Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Blog Has Moved

I have moved my blog. You can now find updates at Be sure to change any bookmarks you may have.

If you are following me on this blog, please be sure to click "Follow" to stay up to date with all of my new blog posts - and if you are not following me already, then you should be - lol!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Niagara Falls - Canadian Side

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Overlooking Horseshoe Falls
I had heard that crossing the boarder from the US into Canada is like night and day. It may not have been as drastic as night and day, but I could certainly see a big difference. This might be because we crossed from Buffalo into Ontario, and Buffalo is literally falling apart - there are so many abandoned houses and buildings. Nature is beginning to reclaim some of these abandoned buildings. There are trees and plants growing out of the windows and on the rooftops, which is actually kind of cool to see.

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
"O Canada!"
When we crossed into Canada suddenly everything seemed a little greener. The streets were nice and smooth, and there was no trash on the side of the highway - unbelievable!

After checking in at the hotel in St. Catharines we headed to the Canadian side of the falls. What a difference! From Canada you are able to view the falls straight on, and it is just too beautiful, majestic, and powerful to describe. The spray from Horseshoe Falls keeps the town moist, so the air is refreshing and crisp. The huge plume of mist rising up looks like smoke rising from a brushfire. The birds love it, they swoop in and out of the mist and land peacefully in the water below, no problem. I have been very intrigued with birds lately.

The whole area surrounding the falls was pristine, unfortunately when I took a look on the other side of the railing that keeps tourists back a safe distance there was a bunch of litter. Sad.

Niagara Falls at Night
Moon over the lit up Horseshoe Falls
Kris got a huge gash in her finger while we were unloading the car at the hotel and it split open while we were at Niagara Falls so Russell and I found the first aid station and took her there. The guy was so helpful and nice, and although I think first aid is free in the US, he did make sure to mention that "first aid, like healthcare, is free in Canada."

At the end of the day we had dinner and then hung around the falls to see them lit up at night. The massive lights shine across the gorge and hit the falls, lighting them up with a rotating array of colors - it is really fabulous! I wanted to stay and watch the fireworks over Niagara Falls, but there were so many people - the streets were packed - that I suggested that we walk back to the car and watch the fireworks from there. This ended up being a great idea. We still had a view of the falls and the fireworks, but didn't have to worry about walking up to the car with thousands of people and since we were already at the car when the show was over, we had no traffic!

After our day of taking in Niagara Falls and a bunch of walking and hiking we were all ready for a good nights sleep - and I love sleeping at hotels!
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
American Falls and Horseshoe Falls

Whirlpool State Park, Niagara, NY

I still have so much to write about my trip to Niagara Falls!

Whirlpool State Park, Niagara Falls, NY
My dad and Kris looking out at Whirlpool State Park
After leaving the falls we decided to head to Whirlpool State Park (photos), which Kris had heard was a really great place to explore. Whirlpool State Park is a dangerously turbulent stretch of the Niagara River downstream from Niagara Falls. The massive gorge walls pinch the river, forcing huge amounts of water through a smaller space, which has created dangerous Class V whitewater, including 11 foot standing waves - the largest in North America. Also, because the rapids create oxygen rich water, this area has become the one of the premiere freshwater fishing locations in the country.

Whirlpool State Park, NY
Me checking out the jet boats - the only thing interrupting the silence
As for why it is called Whirlpool State Park - well it really looks like a giant swirling whirlpool! The Niagara Whirlpool has125 feet deep swirling waters, which have resulted from the nearly 90 degree turn in the Niagara River's flow (see the map below). The sharp turn was created nearly 4,200 years ago when the erosion and recession of Niagara Falls (which is still happening today, although much more slowly due to human intervention) reached a soft spot in the landscape. As Niagara Falls retreated, it crossed paths with Saint David's Buried Gorge, a pre-glacial, debris-filled river valley, and abruptly began a rapid and violent erosion process, quickly cutting away the soft dirt and stone filling. Geologists estimate that this event took place very rapidly, from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Whirlpool State Park, Niagara Falls, NY
Stairs to the upper/main level of Whirlpool State Park

I love geology!

We went on a hike down 300 feet to the river, then walked along the river for a little while before stopping for a break on a rock at the side of the river, where we watched the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours whizz by with their screaming passengers. After our break we began the hike back up the gorge, which meant a lot of stairs! Climbing hundreds of stairs is not all that bad when you are surrounded by nature's beauty...

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bee Sting on the Bottom of my Foot!

Lake Erie State Park, NY
The bees loved the wildflowers where we were slacklining
I stepped on a bee two days ago while slacklining at Lake Erie State Park. My foot was fine until yesterday afternoon when it started swelling. Today it itches like crazy and anti-itch cream is not helping at all. Walking is a real pain.

I've been suggested that I soak my foot in rubbing alcohol - I will try that tonight when I get home. Any other suggestions? A little end piece is stuck in my foot. I think I may have to buy a needle and some good tweezers tonight as well...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Horseshoe Falls, the US Side - Niagara Falls, NY

Niagara Falls, NY, USA
Erica in front of Horseshoe Falls
After some slacklining (photos) in front of American Falls it was time to take the pedestrian bridge over the falls to go see Horseshoe Falls. It is really easy to miss the US side of Horseshoe Falls because once you reach Luna Island, which separates American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, it looks like the path ends - good thing a friend told my dad that once you think the path is over, keep walking. Good thing too because if I was on my own I would have probably turned around and completely missed Horseshoe Falls (well, I still would have seen it from Canada)!

And wow - Horseshoe Falls is amazing! It is so big and powerful, yet peaceful and majestic. I took some time to lay my sarong out, close my eyes, and just listen to the sound of the water crashing down below me. I sometimes like being reminded just how small and powerless I am.

Niagara Falls, NY
Trashing Niagara Falls

Sadly not even the powerful Horseshoe Falls is immune from being trashed by humans. Right next to the falls there was an ugly plastic bag full of trash. So sad that we manage to put our trash in every place possible. Wherever I go there is trash - uninhabited beaches, middle of the forest, and even the mighty Niagara Falls. There were also cigarette butts littered everywhere - even in Canada, where everything is a little bit more pristine! I pray for the day when cigarettes will be outlawed - or at least raise taxes on those things, cleanup alone must cost a small fortune.

After spending some time at Horseshoe Falls we walked back to the car and started heading towards the boarder - but we first made a nice stop at Whirlpool State Park, New York, which I highly recommend for anyone visiting Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls, NY
View from Luna Island. Left side: Bridal Veil Falls, right side: American Falls

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Niagara Falls, New York: American Falls

Niagara Falls, NY
In front of the American Falls - Niagara Falls, NY
After my family and I spent one night in Buffalo, which is literally falling apart, we hopped in the rental car and headed to Niagara Falls, NY. Although we had heard that the Canadian side is spectacular, we still wanted to see the US side before crossing the boarder.

We first headed to the American Falls. Walking up to the falls and seeing the raging river was awesome. The power of the river and the thunder of the falling water nearly stopped me in my tracks. Of course, since we were on the American side we weren't able to see the falls head on, but we sure could hear them crashing down below us!

Slacklin at Niagara Falls, NY
Slickline at Niagara Falls, NY
Russell and I saw some trees and decided that the park in front of the American Falls would be the perfect place to slackline, so we took he opportunity to set up the line and take a few photos and some video. Of course a large group of people quickly surrounded us to watch and take their own photos and video... I wonder how many videos of us slacklining are up on youtube by now? Oh and Russell took another jumping photo - this time it's a  slackline jump over Niagara Falls!

Besides seeing the American Falls and slacklining at them, I have also learned some interesting facts:
  • American Falls receives only 10% of the water flow of the Niagara River - the rest flows over Horseshoe Falls.
  • The flow over the American Falls has only been stopped twice. Once on March 29, 1848 due to an ice jam that occurred in the upper river - this lasted for only a few hours - and again for several months in 1969. The stoppage in 1969 was man made and the idea was to determine the feasibility of removing the large rock pile from underneath the falls to increase aesthetics. In the end it was decided that the cost would be too great to do this.
  • The crest of American Falls is 130 feet and it has a max height of 110 feet.
  • This may not be a fact, but in my opinion the American Falls looks better from the Canadian side but sounds better from the US side.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Amtrak: New York City to Buffalo by Train

Amtrack New York City to Buffalo
View from the train to Buffalo
Russell and I woke up early Thursday morning to ride the first Amtrak train (7:15am) out of Penn Station in New York City heading to Buffalo via Empire Service. The tickets were $56 one-way, but, like always, I did a google search for coupon codes and found a code for 20% off tickets within the state of New York - score! The trip was supposed to take 8 hours total but ended up taking 9 hours because we got stuck behind freight trains twice. I also was under the belief that the Exchange street station in buffalo was the main station. Wrong. We ended up in a really dumpy area. The correct station is Depew Station.

Whenever I take Amtrak from Santa Barbara down to San Diego I always pay the extra $13 to upgrade to first class, which is totally worth it, but this time around I am glad all the first class tickets were sold out. Turns out that the only difference between first and coach on this train is that first class has leather seats. Also, first class is in the dining car, so it smells a little funky. Besides, our coach seats were super comfortable - reclining, more than enough leg room, a foot rest that pops out from underneath the chair (like lay-z boy style), a foot rest under the chair in front of mine, and a table that folds down. I really couldn't have been happier.

The reason we decided to take the train was not for comfort, and definitely not for speed, but rather for the incredible scenery. We went up the Hudson River for a few hours, which was absolutely beautiful, then headed East and went through stunning, bright green forests - that was when I fell n love with New York (as long as I don't think about freezing winters!). If you ever take this route up, be sure to sit on the west side of the train (the left side if facing the front of the train).

I would recommend that anyone going to upstate New York take the train just for the excellent scenery on the way there. That being said, now that I have taken the train and seen the beauty of New York, I will certainly be flying back into the city - the train is practically a day trip on its own and a flight is only 1 hour and 15 minutes.