I was tired from the long drive back from our balloon ride, and my muscles were sore from all the hiking we did yesterday.
Several years ago, Bhavna, Shaan, Kiran, and I had lunch at a local restaurant just before we drove back from a weekend road trip to Williamstown, Massachusetts. On the way back, we stopped at Saugerties Lighthouse to take pictures. I reached into my camera bag, and my heart fell as I realised I had left my camera at the table in the restaurant. I made a panicked phone call, and then we turned around and drove two hours back to the restaurant. So now, I find the last day of an out-of-town adventure the most challenging. I panic about the things and places still on my to-do list and worry about remembering to pack all our belongings.
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 the previous night, we visited Watkins Glen State Park before leaving 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?
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 too early, so I explored the street with my camera.
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.
Once the deli opened, we found a seat near the window. I ordered a bagel with lox, 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 breakfast. It seems some customers were regulars as the host greeted them warmly by name.
The two murals on the outside walls of Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli pay homage to the bountiful racing history of Watkins Glen. I’m a Formula 1 racing fanatic and looked online for more details.
On October 2nd, 1948, the Grand Prix began with 15 cars racing 8 laps covering 52.8 miles. Frank Griswold from Wayne, Pennsylvania, clinched victory driving a pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C2900 coupe. Briggs Cunningham closely trailed him in his iconic Bu-Merc. Notably, William "Bill" Milliken had a mishap during qualifying, flipping his Bugatti 35, hence the origin of "Milliken's Corner."
Charles Addams, the creator of the Addams Family, also participated, alongside Miles and Sam Collier, significant figures in American road racing history.
In 1961, Cameron Argetsinger revamped Watkins Glen to host the final round of the Formula One World Championship. The upgrades included new pits meeting European standards, with overhead cover and enhanced safety measures. The United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen became a cherished autumn tradition, attracting enthusiastic race fans who admired the vibrant fall colours of upstate New York.
This race was a global favourite for both teams and drivers due to its generous starting and prize money, often surpassing the combined total of other races. It received the Grand Prix Drivers' Association Award for "Best Staged Grand Prix" in 1965, 1970, and 1972.
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.
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 we start at the top of the gorge trail and hike 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, in the Finger Lakes, is famous for its mesmerising beauty. The glen's stream cascades 400 feet over 200-foot cliffs, creating 19 breathtaking waterfalls within a two-mile stretch. The gorge trail takes you close to these waterfalls, allowing you to walk beneath and around them, even feeling the refreshing mist from Cavern Cascade.
Visitors have various options for recreation, including an Olympic-sized pool, guided summer tours through the gorge, campsites for both tents and trailers, picnic areas, and excellent fishing spots at Seneca Lake and Catherine Creek, famous for its annual rainbow trout run. Watkins Glen State Park truly captivates with its natural wonders and outdoor activities.
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.
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 realised that Hector is home to more than a few of the lake’s breweries. We decided to visit Lucky Hare Brewing Company.
The brewery sits on a grassy corner 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 their table.
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 realised how much we all love it 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 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.