared to all of the activities at Bayley’s campground in Scarborough, ME. I think there are two huge differences that make all the, well......difference. First, Bayley’s has been open since 1970 and Branches of Niagara opened in 2010. Secondly, and most importantly, Bayley’s offers over 750 sites and 12 cabins and Branches has 85 sites and 14 cabins. Well, we were all so pumped up that Will and I decided to go and forge ahead to the falls that night. As we drove towards Niagara the first thing we noticed was the huge plumes of white water vapor/spray that rise from the falls. From a few miles away it was super exciting to see such immense evidence of what was ahead. I called the restaurant on Goat Island (Island between the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls that is part of the NY state park) and asked when they stopped seating for dinner. She told me 9pm, which meant we had only 15 minutes to make it, and I navigated Will through southern Niagara Falls, to the park and into the parking lot like I had been dining there all of my life (thanks iPad!). We got to the Top of the Falls restaurant in time and we were seated with a fantastic view of Terrapin Point and the falls just beyond. Tourists were lined up along the point because year-round after dark there are huge colored lights that shine across the gorge from the Canadian side onto Horseshoe Falls to light it up. This is called the Illumination of the Falls (can’t you hear it in your head announced in a movie announcer's voice with echo?). The lights are 4000 watt xenon arc lamps that produce 8 billion candela of light. They are surprisingly energy efficient too and it is estimated that to run the lights and staff the control room costs the City of Niagara Hydro Commission $85 an hour. From the American side of the falls, at least, it wasn’t at all as cool as it sounds. But just being there next to the falls at night, hearing the water and seeing all the people (many speaking different languages), feeling the water vapor on your was pretty awesome. 

 The kids were disappointed to find the activity center closed when we got back to the camp around 10:30 pm, but it made it easy for all of us to collapse into our beds to recharge for a full day to begin in the morning.  

 PS - I always thought it was spelled Niagra, like the drug. Wouldn't that be appropriate? But, no, I've learned at 38 years old that it is spelled Niagara. Will and I, again, had the best time using our guido/NJ voices telling the kids to "Git in da caaaah, we ah goin' to NI-A-GAH-RAH." William and MC will now correct you if you only use 3 syllables instead of 4. :)
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