Watkins Glen is Gorges
Responding to an invitation, I returned to Watkins Glen State Park after more than 40 years (that’s probably under-cutting it, but I was never good at math). Upon arrival at the entrance, almost immediately, time travel took place in my mind and my “fifty-something” adult surrendered to the mesmerized youngster in the 1970’s, gawking in awe at the magnificence of nature, and feeling as if I was in a feature story in the National Geographic Magazine (not the digital version). What on God’s green and “gorge”-ous earth had kept me away for so long?
It is recorded that Watkins Glen State Park is the geological formation resulting from a large sheet of ice that covered the area over 2 million years ago; during the Ice Age! The glacier melted and moved leaving behind the gorge, beautiful waterfalls, and caverns that we enjoy today. On July 4, 1863, the park opened to the public and operated as a resort, privately owned, until 1906 when it was purchased by New York State,which was granted full state control in 1911. The Finger Lakes Region of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation obtained management responsibilities of Watkins Glen State Park in 1924.
Watkins Glen State Park hosts comfortable camping sites, tent and trailer sites, pavilions, picnic sites, a playground, a pool, and other desirable amenities. Open year-round, the park is a hiker’s paradise featuring three trails, where one can climb or descend the gorge. The South Rim and Indian Trails branch along the gorge's scenic wooded rim; the Gorge Trail is closest to the stream and branches over, under and along the park's 19 waterfalls, encompassing stone bridges and more than 800 stone steps. The stone steps bring back a different kind of memory. I’ll admit it-- as a child I was a big “fraidy cat”, and I couldn’t truly enjoy the amazing views above for concentrating on every single step I took to avoid falling. Yes, I said FALLING and, YES, I was a wussy wimp! However, during this visit, some 40 years later, and at “fifty-something,” I worked those stone steps like Rocky Balboa! Well, kinda. At “fifty-something,” I choose to gingerly do fifty-something steps and I’m good. Another childhood memory of Watkins is my attraction to Cavern Cascade; how magical is it to actually walk behind a waterfall? The magic and the thrill remains. It is my absolute favorite part of the park. It will never get old and like a cherished strand of pearls, it will never lack luster. In other words, it's my jam.
Tagging Watkins Glen State Park, “an incredible park to visit year-round,” Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, in their “Bests” feature article, declared Watkins the best State Park in New York. In the April 2021 article, Traveler writes, “Towering cliffs and a series of 19 rippling waterfalls will leave visitors spellbound…” While trekking, and retracing the “stepping stones” of my childhood at Watkins, I encountered families, individuals, couples, and tourist groups -- all adventurers, in exploration, appreciation, and amazement of this natural wonderland, just like me. After 40 years, it doesn't change.