Mile 350: Watkins Glen, NY


Thunder is rolling around outside and rain is spattering on the roof. The camp chairs are outside getting wet, but they can stay there and dry off over night. Its actually been a fine, hot day but its been building to this I suppose. Tom is asleep in his bunk and Philippa and I are cosy on the sofas in the back. We all feel well fed up and agreably drunk after crab cakes and some of the most delicious squeaky-fresh sweetcorn I have ever had. We ate outside in the last of the evening sunshine at the edge of the huge campsite we have in Watkins Glen State Park. This feels more like the camping we prefer. We are surrounded by tall mature trees and I watched a woodpecker tapping away at a branch over my head.

The day started in Pennsylvania of course and a really lovely little place – the Sheshequin Campground. It was wide and grassy and well looked after by Greg and his wife who bought it three years ago and ran it as a sideline; “we both have other jobs”. They had really thought hard about making it nice and Greg remembered that we were on a big road trip. He met me at the door of the office yesterday with a big grin: “how was day two?” he asked. It makes such a difference to the experience to have that kind of atmosphere. Quite a contrast to the rather stern lady at the Ferryboat Campground who met us with a smile and then got all tight-lipped and difficult, as if we were schoolkids spending rather too long hanging around the candy racks.

We had a lazy morning. Tom and PT getting used to their bikes while I pottered in the sunshine. Then we found one of the nearby swimming holes and plunged into the glassy river. It was a little on the cool side even for Tom, but a great spot with orange Tiger Lillies nodding over the water and big swallowtail butterflies. Tom wanted to learn how to skip stones so we spent a lot of time doing that before it turned into a contest about how big a splash you could make.

Time to pack up, unplug, check switches, hatches, step and Tom and head north on US15. The road curves through steep hills dense with trees. Harvey just rumbled along on cruise control at a steady 65. I still scan all the dashboard gauges obsessively, looking for something not right but so far, so far, things seem to be ticking along fine.    

We pulled off the road and found a church car park in Liberty for lunch. It was a nice break under some leafy shade before we got back onto 15 and headed for New York State.

The first glimpse of a Finger Lake was as we crested a hill; a narrow blue stripe cutting through the trees with the triangle of a white sailboat just a speck in the distance. A gold domed church gleamed in the sunshine and it looked like the cover of a tourist brochure. The park is lovely and we all rode our bikes around the almost empty campground which is threaded through the trees on a hilltop.

The park has nineteen waterfalls and we will walk through a gorge tomorrow. Tom has been promised some pool time (he hustles for a tenner a game) and PT has found what looks like a rather good place for lunch, so one way or another tomorrow promises to be rather nice. Just as today was actually…

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