A September 2005 trip
to Watkins Glen by Samlawali
Quote: Spending time with good friends and their young children while camping in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of New York can either bring you closer together or, well, let's just say that it can also make you stronger. This was a great weekend trip full of ups and downs. Come on in.
The Village of Watkins Glen was founded by a gentleman by the name of Dr. Samuel Watkins in 1828, who was the owner of over 25,000 acres in the area. Dr. Watkins was a well-known doctor from New York, whose original three-story dwelling is still standing in town, although it has had numerous renovations.
Dr. Watkins originally named the village Jefferson, but after his death in 1851, his widow requested that it be changed to Watkins as a remembrance of his contributions to the town. Many people called the village Watkins Glen because of the local Watkins Glen State Park, and as a result, the town officially changed its name again in 1926 to Watkins Glen.
WHAT TO DO
There are many family-oriented activities in the area. For the NASCAR and Indy fans, Watkins Glen International Raceway is only about 15 minutes from town. For the nature lover, there is the amazing Watkins Glen Campground and Watkins Glen State Park, which has beautiful waterfalls, caverns, and gorges. There are over 500 miles of hiking trails in 13,000 acres of New York's only national forest.
For the sailing enthusiast, there is Seneca Lake, one of the best known of the Finger Lakes. There are also numerous wineries in the area, as well as some great old-fashioned downtown shopping and eating.
If you decide to hike the Glen and are staying at the campground, remember to tell the parking attendant as you enter the park and you will save in parking, as it is included with your site fee. We only realized that after we had paid for parking, because we did not actually check in with the campground until the day after we arrived. Lucky for us, we were able to get a refund.
Once in town, you can drive, but the main part of town is made up of small downtown-style stores that you could walk from one end to the other in a couple of hours. There are companies that provide transportation if you decide to partake of the winery tours.
Here is a link to the local Chamber of Commerce, which can provide you with more information on lodging, etc.
Hotel | "Six Nations Camping Area/Watkins Glen Campground"
After driving over 6 hours from SNJ and arriving at the campsite at about 11:30pm, we were surprisingly wide awake and ready to setup camp. Including the little ones: Heather, who is four, and the screamer--I mean, Rob Jr.--who is almost a year old.
While Rob Sr. and I setup the two tents, Michele kept an eye on the two kids. We had camp setup and ready to go within an hour and a half and by then the excitement of finally arriving was starting to wear off. Luckily, we were only three sites away from the brightly lit bathrooms and showers and we were able to get ready for bed pretty quickly.
We all climbed into our tents, bade each other a goodnight and settled in for deep sleep in the crisp mountain air (46 degrees), when ALL OF A SUDDEN, Rob Jr. starts crying. And I don't mean little sniffles, but all out belly deep screams. It seems that he requires his pacifier to sleep and the parents forgot to pack one. So after driving all afternoon and into the night, poor little Robert was overtired, out of his normal routine and without his pacifier. Both parents tried to rock him to sleep, sing him to sleep and smother, I mean snuggle him with blankets, all to no avail. Finally, Rob and Michele took turns trying to comfort him while laying in the van. While the noise level was greatly
lessened with him in the vehicle, it was only amplified inside. As soon as Lil' Rob would calm down and either parent would attempt to move him back to his crib in the tent, he would get started crying again.
I think all in all I got 2 hours of sleep. Poor Michele and Rob had maybe a half hour each and our site neighbors were probably ready to burn us out.
By 6am, I decided sleep was never going to come and got up to visit the ladies room. I noticed that Michele was still in the van with Lil’ Robert who was STILL crying so I relieved her so she could run to the bathroom. When she got back we decided to risk it and go to town to look for a convenience store that might have pacifiers in stock.
So the two of us, unshowered, with major bed head, pajamas and morning mouth ventured into the unknown and after stopping at the gas station at the bottom of the hill were directed to the local Super Wal-Mart which was literally two miles away. OH, WHAT HEAVEN... Pacifiers galore!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 3, 2005
Watkins Glen Campground
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen, New York
After hiking in the Glen and doing some shopping downtown in the Village of Watkins Glen, we were starting to get hungry around 1:30 p.m. Driving about a half mile further into town we came to Seneca Lake and The Seneca Harbor Station Restaurant.
The building that houses the restaurant is two stories high and is a train station that was originally built in 1876 and purchased by the Siemile's Family and restored it back in 1998. It has a great view overlooking Seneca Lake with both indoor and outdoor seating areas. You can also see the 150 passenger dining vessel the Columbia also owned by the Siemile Family along with the a sightseeing boat that has been entertaining passengers since 1968.
As we entered the building we requested outside seating as the weather was gorgeous. Directed to the rear of the building we passed a beautiful mahogany bar which I am sure becomes well populated on the weekend evenings with both the locals and the tourists. Behind the building is a path, lined with grapevines, that leads you back to the parking lot.
We were immediately seated in the dining area that was busy, but not overly packed with families of all types. The tables were simple and the chairs were the plastic type you find on many backyard decks at home. Easy to clean and easy to replace. While the area had a roof, the walls were only enclosed halfway to the ceiling with the option of bringing down shades if it started to rain or the wind got too strong. With the windows wide open we were awarded a beautiful view of the lake and the goings on in the park that was located lakeside.
A waitress quickly came to take our drink orders, ice tea for Michele, a mixed drink of some sort for Rob, juice for Heather and a Corona for me. Water all around. The menu consisted of both a lunch and dinner options with appetizers ranging from clam chowder to buffalo wings, entrees consisted of seafood, pasta and a lot of beef entrees and a couple of chicken dishes. All of the entrees were under $20, except for the filet mignon ($21.99), lobster tail ($28.99) or surf and turf ($24.99-$34.99).
I decided on the grilled portabella sandwich ($6.99), made with mushroom cap, spinach, peppers, onions and topped with mozzarella all served on a hard roll. Michele chose the Turkey club ($6.99) and Rob partook of the surf & turf burger ($7.50), which was a crab cake on top of a burger. All came with a side of fries and all were delicious.
I definitely recommend this restaurant for both the view and the food. The only problem we had was when the breeze died down the flies came out to play, so the waitstaff kept a fan in the center of the room to try and keep the air moving. Other than that, it was a pleasurable experience.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2005
Seneca Harbor Station Restaurant
3 North Franklin Street
Watkins Glen, New York
The hike can be accessed from the lower level entrance through a tunnel and then follow the numerous steps upwards over stone walkways and bridges created back in the 1930s as a result of a public works project. Or you can choose to do what we
did and pay three extra dollars per person and take the bus to the top and start from there. Either way will lead you past approximately 19 waterfalls, depending on how
arid the weather has been, and numerous cracks and crevices just waiting to be explored along with beautiful pools created by the continuous flow of water from nearby Glen Creek. When we arrived it had been a very dry season and the waterfalls were down to meer trickles in many places, but we did have some pleasant surprises as seen in the photos.
The gorge can rise up to 300 feet high in some places and is comprised of sand and mud from an ancient sea that has been compressed for over 350 million years.
This is called shale and in many places will crumble right in your fingertips. The gorge was created by glaciers that cut through the soft rock over 10,000 years ago. Many mosses and ferns live in the area and rely on the continuous supply of water
in the area to thrive. While many places are shaded there are large areas that are in full sun so the plant life is extremely varied. I think at one point we saw
wild strawberry plants right long the gorge bottom. The water level was so low that we were able to walk along the bottom of the gorge.
The hike was fairly easy as it was all down hill. Unless you start from the bottom I would say it is very suitable for families with young children. We took Heather who is four and she made it all the way with energy to spare, although her dad did carry her on his shoulders for a brief time. Lil’ Robert had the easiest way being carried on his mother’s back with a baby sling with nothing to do but look around and enjoy the sites.
The Trail is closed from early November to mid-May depending on the weather as the shale steps are extremely slippery when wet with rain or snow. There is a gift shop and bathrooms at both the top and bottom entrances. Pet are allowed on the trail but must be on leash. There is no cost to hike the gorge, but parking is $6 per car unless you are staying at the campsite then it is included with your site rental fee. Again, I would recommend taking the bus to the top and working your way down.
After our lovely hike through the Glen we noticed a row of stores located at the base of the hill that takes you to the
campground. The only signs we could see were "Antiques" on the first building, "Souvenirs" on the second and "NASCAR" on the
third. Heather, Rob and I decided to take a few moments and see what they had in store for the local tourists while Michele took
Lil' Rob around town in the van for a quick nap before lunch. Rob wanted to see the NASCAR memorabilia and I wanted to check out the antiques.
The buildings were easy to get to from the Glen, just cross the street at the light. Parking is on the street in front of the buildings or park in the lot at the bottom of the Glen. As we walked up to the building two Indian mannequins, one male and one female,
were sitting on a bench in front of the souvenir building where the main entrance was located. There must have been a
motion sensor located somewhere because when we walked in front of the Indians the male started announcing what I believe were daily specials and waving at us.
As you enter the building, you are welcomed warmly by the people behind the counter in the center of the room. To the left, there were antiques in a room all their own and on the right was another room dedicated all to NASCAR. Walking around the souvenirs there were your general items for sale such as wind chimes, key chains, postcards, clothing, statues and miscellaneous other goodies all proclaiming their origination as Watkins Glen. Here there was even a machine that would take your quarter and flatten it with an imprint stating it was from Watkins Glen.
Entering the NASCAR portion of the building is a little overwhelming; there are cars, buttons, mugs, banners and life-size cutouts from floor to ceiling. Any diehard (no pun intended) NASCAR fan wouldn't be able to pass up a chance to visit this area. Heavily influenced by the Watkins Glen International Raceway just a few miles away you could find almost anything your heart desired if it pertains to NASCAR. I admit I did buy a hatpin for my #24 cap I had at home for only $3 USD.
Next I visited the antiques section, which was my favorite. I enjoy just walking amongst all the clutter of furniture, signs, glassware and assorted other goodies hoping something interesting would pop out. Unfortunately, nothing did this trip. I was hoping to find little marble inlay boxes, which I collect. None magically appeared, but there were plenty of cast-iron pieces, such as pots and pans, which actually would be handy when camping.
So after spending about a half hour doing our requisite souvenir hunting, we went outside and met up with Michele and the baby to go to and find a place that would fill our bellies after all our walking around.
Lincolnton, North Carolina