EXPLORING NEW YORK – NIAGARA FALLS
EXPLORING NEW YORK
This is the tenth in a series of articles about traveling the byways of New York State
By Charles N. Stevens
Photos by Dolores Seidman
With all traces of yesterday’s clouds and rain swept off to the east, the morning air is clear and crisp. Today our bus zooms up Interstate 190 towards Niagara Falls which we will now be able to see in the daylight. Lake Erie is on our left, a rich blue with dancing white caps on this sparkling day. The lake feeds both the Niagara River and the Erie Canal. Outside of Buffalo is a sprawl of old warehouses and defunct industry, a sign of our times.
We pass over a large bridge to Grand Island, the mist churned up by Niagara Falls far ahead masking some of the taller buildings. Near the river now, we gaze at the rapids, a splashing turbulence of white with gulls wheeling and swooping over the water.
Our first event of the day is a ride on the Maid of the Mist, a boat that will take us up to the base of the falls and the clouds of mist. We ride an elevator down many stories to the level of the water. Next, the attendants pass out blue plastic coats with hoods that we are to wear to prevent being soaked by the spray of the cascading water. The sight of everyone donning their coverings, the plastic crackling, and the laughter of people looking at their friends in the silly-looking garb is quite humorous. Everyone fumbles for their cameras to take photos of each other as an electronic memory of their trip; great to show the folks back home.
We board the Maid of the Mist, a boat that appears perpetually wet. Every railing or surface we touch is clammy. Traces of rust peek through its white paint. We ease away from the dock and head toward the American Falls, all of us anticipating the mist we are about to enter. Gulls are everywhere, flying and wheeling or simply floating on the water, their whiteness as dazzling as that of the falls. The action of the falls must stir up fish and other organisms from the bottom. We cruise near the falls, the water tumbling among the strewn boulders as it drops. We feel the mist on our faces, much like morning drizzle in Southern California. A full rainbow encircles it.
We now head for the hissing thunder of the Canadian Falls. I hang on to the wet railings as the boat begins to rock in the swells churned up by the deluge of water. As we edge closer the gray, bubbly water swirls and twists into small whirlpools. Soon we’re into the spray, a driving rain that ticks and beats against our plastic protection. We turn our heads and squint our eyes as the tourists’ ooh and aah or give way to muffled screams of joy and surprise, the deep roar of the mighty falls surrounding us. The mist is so thick that it obscures the falls, and the wind it generates drives the rain into us. Gradually we drift out of the “storm” and into the sunlight again, a genuine relief. But we are all glad that we had felt the pounding nature of Niagara Falls.
Back on dry land again, we stand on the observation deck high over the water looking down at the American Falls. We concentrate on the deep water flowing over its edge, the flow plunging over the rocks, the sun highlighting the edges of every splash, the swirling mist whirling in tight circles and drifting in the wind.
Later we walk along the path that is close to where the water pours smoothly over the cliff. Before that point the river is turbulent, most of it a cauldron of agitated white foam and splashing. The overwhelming flow seems a metaphor for inevitableness. The skyline of Niagara’s tall hotels and television tower/observation platform/restaurant are behind us. Many trees are touched by autumn, their yellow, gold and red adding their color to the season.
Continuing our walk, we have more views of the Niagara River, the sun and the churning water turning it into a sea of white. Where boulders protrude from the water, whole tree trunks, torn from the banks somewhere down the river are marooned in chaotic piles. We walk across bridges leading first to Green Island and then heavily forested Goat Island, giving us various new perspectives of the river and the falls.
Sitting on a bench in the sun, we enjoy all the sights and sounds around us, and think about how lucky we are just to be here.
Our bus leaves at 2pm for the Buffalo airport where we will board a plane to Chicago and then another back to Los Angeles. The trip had been wonderful, and we had learned more about the state of New York than we could possibly have imagined.