Sunday, August 15, 2010
My Summer Vacation
Yes, this is the story of my summer vacation….well, one week of it anyway. Unlike the teachers at the school where I work, I only get vacation in small increments. For the purpose of this essay, that increment is 1 week. Waaaaay back in January, we set our goals for 2010 (no, NOT new year’s resolutions, but actual, measurable, tangible goals.) One of those goals was to set aside 1 week for a family vacation. By definition, this means no work calls or e-mails, this trip cannot be in part or in whole to see family or friends for holidays, weddings, etc., it must also be used for relaxation (ie: I do not want to NEED a vacation AFTER my vacation), and of course we had a budget that was reasonable.
After much consideration, we decided that flying would be difficult considering all the stuff we’d have to bring and would limit our budget in other ways. Therefore, a location that was within reasonable driving distance would be criteria #1. Since the east coast is fairly new to us, we asked around to friends and coworkers about great spots in the region. The “Finger Lakes” of New York was mentioned repeatedly and, due to proximity (5 hours drive) it was a nice fit. Criteria #2 was appropriate accommodations. With Jonah’s bedtime being around 7:30 pm, a hotel would require us to hunker down for the night early, therefore a house we could rent would allow us to put the little man to bed and, taking the baby monitor with us, we could sit outside, grill and hang out. Additionally, a full kitchen would allow us to make breakfast, dinner and to pack lunches, saving both money and encouraging healthy eating. Via Vacationsrentals.com we located several houses right on the water available for weekly rentals, we narrowed our focus to those with beach-front property and a fit pit and found one that seemed ideal: The Red Creek Cottage on Seneca Lake. The owners have a 3 year old, so the cottage came equipped with baby gate, pack-n-play, sippy cups, toys, infant life preserver, and high chair (Yea!), significantly reducing the amount of stuff we needed to bring. We purchased a new bike rack for the 4-runner, a used bike trailer (so Jonah could ride in style) and a hiking back-pack/baby carrier.
So, here we are! Today is out last day at the cottage and it has been one of the most wonderful weeks ever! 6 full days of TRUE vacation! The Finger Lakes have a ton to offer: two days of hiking, two days of biking and two days of visiting wineries. Jason also canoed up and down the lake several times while I read and wrote, and Jonah-mo napped. The weather was great and while it rained a few times, we made sure to save the wineries for those days and it worked out beautifully.
The Finger Lakes were carved out by glaciers eons ago, so each side of the lake has dramatic slopes of shale and gorgeous hillsides full of vineyards and farms. The scenery is unbelievable. Just driving along the main access road gives breathtaking views, and because Seneca lake is only a couple miles wide, you can see clearly across to the cliffs and farms located just across the way.
Here is a brief listing of the places we visited:
Day 1: Keuka Outlet Trail
This walking, hiking, biking trail is 7 miles in length and connects Seneca Lake to Keuka Lake (the Finger Lake directly west of where we stayed). Since this was our first day, I decided we should take it easy and do ½ the trail (3 ½ miles each way for a total of 7 miles) so I wouldn’t be sore for the rest of the week. I am a wuss and horribly out of shape, so I had to be cautious!
Day 2: Watkins Glen
The gorge trails is about 1 ½ miles long (or should I say ‘high’) and climbs 832 steps upward through a gorge that time (and water) has shaped. Jason bravely hoisted Jonah on his back the entire way there while we took-in waterfalls and streams full of crystal clear, ice cold water. By the end of the hike, after we ate our packed picnic lunches, I was ready to happily take the shuttle back down to the base of the gorge, however, the shuttle cost $3 per person and we had NO cash on us, therefore, we climbed back down through the rim trail for a different view….I was none-too-pleased, but Jason was eager, as always!
Day 3: Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Ventosa Winery Ventosa had a gorgeous view and good lunch - both of which were comparable to their wines. Healthy portions at the tasting too!
Belhurst Winery Right on the water and epic in proportions, this castle/hotel/winery was beautiful and the wine was good, just pricey.
Lakewood Winery The most friendly and knowledgable staff and some of the best wine we tasted. Try the port - it'll surprise you!
Glenora Winery The biggest of the wineries we visited making it a little more commercial and a little less personal. Nonetheless, the wine was great and so was the local smoked gouda that we picked up while we were there. We also snatched dinner at the restaurant, had outdoor seating, and had a very nice meal (pork chops with peach chutney and filet mignon) with fresh local ingredients. However, the prices did not quite match the quality of food.
Day 4: Robert H. Treman State Park
Wow, wow, wow! This 4 mile hike was a doosey, but when you get to Lucifer Falls, it makes it all worthwhile. The forest opens up into an osasis and you think you're someplace other than New York. Not for the weak of heart, the uphill climb had nothin' on the downhill climb (my shins were killing me by the end). Props to Jason for hauling his own rear along with Jonah's up and down this HUGE gorge.
Day 5: Corning Museum of Glass
We were actually waiting for a rainy day to visit this intriguing place. I wish science felt this cool in school. I learned volumes about glass, chemistry, and science while walking around this museum, art galley and classroom. We saw glass making demonstrations, experienced hands-on displays, learned the history of glass making as both function and art, and then purused the enormous gift shop, full of.....you guessed it, GLASS! We could have spent 3 more hours there, but Jonah was melting down and needed a nap badly, so we vow to come back next trip and actually MAKE glass in one of their classes.
Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Fulkerson Winery This winery had very friendly and knowledgable staff and was the only place we purchased Ice Wine from, although many wineries offer them.
Miles Wine Cellars
Tucked back right on the water, this unique old mansion housed a small but lovely selection of wines (and 2 beers) with a friendly staff and a little box of toys to keep Jonah occupied while we tasted!
Day 6: Keuka Outlet Trail
The forecast was for rain, but when I rose on Friday morning, I found the sun shining and the trail calling. We decided to FINISH the trail we began on Sunday, parking 1/2 way down and trail and riding to Penn Yan. This side of the trail was much easier and took less time, but still offered interesting scenery and a nice pincic area in Penn Yan (with nearby playgrounds).
Sugar Shack Blueberry Farm
Jonah's favorite fruit is banana. But a VERY close second is the blueberry. We decided that blueberry picking would be right up his alley. The Sugar Shack was very accomodating and Jonah was in his glory! He was going from bush to bush, greeting the other pickers, tapping them on the shoulder and holding out his hand. They graciously handed over a few berries, thinking he was going to eat them, but then he turned around and put them in our bucket! Little stinker! If you've never eaten these berries right from the bush, you have no idea what you're missing. It's like a whole different fruit! We walked away with several pounds of blueberries now awaiting their fate in pies, muffins, and ultimately, Jonah's belly.
Several days, while Jonah napped, Jason took the canoe out for a spin and loved it. We also skipped rocks (did we mention that shale makes for GREAT rock skipping?)and fed the ducks. We used this time as an opportunity to teach Jonah words like "boat", "duck", and "water".
Most mornings we fried eggs and sausage, most afternoons we ate picnic lunches and most evenings we grilled out. Nearly every night we built a fire next to the water where we sat and drank the wine that we'd purchased during the day. These "little" moments made the week so peaceful - like home, only better.