Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top Shelf Travels the Seaway Trail

One of the things that kept popping up on lists of things to do in the area was to drive or bike the Seaway Trail. The trail follows four bodies of water (the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie) from West Springfield, PA to Rooseveltown, NY. I thought it sounded really cool - I love to crank up some tunes and head out on a road trip - but I kind of set it aside. As much as I liked the idea, I wasn't sure I could see myself really taking the time to travel even some of the Seaway in the next couple of months.

Fortunately, fates bigger than me - my mother - stepped in. As you know, my mom and two of my brothers, Chris and Lee, were in town last week. We took a quick jaunt through this part of New York with our first stop being Rochester. Now you could take the boring ol' way to Rochester and just jump right on the highway. My mom, however, had other things in mind. She's a big fan of lighthouses - she and some friends often take lighthouse trips - so she set a different path for us. There are 28 lighthouses along the 504 mile Seaway Trail. She picked out five she really liked that were between Buffalo and Rochester and off we went. As usual, you can click on any of the photos to see a larger image.

The journey began like all good Henderson family vacations do. With us getting really, really lost. I was half asleep during the first part of our journey so I can't tell you what exactly happened. I can tell you that we drove past Fantasy Island at least four times and saw it from pretty much every conceivable angle and. We eventually gave up on the Grand Island Lighthouse in favor of driving on and having time to see ones that were farther away. We could always see Grand Island on another visit.

When in doubt, drive toward the blue stuff.

The first stop we actually made for a reason other than to try and figure out where the heck we were was the Fort Niagara lighthouse in Youngstown, NY.

Fort Niagara was the site of the first unofficial lighthouse on the Great Lakes, originally a lantern room on top of the French Castle inside the fort. (Chris and I decided on a whim to make a quick tour of the fort so more on that in another post. I know you can hardly wait.) After some time, the lighthouse was moved outside the walls of the fort and in 1993, instead of cutting down or cutting back 50 or so trees that were blocking the light, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, choosing to use a light on a nearby radio tower instead. Today the lighthouse is completely non-functional though at times there has been a museum and gift shop inside. There's a more in-depth history here for anyone who's interested.

This is the Fresnel lens from the lighthouse. It's hard to tell in the photo but it was pretty darn big.


Next stop was the Olcott Lighthouse in Olcott, NY.

I thought it was kind of an ugly little thing at first glance, but it kinda grew on me. Back in the 1870s there were two 800 foot piers extending into Lake Ontario which were used to form a protected harbor at Olcott. Canadian ships often off-loaded grain there to be shipped to Rochester and Oswego. At the end of one of the piers was this lighthouse. Well, not this lighthouse exactly. Around 1930, the lighthouse was decommissioned and moved to a yacht club where it fell into disrepair. This replica was built in 2003.

This was the point in the trip where I decided it would be really awesome to drive the whole Seaway Trail one day because the surrounding area was really, really adorable. There was a little strip of shops, really cute houses and a beautiful park along the water.

My memory card filled before I could take any pictures of it but there was also a little mini amusement part with a refurbished 1926 carousel and vintage rocketship and fighter plane rides, those little ones that only go six or seven feet off the ground. This was also where I come in contact with the awesome powers of Esmeralda.

Some day I'm going to do this again when I don't have an exact destination and time of arrival because I would have loved to just pulled over and taken pictures along the way. Big, beautiful farm houses, various animals and field after field of fruit trees of some kind. It was an overcast day but I kind of love it when the water is dark and moody.

Lee having deep thoughts about how a Mets player couldn't stand that close to the water's edge this season without drowning.

By this point in the day, it was starting to get darker so we decided to hit one last lighthouse, the Thirty Mile Point lighthouse which was probably my favorite of the three. Check out this cutie.

Love it.

Thirty Mile Point lighthouse shone for the first time in April of 1876. It was built after a number of shipwrecks were caused by a shallow sandbar that extended from Thirty Mile Point out into Lake Ontario. Like the lighthouse at Fort Niagara, the lighthouse was eventually taken over by the Coast Guard and then replaced by a light at the top of a tower. Certain weeks out of the year, the second floor of the dwelling is rented out for week-long stays which is totally awesome. You don't have to take care of the lighthouse or the lake but you do get a glimpse into what that life was like. When I have lots of money, I'm doing it.

Chris, wandering waaaaaay out...

... to get this photo from the water.

Living on one of the Great Lakes is one of those things Buffalonians totally take for granted. I hadn't even given it much thought until Patty (in Dallas) came to visit last year and I saw how excited she was about seeing Lake Erie. At Thirty Mile, I was finally able to get down to the water so I decided to dip my feet in. And when I pulled them out I still only had ten toes which is always a plus.

Two Great Lakes down, three to go!

And with that we bid a fond farewell to the Seaway Trail and another fun-filled day in Western New York.

"Say goodbye, Mom."
"Goodbye, Mom."

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