Our First Camping Trip: part one

Although Luke and I have been together for more than 3 years we have never been camping just the two of us. So this summer we are staying local and enjoying some of the amazing sites here in upstate New York.

Luke took off work June 20th-June 24th and we reserved a camping spot at Tauhannock Falls State Park outside of Ithaca. After several trips to Walmart for supplies, we packed up and left after Luke got off work on June 19th. We found our site, ate dinner and set up camp just before it got dark then enjoyed some hot cocoa and looking at the stars.

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Saturday we enjoyed coffee from the percolator and decided what our day of  exploring would look like. With more coffee in to-go cups, we started the morning with a drive up the West side of Cayuga lake, it was a beautiful day as we passed by small towns wineries, cideries, and farms. We picked up some free firewood along the roadside then made a plan to head back down towards Ithaca to explore Alan Tremen State Park.

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By having a campsite at one of the state parks entrance into the other parks for the duration of camping was free. I’d looked into the local waterfalls and gorges we had yet to explore in the area and found Alan Tremen State Park. When we arrived we parked the car and explored the welcome center and historic Old Mill.  Because of the waterways in the 1800’s a large Mill was made here using the water to power to mill’s grinders for production of flour and buckwheat. Luke and I enjoyed exploring the three story workings of this old mill with a back porch view to a beautiful waterfall. We set up a snack lunch along the water in prep for our hike along the gorge trail.

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We got a small way down the gorge trail path before realizing that it was going to dead-end because of repairs and construction. We decided instead to take the North rim trail to where we could see an outlook over Lucifer Falls; although it was not a clear shot it gave us a better ideas of the gorge trail. We walked back to the car deciding this was definitely a place to return to once repairs were done.

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our glimpse of Lucifer Falls

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We then drove back up to Tauhannock State Park and up the hill to a outlook for the Tauhannock Falls. This gave us a almost bird-eye view of the tremendous thundering falls. It is here the the north rim trail of the fall gorge area ends.

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Afterwards we drove back to our campsite to regroup then walked down to the trail for the Tauhannock Falls gorge. Unlike most of the gorge trails in the area this one stays open year round; the pathway is wide and flat so people were bringing strollers and wheelchairs down the path easily. Many people wore swimsuits stopped somewhere along the trail to dip their feet (or more) into the river as we headed upstream towards the falls.

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At the end of the path you turn a corner and there is Tauhannock Falls; crossing a bridge over the roaring river you come to a picture/spot and standing area. The falls are so large that you don’t have to get too close to the edge of the viewing area to get covered in a rain like mist. Fortunately we came near the end of the day so taking picture without mass amounts of people was easy.

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After the walk back to the campsite we were ready to settle in for the night. We finished off our first full day of camping with some pre-made shrimp pasta, games of cribbage, and a campfire with s’mores for dessert.

Stayed tuned for Part Two of our Camping trip

Strawberry Festival: an up and down outing

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This past Saturday, Luke and I decided to go for a drive to a little town called Owego NY for their 33rd Annual Strawberry Festival. We took a scenic northern route to get there driving through small towns and farmland. Once we arrived downtown we struggled to find any form of parking and decided finally to support the local boy scouts for $5 parking. Eager to stretch our legs and explore, we got out and began walking the blocked off streets of downtown Owego.

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Looking around we saw the typical festival food everything dipped, fried, and covered in powdered sugar or syrup possible. There were also BBQ, Gyro, Philly Cheesesteak, Italian sausage, and hamburger and french fry trucks parked all along the sidewalks. Among the many vendors we saw local artists paintings and pottery, antiques, tupperware, tie dyed outfits for all ages, face painting,  sunglasses stands, jewelry, toys all similar to the many flee markets I’m used to in SoCal.

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Turning a corner, we ran into one of the Saturday events: fireman’s hose race. Two teams at a time compete to  set up the hose line,  filling it with water, and  be the first team to knock down the sign at the end of the raceway with their steady stream of water. We watched one race and at the end in celebration the winning team turned the hose to the sky spraying the crowd with water.

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Since this was a strawberry festival, there were plenty of  strawberry flavored novelties: lemonade, icees, strawberry flavored kettle corn, smoothies, shortcake and more. Luke and I decided to pick up a strawberry daiquiri from Elk’s Lodge to share as we walked around.

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Following a path around one of the three music stages we found the waterfront to the Susquehanna river. Walking along the path following the river, we watched  cars crossing over the river on the bridge leading into old town.  Passing a children’s play area including bounce houses, we found a local jam and butter stand and bought some strawberry rhubarb butter.

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Walking further down the street we found the wine tasting tent. We only bought one ticket: $5 for 10 tastes to share since there were only a few vendors. Disappointed by most of the wineries, Luke headed to the brewery.  Eager to try their beers Luke sampled them all. The result was good and bad new. Bad news for the brewery he wasn’t impressed by. Good news? He thought his first homemade brew was actually better than what he tasted and has more faith in his ability to make some great homemade beer!!

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After a little more walking around, we decided to stop to eat. Craving mexican we decided to stop into their local mexican restaurant with seating over looking the river. Luke ordered a build your own burrito and I did the same but in a bowl form. Hungry we were happy when our food arrived. Sadly that happiness did not last long. Barely into my meal I found the chicken in my burrito bowl to be tasteless. Luke found his meat to be similarly bland. We left disappointed realizing we have still yet to have found a decent Mexican restaurant any better than Taco Bell here on the East Coast.

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As we left the festival we found another local vendor for honey. Luke has been wanting to get local honey for awhile, hoping it will help us adjust to the pollen and allergens in the area. Knowing that I use quite a bit of honey   and wanting to support a local business we got the 2lb. container and a few honey sticks for the road.

The goodies from our outing
The goodies from our outing

The Strawberry Festival had it’s ups and downs. Another down moment was that we saw only one actual strawberry stand out of the hundreds of vendors, selling small containers of strawberries for 4.50 each!!!! Still it was a worth while to explore a thriving small downtown area only an hour from home. Plus we found a new river to explore and hopefully kayak on.

How was your weekend?

Kayaking and BBQ: the perfect summer combo

I know that technically summer doesn’t hit for another two weeks. But considering that I have been sunburnt the last two Sundays in a row I think I’ll say that summer is here.

Speaking of Sunday, we had the chance to go kayaking with John a co-worker of Luke’s and his wife Kathy this weekend. Luke and I enjoy kayaking and living in the Finger Lakes region of New York we knew we would want to explore the many bays, lakes, and rivers in our neighborhood .

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John suggested we check out a place in Rochester called Bay Creek Paddling Center . So we left the house around 8:45am to drive the hour and forty-five minutes up to the Irondequoit Bay. While we waited for John and Kathy to arrive, Luke and I explored the wide selection of tandem and single kayaks for sale.  This paddling center has Old Town canoes, paddle boards, and river and touring kayaks for sale. They also provide kayaking and paddle board lessons and camps. Click here for more on that.

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We filled out our rental agreement and decided to meet John and Kathy, who were bringing their own boats, in the water. This gave us a chance to  adjust to our river boats. (I am much more familiar with sit-on-top ocean kayaks).

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Once we got settled, we headed under Empire Blvd. (the 404) leading into the Irondequoit Bay. (Click on The Bay to find out more).  Passing fishermen on the bank we rounded the corner and saw a swan hiding in the bank of reeds.

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We then turned back towards what is described as the “Secret Wilderness”, a passageway through estuary-like water paths. Here we caught up with John and Kathy talking as we slowly paddled down this quiet narrow waterways lined by tall reeds, trees, and wildflowers. As we turned corner after corner we watched swans pass by gracefully, oreles perch on the tops of the reeds protecting their nests, sparrows dive for bugs near on the water’s surface, and herons take off into flight.  Kathy told me if you come at the right time of year you will also see geese and their gosling.

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We were lucky to have the place mostly to ourselves, running into only a few fellow kayakers.  The weather report had threatened thunder storms but we only received small rain spurts. The wind brought a temporary relief from humidity as it pushed the clouds away bringing bright sunshine.

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After about an hour and a half paddle up stream we decided to turn around allowing the current to take us back to the Bay Creek dock. It required little effort for the return trip, no more than a paddle here or there to steer through the banks and turns.

When we got back we returned our rentals and John and Kathy gave us a chance to check out their boats.  John and Kathy both got their kayaks through Bay Creek and so could use their guest dock for free.  One of the great things about Bay Creek was that the money spent towards a rental can eventually go towards a payment for kayaks. (See here for more benefits.)  After paying for our time on the water we discussed plans for a late lunch and headed to a well known Pit BBQ joint called Sticky Lips.

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A short drive from Rochester towards Henrietta, Sticky Lips Juke Joint is right of the 390 freeway. You could smell the spices and hear the jazz and blues music as we walked into the brick building with signs for BBQ Fire Pit in the top windows.

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We met up with Kathy’s son and his girlfriend then were seated and handed menus. As everyone decided what to drink from their large local beer and wine selection, I looked around: eclectic signs and decor from local Rochester and upstate New York events and businesses.  John also told me that on the lower deck seating area there is a stage where live music is played four nights a week.

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After ordering drinks we took a look at the vast overwhelmingly large menu: ribs, brisket, pulled pork, BBQ chicken you name it they have it including vegetarian options.  After second guessing ourselves several times, Luke chose a combo of pulled pork, beef brisket, and 1/4 ribs in their spicy BBQ sauce. with chorizo and cheese grits and ratatouille for sides. I also go a combo with brisket and ribs with mustard coleslaw and mac’n cheese. And of course all meals come with honey glazed cornbread.

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Not our meal, wish I had gotten pictures of it though

When the food got to our table, it was obvious it would be well worth any wait. The cornbread was crispy sweet on top and fluffy on the inside, the ribs were fall-of-the-bone moist, the brisket well spiced and also very tender. And the sides were not a side note. Although they were all amazing, the favorite by far was the chorizo and cheese grits. By the look on Luke’s face he could have eaten about 3 more servings of it.

We ended up getting a to-go box for about 1/3 of the ribs and a few pieces of brisket but not before Luke smothered them in the spicy bbq sauce. Happily satisfied with our delicious and yes sticky meal we thanked John and Kathy for a great day out and drove in the unpredicted sunshine home to Corning.

How was your weekend?