June, 2016 – Auburn, New York

After spending a couple of hours at the Ford dealership getting the truck looked at, we got a late start on moving to our next location.  Thankfully the problem was once again the exhaust filter, which we will have to get replaced in the near future.  Now that we were north of the Finger Lakes and traveling in between them and Lake Ontario as we headed west towards Buffalo, I had assumed the trips would be quick as they were right along I-90.  However, I-90 is also the New York Thruway, which means it is a toll road.  I don’t know what it would have cost us to travel the NY Thruway with an RV, but our experience along the coast last year was that it would not be cheap.  Since we weren’t traveling that far, the time savings was only 15 minutes, so we opted to more or less parallel it on county and state roads.  We pulled into Riverforest Park Campground near Weedsport, NY which is just north of the Interstate.  We are actually about 20 miles north of Auburn, NY but I just could not miss the chance to label this location Auburn instead of Weedsport!  Our first impression of Riverforest Park was not good, especially since they had trouble finding our reservation which we had already paid for.  They did find it eventually and we pulled to our site.  Thankfully, there were few RVs in the small circle they had for transient visitors and we were able to just about pull through to this back-in site from the site behind ours.  Riverforest is probably the largest RV Park we have stayed in with well over 100 sites.  However, nearly all of them are taken with seasonal campers in a huge sprawling mess.  There were about 12 sites for transients, such as ourselves, as well as, their overflow area.  Their website talks about the many “riverfront” sites, but all of these are taken with permanent RVs of the seasonal campers.  I would not mind this so much, except that all these RVs were parked parallel to the river.  I am sure this created a nice environment for those campers, but it all but eliminated any view of the river from our site.  They also state on their website that all of their sites are full hookups, which is simply not true.  None of the transient sites had sewer hookups and the electricity was limited to 30 amp.  In addition, the electrical hookups were grouped together at a couple of telephone poles which meant we had to back in as far as possible to be able to reach the electrical box.  Other campers were having to use extension cords to be able to reach the box.  A very poor design.  The worst part was that over the 4th of July weekend there was so much demand that the voltage dropped numerous time, which meant we lost power since our surge protector also protects against low voltage which can damage your appliances.  Finally, their restroom at this end of the park was “temporarily closed” although it looked like it had not been opened for years.  The only restroom was back at the entrance to the park under their restaurant and behind their swimming pool.  We have walked further to get to a bathroom a few times, but being the only restroom in this huge park meant it was overused during the July 4th weekend.  In any case, we got set up with little problem.


After spending the last couple of days relaxing in the campsite we were looking forward to some day trips.  Our first destination on Tuesday was the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  This seems to be an odd name for a NWR in New York state, since Montezuma was an Aztec chief in the southwest.  It turns out this was the name the original owner of the property had named his country retreat.  Montezuma NWR is a large wetlands (over 9,000 acres) created by the outflow of Cayuga Lake (yes this is the same lake we explored two weeks ago near the south end of the lake).  Being a marshy area it was not used for agriculture until the Erie Canal was dug through the northern end.  This along with the connecting canals to Cayuga and Seneca Lake provided the opportunity to drain the wetlands since the dams and locks effectively lowered the Seneca River by over 8 feet.  In 1937 the federal government bought over 6,000 acres and through the efforts of the CCC began to restore the wetlands.  Using a series of low dykes and simple gates to fill and drain the wetlands, the FWS is continuing to create a diverse habitat for the scores of migrating birds that use the site as a stopover during the spring and fall.  However, during mid-June there is not much activity so all we saw was the occasional duck, goose, and osprey.  The Visitor Center is a very nice facility with both an outside and inside deck to view any activity on their Main Pool.  However, we got their before they opened at 10 am, so we decided to explore the 0.5 mile loop trail that leads to an observation tower overlooking the Main Pool and then looping around along the Barge Canal back to the Visitor Center.  By this time the Visitor Center was opened and we found out about other hiking trails open to the public.  There is also a 3.5 mile on-way drive around the Main Pool which would have given a lot of views of the birds, if there were any.  You are asked to stay in your vehicle during the drive to minimize interference with the wildlife, but there was one stop where you were allowed to hike a quarter mile into a wooden bird blind out in the Main Pool.  While it was a nice walk and a nice bird blind, there unfortunately were not any birds to watch, so we continued on.

We drove over to the Esker Brooks Trails where we ate lunch in the truck.  These trails are really three parallel trails along Esker Brook through different ecosystems.  The center trail is along the Brook, the eastern trail goes up and down on the other side of the brook through an old apple orchard, and the western trail is along the low ridge.  You can make a loop of any two of the three as they meet up at each end.  We hiked out along the brook and then returned along the ridge, making it just over 2 miles.  One advantage of hiking in NWR is since they are wetlands, they tend to be fairly flat in topography.  It was nice to take an extended walk without any excessive uphill stretches.


The volunteer at the Montezuma NWR Visitor Center told us about the remains of an aqueduct on the enlarged Erie Canal in the town of Montezuma.  So on our way back to the campground we stopped at the Montezuma Heritage Park to check it out.  It was an easy 1.7 mile to the banks of the Seneca River, which is now part of the barge canal, to the Richmond Aqueduct that had crossed over the Seneca River.  All that is left are a few of the over 30 spans on this second longest aqueduct on the Erie Canal.  It was well worth the additional hike, even though by now it was getting very warm.  While I choose to return to the truck on the trail atop the berm on the other side of the canal, Kal choose to return by the tow path as it had a lot more shade.  About half way back to the truck there I saw the remains of a pulp mill that made pulp for paper from milkweed! It did not last very long and the small section of the remaining wall was not worth the hike in the sun.

Since Wednesday was suppose to be sunny with temperatures only into the mid-80s we headed north to Lake Ontario and Chimney Bluffs State Park.  This is a lovely little park on the shore of Lake Ontario.  The namesake of the park, Chimney Bluff, is a landmark that has been used for thousands of years along the shore.  It is a high bluff (over 200 feet) that is being continuously sculpted by wind and waves into tall spires of glacial deposits.  These deposits are more sand then rock along the shore of the lake.  There is a bluff trail leading from the parking lot up on top of the bluff.  From the shore at the parking lot you cannot get a good look of the Chimney Bluffs, but along the trail you get a lot of views as your approach them.  At times you have to watch your step as the trail is often right on the edge of the bluff as you climb up.  From the top of the bluff you can either continue to the east descending down back into another small parking lot or turn inland along another trail that loops back to the main parking lot.  We choose this second trail and enjoyed a nice gentle hike back to the truck.  We then grabbed our lunch, which we ate at a picnic table overlooking Lake Ontario.  While this was only a short day of hiking, we enjoyed the hike.

Thursday was suppose to climb into the lower 90s, so we decided to try and stay indoors most of the day.  Therefore, we headed over to Seneca Falls to check out the National Park in the area, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Back in the 1830s and 1840s, western New York was the center for a lot of civil rights activists, both abolitionists and women suffragettes.   In fact, they were often the same individuals as those opposed to slavery would often see the rights of women to be little different from slavery.  Holding conventions was a common method to raise awareness and build support for issues.  In 1848, 5 like-minded women met over tea to plan a convention to focus on women’s rights.  Over the next 9 days they invited the more prominent proponents of civil rights to attend a convention at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls.  They also wrote the first draft of their Declaration of Sentiments, borrowing heavily from the Declaration of Independence, which was a common model in the civil rights movement.  On August 19-20, 1848 over a hundred people came to Seneca Falls for the first Women’s Rights Convention.  The first day was only for the women as speeches encourage them to demand their rights.  The second day included men, as well as, women, culminating in the signing by 68 women and 32 men of the Declaration of Sentiments.  Although not the First National Convention for Women’s Rights which was held in a couple of years in Worchester, it was still noteworthy since it was the first formal meeting and the Declaration of Sentiments continued to be the focal point of the movement.  The museum and film at the Visitor Center does a great job in highlighting significant moments in the Women’s Rights Movement, as well as, the details on this first Convention.  I especially liked learning about the connections between the Women’s Rights and slavery.  As I mentioned the leaders of both movements were virtually the same individuals up until the Civil War, when slavery was abolished but women were still second class citizens little better than slaves.  The right to vote was not passed until 1920, another 60 years after the Civil War.  Next to the Visitor Center are the remains of the Wesleyan Chapel, which was used for a number of businesses until it burned down.  They have rebuilt the Chapel using the remaining brick walls and placed pews and lectern to give the feeling at the time of the Convention.  There is also People’s Park between the buildings and a nice city park, Declaration Park, across the street.  The People’s Park is a sloped grassy area for outside events and a reflecting pool along a wall with the Declaration of Sentiments engraved on it.  Even taking our time it still only took a couple of hours to explore the site and have lunch in the Declaration Park, so it was another early day back to the campground.


Friday had a small chance for rain (which did not happen) so we decided to drive over to Farmington, New York and the Finger Lakes Gaming and Race Track.  While not up to the standard of Turning Stone Resort in lavishness, this casino was more to our liking.  There were still over 1500 slot machines to choose from and we had a lot of games to choose from.  Unfortunately, it did not take long for Kal to lose her stake so after only a couple of hours we were ready to head back to the campgrounds.  Thankfully, I had managed to make a few dollars, so it was not a total loss.  Although we do enjoy playing the slot machines, it is sure a lot more fun when you win enough to be able to play for more than a couple of hours.


Saturday was the start of the 4TH of July weekend, so we decided to just stay in the campgrounds doing laundry and cleaning the RV before the afternoon festivities planned for the campground.  The campground really filled up and there were people everywhere!!  Except for the cute golfcart parade in the afternoon, most of the festivities were planned for the evening when they had a DJ playing loud “patriotic” music.  Since most of the people were celebrating the holiday at their campsites instead of any central area, we decided to just stay put.  As it got dark, the fireworks came out and their were bangs and pops in all directions.  The most interesting display was the large number of miniature hot-air balloons being launched from all over the campgrounds.  We had never seen these before and they made a nice display as they floated up into the air and traveled across the campgrounds.  Once it got dark enough, they set off their firework display.  We were both impressed with the display which lasted about half an hour.  It was especially nice since we had to move only about 20 feet to get around the trees blocking the display to have a nice view of all the fireworks.  Then it was a short 20 feet back to the RV for the rest of the evening.  It was sure nice not to have to travel and deal with the crowds that we had got used to over the years in Auburn.  However, once the main display was over it was time for everyone personal displays to commence.  For the next couple of hours you could see miniature firework displays all over the place.  It was nearly midnight before it got quiet enough to go to bed, but we were not complaining.

We spent Sunday relaxing in the campgrounds, while the parties continued all around us.  Watching everyone over the weekend almost made up for the fact we did not like this campground in general.  In my opinion, our 4th of July last summer in Connecticut was better.  There was no fireworks display, but they had a much better “golfcart” parade and I enjoyed spending the afternoon listening to a country band instead of the DJ this year.

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