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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.