Kat is a waterfall aficionado (still working on my Spanish for Costa Rica) and there are some fine ones in and near Watkins Glen State Park. We pulled our campsite to Romulus, NY and Sampson State Park on the banks of Seneca, deepest of the Finger Lakes. From there it is but a 45 minute ride into that lovely town on the southernmost tip of Seneca Lake. Hector Falls is right there alongside Hwy 414 just a few miles north of the Glen. If you’re wondering why a waterfall would be named for the Trojan prince killed in single combat with Achilles, well, 18th century Americans were much more literate than today’s. That’s true, but false. Hector Ely was the firstborn of the original settlers surnamed Ely, and those parents named the town for him. Later, the falls were named for the town. Ancient Greek literature is fascinating!
The most famous are the big falls within Watkins Glen State Park. We have learned a bit of geology in our travels, and unlike Zion and Grand Canyons (both formed over hundreds of millions of years), Glen Falls has been carved by water only since the end of the last Ice Age, perhaps 12,000 years ago. The difference is that Glen Falls’ underlying rock is shale, not granite. Shale is soft, and in those 12,000 years water has cut a channel to Seneca Lake nearly a mile long. The Falls continually move deeper into the park, carving out a few inches annually.
Glen Falls is not exactly handicapped-accessible. The path to them begins on steep, loose rock with no handrails or steps. Then come the steps, slick from rain, mist, moss growth, and again no hand rails. Kat had no problem, but I was glad to get close enough to view the scenery, and then return to The Red Sled without skinning a knee or braining myself on a rock.
Watkins Glen is better known as a motorsports town with a famously convoluted racetrack. It was built for sports car racing including what is now Formula 1, and still entertains and puckers those racers. NASCAR picked up on the track, its huge market, and cool weather over 20 years ago. The weekend of August 4 through 6 will see them good ol’ boys and Danica in Watkins Glen. NASCAR lops The Boot off the course (too dangerous for “stock” cars), but it remains a highly challenging road course. Winning NASCAR times at the Glen rarely reach an average of 100 mph, counter-intuitive for vehicles capable of approaching 200.
Heroes of racing are awarded places of honor along Franklin Street, WG’s main drag. Its sidewalks have granite markers set into them, each commemorating a worthy of old or recent vintage who raced at Watkins Glen. We viewed the markers of Richard Petty (“the King” of 60’s and 70’s NASCAR), Ayrton Senna (3 time F1 World Champion killed at Imola at 31), and one half in shadow honoring Stirling Moss, he of vision so acute the dots in his rear-view mirror revealed competitors’ driving tactics.
Our Shreveport buddy Denman would scold me for not driving the track (only $25 behind a pace car, with a 55 mph speed limit), but putting a big diesel pickup out there would feel like galloping a Clydesdale on Churchill Downs. You might do it, but it’s an affront to the venue. Even had Kat wanted to drive it, the track bans Drive the Glen one whole week before every race. So there, Shaffer!