|By Obla Vishvesh, Albany [ Published Date: July 8, 2011 ]|
In my life in North America, I have found that I have often stumbled upon some of the finest displays of Mother Nature. Quite a few of them which I have visited with eager expectations have proved to be unfit of the hype because of the typical 'tourist' attractions that were hardly out of the ordinary. There have also been quite a few where the drive was far more attractive than the destination!
An errand to Ithaca reminded me of a place that has long been on my mind for a visit. I had heard of Watkins Glen State Park that had a series of waterfalls. But I couldn't find much information when I sought for it two days before. Having had the habit of making use of any day that would let me outdoors, I willingly took the extra stretch of driving to this remote place in the late afternoon.
It was a half hour drive from Ithaca, but I was disappointed that my GPS led me to a park right in the center of the small city (Watkins Glen). The guy who was collecting the entrance fare looked at me with a strange look when I asked him if this was the place where there were a series of waterfalls! Quite a few cars were parked in that lot and we got down expecting something very ordinary. At least, we can go home soon, I thought!
We saw that the entrance was a tunnel carved on a rock and looked like something that you see in the entrances of water rides at Disney. The usual hype, I thought, but as we went closer, we found that it was real! The sight of the first water-falls near the entrance itself was spectacular. For, right above it there was a stone bridge that blended with the rocks around, since it was probably built from the rocks cut from the surrounding cliffs, and added more charm to the flowing water below. We entered the flight of stairs at the entrance and what a surprise, we exited into a different world from the other end! In my childhood days I have read 'Alice in Wonderland' with fascination as Alice entered into various colorful worlds -- the worlds that can exist only in the imagination of a child. But it was as if in reality a world as that seemed to open before me there -- from the drab parking lot parked with automobiles that have only a mechanical proportion we force ourselves to like and dislike, to a world of Natural proportions cut out by the running water, wind, sun, the trees and every other element of nature, that makes a spontaneous impression on the mind.
The hike was one-and-a-half mile all along the glen, following in a reverse direction the river, uphill. There were indeed numerous water-falls. What made them spectacular was the formation in the rocks the water had carved and the pattern of light that fell on it through the narrow crevices of the mountain above. I was reminded of the Antelope canyon, Arizona, where the flash floods for millions of years in the desert had cut through a sandstone mountain in breath-taking patterns the details of which looked amazing by the play of sunlight that came through the crevices on the top! Not as beautiful as that, this one too had some stunning patterns on rock that caught the sunlight in different angles to put on a fine display. And in addition to that that there were various very picturesque small bridges that crisscrossed the river. They looked right out of a fairy tale! They were all built of the same stone and seemed to have become as natural as the cliffs and the rocks that surrounded them! What a pleasing appearance to the eyes they were for not being the dirty concrete constructions that stand as ugly contrasts to the environment! A place where man's ingenuity too blended very naturally with the elements around, it seemed!
There were water-falls that you had to walk under or pass through. A fine shower of the mountain water was refreshing, cold though it was. We even spotted a lonely beaver in the deeper section of the river which was far away from the reach of tourists. It is rare to see a wild animal as that in its natural environment, that too in a place where a lot of tourists visit. It was nice to see it diving down the water and rising up the other end.
There had been rain in this region for the past few days and there was plenty of water. It was drizzling on and off even as we hiked. The ferns all over the cliffs too were dripping water and were soothing green. The cliffs looked alive with fresh vegetation that is always refreshing for the human mind. Water makes vegetation possible and hence is Life itself. We revere it hence, but water has its beauty as well. All along the trail you heard the sweet sound of water, which was music to the ears -- whether it was roaring, as it crashed from an elevation, whether it gurgled as it passed a rock, or whether it was flowing undisturbed with the pleasing sound of its flow!
I have seen a few Harry Potter movies and there were quite a few spots there which resembled some of the scenic sets of that movie (& 'Lord of the Rings'). In the movie they were too unreal, but here it was, at Watkins Glen State Park right before you! The sky was overcast when we had hiked upwards, and when we had expected to become darker later in the evening as we were trailing down-hill, the late-evening sun came up to offer us a different display of the rich scenery before us. The three mile long arduous walk up and down the craggy hill went entirely unnoticed!