It was a very cold room.  I was wearing next to nothing, and there were a bunch of faces that I had never seen before.  There was a woman who was clearly in charge.  She made each of her students describe my situation.

The BIG day had come.  What I was surrounded by, I observed intently.  I did my best to be a part of this awful situation between my violent shivers.  I tried to settle my nerves, but it was clear I was failing.  The lead woman did well to calm me.  Her voice was reassuring and soothing; she had impeccable bedside manners.

I obeyed her subtle command to lower my arm off of the bed.  She struggled to find a vein, and she had done a great job hiding her frustration that my arm was not cooperating.  

“I want you to think of a happy place,” she said with kindness.

I lay there dumbfounded; I couldn’t think of a happy place.  I told her that I had no place to think of; there were too many to choose from!

I was born with a series of heart defects that in a weird way, counter-balanced each other for the first 40 years of my life.  When they stopped being in balance, and I started to suffer for it.  With dread about a surgery that had a mere 45% survival rate, I, with great hesitation, opted to undergo a massive change in my life.

It is this dire prospect that brought me to the decision to give my wife a vast amount of memories for that just-in-case moment, by traveling to as many destinations as possible before the surgery.  Because of our travels, I had no one place to focus on because there were hundreds!

That is not the case now.

If the question of a happy place was ever brought to me again, it would be:

Watkins Glen State Park.

The way the sun shone through the gorge, Charlene exclaimed, “This is Heaven.”

It was such an experience that it made Charlene cry at the sight of it.

Located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake in New York, it was well worth the effort to see.  We had never been in the Finger Lakes region before and were very impressed with the area’s natural beauty.  Watkin Glen State Park is the gem of gems.

Charlene wanted to go after seeing a few pictures and reading other people’s stories.  She asked me to go several times, but we had no passports, so this seemed like a far-off dream that could never be achieved.

Then it happened; we got passports.  Just like that.  So simple and so easy.

I had at first planned just an overnight trip to Rochester to see the Lilac Festival and then return home to do stuff around the house.  Charlene asked why we were not camping instead, so plans changed, and I remembered just how much Charlene wanted to see this place, and it had a campsite. It was an easy detour after the festivities of Rochester.

The approach to the glen from the top involved a fair number of stairs.  We were able to look down and see that there was a much easier way to get to the sights had we not been camping at the park.  At the bottom of the stairs, we looked up, the rays of light were shining from behind the falls and this is when Charlene became overwhelmed with the sight.  She cried because of the beauty of this masterpiece of nature.  Pictures that I have taken and pictures that we have seen can never show just how it felt to be in this chasm.  

The trailway is wide for most of it, although there were places that became relatively narrow and sometimes I had to watch my head.  The path is not overly long, but since there was so much to wonder at, it took the better part of two hours to walk the path in and out.   

One (actually three) of the best things about Watkin Glen State Park was being able to walk behind the falls.  This was a rare treat for us; our first was only months earlier at Felker Falls in Hamilton. With three falls with each of their own character, it was an added treat to already this carnival of watery delights.

Our evening stroll meant that the crowds were thinning, and we often found ourselves alone in the gorge, which allowed us to marvel at the sight without the pressure of passing people.

We would return to the campsite after trekking up a flight of what seemed to be endless stairs and settle at our campsite for the evening.  

Of all the places we have been to that were focused on the beauty of nature, this was by far the best we had ever witnessed.  It was worth shedding a tear or two at its sight.

Notice the large drops of water. It is not rain; it is coming from overhead through the rocks.

Site points:

  • We took the stairs from the top of the gorge to the bottom.  It was a challenging hike doing this, especially at the end of the day.  There is access from the bottom that bypasses the stairs, but the entire gorge pathway requires some physical stamina to be able to walk up and down the path with its smaller staircases and smaller inclines.
  • The campsite was rather large and relatively private since the sites were spread out.
  • Firewood is expensive if bought on location.  The wood is treated to stop the spread of insects and includes a couple of pieces of kindling and a firestarter.
  • Expect to get wet.  Large drops of water will fall on you in various spots within the gorge.  The groundwater that feeds the river and falls does come from overhead. Wearing a large hat might be a good idea.
  • This trail through the gorge is not open in the winter; it is far too dangerous.

This featured location is shown on my MAP here, along with many others that have been discussed on this website.

I have also created a WATERFALLS MAP that shows this and other locations.


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