I’ve always loved slapstick so you’d think the Three Stooges would be at the top of my list. Not so. I never found them particularly funny. Moe was just plain mean. Still I watched them when I was younger. Anyone remember the skit about Niagara Falls? Everytime those 2 words are uttered, Moe and Larry go into this speel, “Ni-agra-Falls! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch.” Poor Curly, (I do love the noises he makes) gets the ever-lovin’ snot beat out of him. Again.
|My incredible Niagara Falls, 2017…|
I have been a-ga-ga over Niagara Falls since the first time I laid eyes on this amazing wonder of nature about 20 years ago. Hubs was buying a piece of machinery equipment in New York and I was along for the ride. After the business was done, we were ready to start our 8 hour drive back to North Muskegon, John casually asked if I wanted to stop at Niagara Falls? I had never been, so I said sure.
He assumed half hour-tops-and we’d be on our way. Poor Hubs. Talk about an immovable object. I simply could not tear my eyes from the Falls. “Come on Denise, we’ve got a long ways to go. If we don’t get on the road soon, we won’t get home until 3 in the morning. We gotta go.” “Just 10 more minutes,” I whined, “I’m not ready! Can’t we just spend one night? Or a week,” I pleaded?”No, I have to get back at work. Let’s find the car,” he said. “I promise, we’ll come back soon.”
|Deserving a big wow I think…|
From that moment forward, getting back to Niagara Falls as often as I could, no matter the means became paramount. Hitchiking, flying, walking, driving, jogging, duck walk, crab crawl, skateboarding, roller skating. How I got there didn’t matter, only how often and how long could I stay this trip?
My next trip to Niagara had to wait a few years. Mom was in deep health decline and all trips from Michigan were heading due west to Iowa, not north-east towards The Falls. Mom passed away in late 2004. A few months later, Hubs, Adam and I moved my spry 88 year old Dad to an apartment a couple blocks from us in North Muskegon. When Dad was settled, we finally found some time to spend at Niagara (8 hours by car). I prefer staying on the American side, although probably the best view of the Falls is from the Canadian side. Canada’s side is just too busy, almost a carnival-like atmosphere. Vendors hawking t-shirts, hotels with an outside wall to practice your wall/rock climbing skills. Geared towards families with kids who are bored after watching some water spill over some rocks for 10 minutes or young folks looking to party. For me, I enjoy the more sedate beauty of the oldest state park in America. Established in 1885. Two hundred plus acres, Goat Island and 3 Sisters Islands. Lots of room, even with 10 to 12 million visitors a year. And you can almost touch the water near The Bridal Veil as it runs over. If you watch for a few minutes, you can see leaves in the water jetting by. I’ve even seen fish go over. And the color is such a beautiful light mint green, it cannot be duplicated. No really, Sherwin tried. So did Williams.
It was May, 2005. I brought along my walking paraphernalia, including playlists to keep my feet moving. We were there during the week and the weather was quite cool. Always an early riser, I had all my gear in the bathroom so I wouldn’t wake John up. My hearing loss was noticeable but not nearly as significant as it is now. I walked out of the Holiday Inn at dawn, stepped out on an empty sidewalk and listened. The Falls are about a block and a half away, and I can clearly hear the roar and see the fine mist rising up. There are no words. No. Words. I set my music to play, plop on my headphones and start walking towards the mist. My, that sounds positively Stephen King-ish. Eerie. But Niagara Falls mist is all good except when it hampers my view too much.
The 4 foot wide blacktop trail that runs along the falls is often slanted, full of pot holes, cracks, and unforgiving edges. For a person with a hearing loss and balance issues, this means I must pay strict attention to the pavement at all times. Bummer. I had hoped to ‘walk & gawk’ the Falls, but now was faced with paying close attention to my not so fancy footwork. There are a couple popular very wide sections of cement that hold hundreds of people trying to get up close and personal just at the edge of the Falls where a few million gallons of water per minute spill over. By now I am sharing my walk with a few local joggers (can you just imagine this is their regular daily routine and most probably don’t even ‘see’ the Falls anymore-say what?), a few maintenance guys emptying trash barrels, sweeping sidewalks, picking up trash.
I find myself doing 2 things out of the ordinary during my normal walking routine. I ditch the headphones and music cause it seems sacrilegious not to enjoy the sounds of The Falls as I walk. And I stop frequently which I never do while walking. Not even when I should to avoid getting hit by a car (drivers who seem hesitant to give the right of way to a mere mortal). Hey, I’m the pedestrian here, you stop for me! (Hubs has warned me repeatedly, “Denise, you’re gonna get hit. You’ll wind up dead, but at least you’ll be dead right.” What a keen sense of humor). Whenever I dare glance up for a second, the breath gets knocked out of me from the spectacular view. I simply stop until normal breathing ensues, and continue on my merry way.
The next morning it’s raining. Hard. Let’s see. How many people in the world get to walk/jog/run/meander along one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders? And almost have the whole place to themselves? Not very freaking many. I am certainly not giving up my time alone with The Falls because of a little rain. Besides, it was in the mid 50’s, and I have a rain coat. I cross the bridge (the original one built in the late 1800’s, now it’s only used by folks walking across) that leads to Goat Island and find since some of it is metal, it’s like walking in an ice storm. Very slippery and my footing is precarious. After crossing the bridge, there’s lots of bushes, shrubs and trees on both sides. It’s very early and pretty isolated and I don’t have a good feeling being there by myself. Turn around, slip and slide back across and eliminate the bridge from my walk. For the most part, I make about a half mile loop, out in the open, along the Falls. I do venture a bit farther than I should though on every loop. Why? Because of a tree. My favorite tree in the world. It’s full of worts. I really don’t know what you call these good sized bumps. The tree is crooked, kind of by itself, near where The Rapids actually start.
|My gnarly tree…|
The Rapids. They run the width of the Niagara River about a half mile before tumbling over the Falls. There is a sign stating, No boats beyond this point. (Meaning, you can’t stop or get turned around past this point, you’re going over, adios). The Rapids are only about 5 or 6 feet deep but the water is clipping along at a brisk 30 miles an hour. This puts The Rapids in some special catagory of a 5 or 6. What that means exactly I don’t know, but a tour guide once said, “The Rapids are unsurvivable should you fall in.” Alrighty then. The Rapid’s colors vary from light to darker blue, to white and green. I won’t say I love the Rapids more than the actual Falls. But it’s very close, maybe even tied. The Rapids have their own story to tell, and I find myself listening (it’s quite loud, even for the hearing impaired) and watching them in awe. For hours. Which can be a little frustrating to a person who does not love The Rapids with all his little pea-pickin-heart like I do.
|The awesome Rapids…|
By the time my rainy walk was done, my shorts were soaking wet. I hung them up in the bathroom to find them nice and dry the next morning, but stiff as a board. Still, all good. How about taking a ride on Maid of the Mist, which gets you pretty close to the actual Falls? Strange sensation, hearing and feeling the power of the boat’s engines fighting hard to avoid from being pushed rudely downriver. You can take an elevator beneath The Bridal Veil, tramp your way through a tunnel, and find yourself directly under the biggest shower-ever. Climb some wooden steps close enough to be scared by the water’s enormous power. Or take a cable car across The Gorge (notice how I capitalize The each time I mention Rapids, Falls or Gorge? They’re just too important, too big, too impressive not to have the word The with a capital letter. And I don’t think I’m that easily impressed). But The Falls, The Rapids, The Gorge deserve such recognition. I’m still surprised I dared go on the cable car. It’s quite a stretch, very high over the river, a bit further down from The Falls. Smack dab in the middle of the water is this strange natural phenomenom. It’s a gigantic whirlpool, caused by erosion. Scary. Another great way to do some oohing & ahhing is off the Observation Deck. Jutting out over the river with fantastic views of both sides of The Falls.
We (or just me) have visited Niagara Falls with different family and friends over the last few years. John’s brother Les and sister-in-law Mary Jane went with us in the fall of 2006. Jane and I used football as an excuse to enjoy The Falls and bought Buffalo Bills-Minnesota Viking tickets. A word about a couple things here. Remember I said 10 to 12 million people visit The Falls every year? Ugh, that’s an awful lot of people horning in on my territory. But I’ve found a solution, and was reminded why I came to that conclusion on this last trip. Folks flock to The Falls en masse during June, July and August. I assume cause the kiddos are out of school. So here’s the ticket. Don’t, I repeat, do not go in June, July or August. Had we wanted to go on the observation deck a couple of weeks ago, it was about a 2 hour wait. Same for The Gorge, or Maid of the Mist. In a hot line with dogs, kids and strollers. The most enjoyable trips for us have been in May or September/October.
Long time friends Dale & Beth Duits came to visit us from Minnesota in 2009. We let them recuperate from their long drive for a whopping 24 hours before hauling them to Niagara. They had never been there before. Good times. In 2012, Shannon and I attended a bridal shower in Pennsylvania for our then soon to be sister/daughter-in-law Erica, but not before spending 2 days at Niagara. Shannon hadn’t had the opportunity to see them before either. Joann, one of my dear friends from Muskegon wanted to go to a wedding near Boston in 2013. Didn’t want to go alone or fly. “Umm, I’ll go along and drive if we can stop at Niagara Falls.” Wasn’t that nice of me? We stayed in Niagara twice, on the way to the wedding and on the way home. Heaven. This was in April and it was very cool and rainy at The Falls. We actually drove through downtown Boston 2 days before the Marathon bombing. Heard about it on the radio on our way home through Canada. Horrible terrorists.
Since I hadn’t been there since 2013, I noticed many changes. There’s been a lot of remodeling. The Bridal Veil observation lot has been completely redone. It’s fantastic. All the blacktop walkways that were long, long overdue for updating have been replaced. Now they appear about twice as wide, maybe 8 foot instead of 4. And I was only there several hours. Did not get over to Goat or 3 Sisters Islands which have had face lifts too. Maybe next time. There will be a next time. Soon.
One more little item. A side trip when you’re visiting the Falls. Buffalo is about 30 miles away. There’s a pub in Buffalo called The Anchor Bar (yes, also deserving of a capital T on the). Legend, folklore, don’t know, don’t care. The Anchor Bar is owned and operated by Frank & Teressa since-forever. In 1964 several of their son’s friends stopped at the bar quite late and were hungry. Ten minutes later Mother Teressa (different gal than Mother Teresa of Calcutta) plopped down a platter of something in front of them. No one knew exactly what they were looking at and her son was a bit embarrassed. “It’s a shame to put such beautiful wings in a stockpot,” said Mother Teressa (again, not the same saint). Teressa had just invented the original Buffalo Wings. I do know the wings are the real deal. Delicious. Mild, medium, hot or suicidal, yikes. During our trip with Les and Mary Jane, we were standing in a long line waiting for a table on a Saturday night. On John’s left stood a half dozen Vikings (Brian McKinney-all 355 pound, 6’8″ of him) each patiently waiting for their own to go bags. Who am I trying to kid? Brian walked out with 6 boxes. The Anchor Bar. Worth the trip as long as you’re already at The Falls. And if you require a guide, I’m available. Cheap…