Seneca Lake: Day Three : Watkins Glen State Park and Lucky Hare Brewing

In September 2018, Bhavna and I booked a weekend getaway on Seneca Lake on the Finger Lakes region of New York. This is day three of three.

Two years ago, in September 2018, Bhavna and I booked a weekend getaway on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Here are links to Day 1 and Day 2.


I always find the last day of a journey the most challenging. I feel a sense of panic for the things and places still on my to-do list and worry about packing all our belongings and not forgetting anything behind. But, I was too tired and muscle sore from all the hiking we did yesterday and the long drive back from our balloon ride.

We had it all sorted in fifteen minutes, and checkout involved dropping our key into a dropbox inside and exiting The Farmhouse. As we packed our bags into Bhavna's CUV, we were bathed in the warm early morning light coming over the hill. The Grist Iron Brewery and the Farmhouse looked beautiful. We drove into Watkins Glen for breakfast and hiked the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park.

Driving home from ballooning on the previous night, we had decided to visit Watkins Glen State Park before we left the Seneca Lake area. Bhavna's sister and her family had visited the area a few months before and suggested it was worth visiting. There are waterfalls. How could I do my best to work it into our schedule?

The Farmhouse - The Inn at Grist Iron | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
The Farmhouse - The Inn at Grist Iron | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunrise over Grist Iron Brewing | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Breakfast in Watkins Glen Village

While breakfast is included in our package, I wanted to eat at one of the well-known breakfast spots, The Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli. We arrived early, too early, so I explored the street with my camera.

House of Hong | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Glen Theatre opened in 1924 but fell into disrepair, eventually becoming an adult (a.k.a porn) movie theatre. In 1996, a Watkins Glen resident purchased and restored the property, offering mostly second-run movies. However, for unknown reasons, in 2019, the theatre shut its doors.

Front facia of the Glen Theatre in Watkins Glenn, New York
The Glen Theater | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Country Haven Treasures | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Once the deli opened, we found a seat near the window. I ordered a bagel with lox and cream cheese and locally sourced fair trade coffee while Bhavna settled on a muffin. I was excited to learn that my coffee that morning was from Gimme! Coffee, an Ithaca based roaster from whom I have ordered whole beans in the past. Besides ourselves, the deli had one other customer, but several more tables were occupied as we ate our breakfast. It seems some of the customers were regulars as the host greeted them warmly by name.

Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Coffee and bagels | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

The two murals on the outside walls of Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli pay homage to the bountiful racing history of Watkins Glen.

On October 2nd, 1948, 15 cars started the 8-lap, 52.8-mile Grand Prix, with Wayne, Pennsylvania's Frank Griswold winning in a pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C2900 coupe, closely followed by Briggs Cunningham in his famous Bu-Merc. Other prominent entrants included William "Bill" Milliken, who rolled his Bugatti 35 in qualifying, giving "Milliken's Corner" its name. Charles Addams, the cartoonist who created the Addams family, was also entered, along with Miles and Sam Collier, major figures in the history of American road racing.

...

In 1961, Cameron Argetsinger was tapped to prepare Watkins Glen for the final round of the Formula One World Championship. While many of the requirements were met by the existing facility, new pits were constructed to satisfy European standards of pit boxes with overhead cover, in addition to several other safety and infrastructure upgrades. The United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen quickly became an autumn tradition as huge crowds of knowledgeable race fans flocked to upstate New York each year amid the spectacular fall colours of the region. The race was also among the most popular on the global Grand Prix calendar with the teams and drivers because its starting and prize money totals often exceeded those of the other races combined. The race received the Grand Prix Drivers' Association Award for "Best Staged Grand Prix" in 1965, 1970, and 1972.

Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

I can only imagine how exciting (and dangerous) those early races must have been with high-performance cars zipping around the streets of Watkins Glen.

Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

We didn't linger over our breakfast. We wanted to maximise our time hiking at Watkins Glen State Park.

Watkins Glen State Park

Earlier in the year, Bhavna's sister and her family took a road trip through New England, stopping in Watkins Glen to visit the gorge. They suggested that we start at the top of the gorge trail and hike down toward the entrance. They had attempted the trail starting at the bottom near the official park entrance and had a rough time. We heeded their advice, parked on the lower level and rode a shuttle to the upper entrance to the park.

Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen's stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Campers and day-visitors can enjoy the Olympic-size pool, scheduled summer tours through the gorge, tent and trailer campsites, picnic facilities and excellent fishing in nearby Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek, renowned for its annual spring run of rainbow trout.

Top of Watkins Glen Gorge Trail | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
The value of brining a tripod. | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
We would soon realise just how many steps | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Near the start of the Gorge Trail, we passed the Railroad Bridge, a deck girder bridge over Watkin Glen Gorge, which forms part of the Norfolk Southern Railway. The bridge, built circa 1935 to replace the previous deck plate bridge destroyed by a massive flood, is still open to traffic from Conrail, New York Central Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway and Penn Central Railroad. The previous Watkins Glen Bridge was built circa 1901. The current bridge is 96 metres long, with the largest span just under 37 metres.

Watkins Glen State Park | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Mile Point Bridge, Gorge Trail | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Cavern Cascade, Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Rainbow Falls | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Cavern Cascade, Gorge Trail | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Bhavna | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Cavern Cascade, Gorge Trail | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
We're almost done | Sunday 23 September, 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Lucky Hare Brewing

We exited Watkins Glen State Park just before noon. Bhavna and I were hungry. After some discussion and knowing that all those hikers coming off the trail would also be hungry and perhaps dining downtown, we settled on our last brewery tour of the trip.

After a few days at Seneca Lake, we had come to realise that Hector is home to more than a few of the lake’s breweries. We decided on visiting Lucky Hare Brewing Company.

The brewery sits on a grassy corner wedge between Beckhorn Road and Route 414. Initially, we sat inside, working our way through the tasting menu. Another customer overheard our conversations about beer and our recent brewery tours in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. After some exciting banter, we were invited outside to sit at the table they had occupied.

beer share | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Angel and Brian Ash are from Cuba, New York and often vacation in the finger lakes. They had just attended a beer festival in Rochester and spent a few days at Seneca Lake. We hit it off.

We talked about beer for a while and realising how much we all love before I pulled Bhavna aside. “I still have a crowler of Fustigated on ice in the cooler.” Bhavna agreed we should share with our new friends. I got the cooler, schmoozed some fresh glassware from the cicerone, and we sat to share one of Troon Brewing’s top-rated IPAs. Brian loved the beer and inquired heavily about Troon. He then said, “These are good people”, got up and went to his cooler. We shared a crowler of “X to the Next” from Red Dragon Brewing that he had purchased at the beer fest. This is one of the things I like about beer culture.

It was a fitting end to our weekend adventure.

X to the Next (Remix) | Sunday 23 September 2018 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Upper Buttermilk Falls

This photograph was taken last fall during a weekend trip to Seneca Lake. Bhavna and I hiked the Buttermilk Falls trail.

We stopped along the way to rest, but we ere exhausted when we got to the top. We are both in our 50’s, slightly overweight, and do not exercise as much as we want. In my case, the fear of hypoglycaemia limits the activities that I am willing to do. Bhavna is limited by the amount of pain her feet can bare.

I brought my Fuji X-T2, Manfrotto tripod and Hoya neutral density filter. When we stopped to catch a breather, I took some photos. Capturing images proved challenging. The falls are a popular tourist destination, even in the fall. I jammed by tripod up against the stone barricades, doing my best to keep the legs off the path, to avoid tripping other hikers. Hikers would sometimes stop their ascent or descent from asking questions about what I was doing or about my gear.

Seneca Lake: Day One: Inn at Grist Iron, Grist Iron Brewing and Two Goats Brewing

In September 2018, Bhavna and I booked a weekend getaway on Seneca Lake on the Finger Lakes region of New York. This is day one of three.

Two years ago, in September 2018, Bhavna and I booked a weekend getaway on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Here are links to Day 2 and Day 3.


Bhavna and I have always wanted to ride in a balloon, but we never made the time for it with young kids and work. The kids are older now. Shaan is out of the house and a sophomore at Rutgers University. Kiran is a senior in high school and busy with AP classes and college applications. My health has been failing lately, and I feel more fragile; life is too precious to put off things for "tomorrow".

When the QuickChek Festival of Ballooning came around, I suggested to Bhavna that we should take a ride. But the festival weekend conflicted with another event on the calendar. Seeing my disappointment, Bhavna suggested that I search for other ballooning options.

I found a few options in the area, but Bhavna thought they were too expensive. She suggested that if we would spend that kind of money, we should have an excellent balloon experience. Searching Google for “best balloon rides in the USA“, I found a link to a Fodors ranking of balloon rides and a similar Fox News article. The nearest one was Balloons over Letchworth. That’s the one I chose.

I booked the balloon ride for the only date remaining for the season. Balloons over Letchworth launches at 5:15 PM from inside the Letchworth State Park, and the balloon ride can last about an hour. We were driving just over five hours for the balloon ride, so Bhavna and I decided to make a weekend of it. We chose to stay in Watkins Glenn.

Grist Iron Brewing | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55mm | f/11

I learned that the area around Seneca Lake is home to many wineries, waterfalls, and … breweries. I found accommodation at the Farmhouse at Grist Iron, which has an onsite microbrewery, The Grist Iron Brewing. We booked for two nights.

The original plan was to drive directly to the launch site on Friday, then go back to the Inn, and unpack before heading to the brewery for a nightcap. Thursday night, the balloon pilot called to say that the Friday night flight was scrapped. The weather was not conducive to a balloon launch. A storm was expected. He had a cancellation for Saturday and was able to accommodate us. This was even better than our original plan.

After breakfast, we packed the car and drove straight to the Inn at Grist Iron.

The Farmhouse

When we arrived at the Inn the innkeeper, Darlene, a friendly and bright-eyed woman, greeted us, pointed out the location of the Farmhouse, explained the dining options are the brewery and the surrounding area and made some suggested of other breweries to visit.

Our fully restored 1860s farmhouse features wide plank floors, original hand-hewn beams, and various shades of chestnut, pine, and oak for guests looking for the traditional warmth and feel of a bed and breakfast. The house features a large shared dining area, small parlour, kitchen with a vaulted wood ceiling, and French doors that lead out to our covered front porch with ample seating and magnificent lake views. With four charming rooms to choose from – each with their own private bath – guests can enjoy antique furnishings, cosy reading areas, and the comfort of years gone by.

The Sunset Room in the Farmhouse at the Inn at Grist Iron | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6
The Sunset Room in the Farmhouse at the Inn at Grist Iron | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 31.1mm | f/5.6

I had booked us in the Sunset Room, a room with a private first-floor entrance and stairway, and a lake facing view so we could enjoy the sunset. The Sunset room is a 2-bedroom suite with a private en-suite bathroom on the second floor. Our room had a large picture window with the best lake view in the Farmhouse, which we expected to enjoy while lying in the antique four-poster canopy bed or reading chair. Bhavna loved the linens and pillows.

The Farmhouse at Inn at Grist Iron | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6
The Farmhouse at Inn at Grist Iron | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6
The Farmhouse - The Inn at Grist Iron | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/11

We unpacked, freshened up a bit and walked over to the brewery for lunch.

The Grist Iron Brewing Company

Founded in 2015, Grist Iron Brewing Co. is a microbrewery based in Hector, NY, in the heart of the NYS Finger Lakes region.

Grist Iron Brewing | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/11
Grist Iron Brewing | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 40.1mm | f/11

A large group of people in the taproom took their sweet time choosing from the menu. I was annoyed at how much effort these American adults put into choosing a small flight from a menu of just nine beers. When Bhavna and I were finally able to get the attention of someone at the bar, we ordered two flights to sample eight of the nine, along with a BBQ chicken pizza, the Grist Iron “Bomber” (for me) and a Seneca Simple Salad (Bhavna).

Our flights:

Grist Iron Brewing | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6
Grist Iron Brewing’S OL’ BUDDY OL’ PALE ALE | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55mm | f/5.6

We sat outside facing Seneca Lake. It was very windy; moreover, an indication that perhaps the storm was on the way and we would not have the sunset we had anticipated. We talked about how much we regretted not making trips like these earlier in our marriage and not taking the kids on more vacations to see the USA.

The food was brought to the table, and we dined and drank al fresco style. The flavours of the ales underwhelmed us. I don’t think Bhavna liked any of hers. I made the best of it. We decided that after our extremely late lunch — it was 3:30 PM when we checked into the Inn — we would shower and try another brewery. There are about five breweries in Hector, but we decided to visit Two Goats Brewing.

Grist Iron Brewing | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6

Two Goats Brewing

When we arrived, a group of people tossed dollar bits at the ceiling. We soon learned that this particular act is a form of entertainment. The dollar bill is pierced with a tack and wrapped in a dollar bit with a quarter. You “win” by getting the toss just right so the tack sticks to the ceiling. I wonder how many patrons have injured an eye?

Two Goats | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6

The views from Two Goat are beautiful. The property sits on the lower side of the road at the top of the eastern edge of Seneca Lake in Hector.

TWO GOATS BREWING’S NEIPA | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 25.7mm | f/5.6

We ordered a few pints instead of a flight and went outside to enjoy the view. We stood on the deck looking down at Seneca Lake. Other brewery patrons occupied the picnic-style tables. It was windy, and we could see the storm clouds in the distance. We would not have our sunset that night. Bhavna enjoyed the NEIPA.

TWO GOATS BREWING’S GOAT MASTER ULTRA PALE ALE | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/5.6

I ordered the Floggen Schloggen, which is a Belgian Dubbel, just because the name is cool. We learned from the owner, John, that he chose the title after a trip to Belgium with his wife. In German - flügeschlagen means “unfinished business”. John doesn’t speak Belgian and the word “strange and cool” to him. Floggen Schloggen is how John remembered the word.

TWO GOATS BREWING’S 2 GOATS BREWING FLOGGEN SCHLOGGEN | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55mm | f/5.6

We started talking to John about his brewery and when and why he started brewing. From our conversation, it seemed he enjoyed his work. I had packed a few cans of ales from Flounder Brewing, Conclave Brewing, and the Referend Blendery, and I offered them to John. We sat at the bar chatting while drinking. I don’t know why I did this. I hope John doesn’t think I’m some nut. I just wanted to share.

Sunset at Two Goats | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 17mm | f/4.5

End of the Day

It was getting late. Because we ate lunch so late, Bhavna was feeling hungry. We drove to the Walmart in Watkins Glen and picked up some junk food and ramen noodles we prepared in the Farmhouse kitchen. We would regret that the next day.

Farmhouse Kitchen | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/11
Farmhouse Kitchen | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16mm | f/11

We looked in the fridge and found the complimentary six-pack of beer from the brewery.

Complimentary six pack of Ol\' Buddy Ol\'. | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55mm | f/5.6