Weekend in the Finger Lakes, Part 3 • Sugar Hill, Mossy Bank Park, and Keuka Lake • February 11 & 12, 2017
After spending 6 hours chasing waterfalls around the Finger Lakes, we began heading back to our hotel in Bath with a few more stops in mind. We drove West back to Watkins Glen, then started taking some snowy county roads to find letterboxes and overlooks. Our first attempt was to hike along the Finger Lakes Trail, (a long distance trail that runs from Allegany State Park to the Catskills) but it was cut short when the trail started by crossing a cold, heavy flowing creek with no rocks or way to cross. We actually saw backpackers on the Finger Lakes Trail right as we got there, and heard their shrieks as they stepped into the cold water. No thank you! Curtis promised me he would never make me do something like that unless we were in the same situation as them — backpacking with no other options! (Or, you know, hiking to the Colorado River, or backpacking in Aravaipa.)
Top: Charlotte takes a nose dive into the snow…then quickly rebounds.
Next, we drove to Sugar Hill, which is the highest point in Schuyler county. We parked in the lot right off the road and walked up the service road to the peak, which has a fire tower and a large open area. This isn’t on the Fire Tower challenge, but if it ever becomes part of it, or if they come out with a new fire tower challenge in the Finger Lakes, at least we can say we did it. 😉 We had the large area all to ourselves, so we let Charlotte run wild while we logged in to the letterbox. She was the happiest little pup running all over the place, but as soon as Curtis started climbing the tower, she could do nothing but stand at the base of the steps and cry until he came back down.
After this, we still had a couple hours of daylight left, but we were wearing out with all the driving and walking. Also, our one phone charger stopped working and both of our phones were dying, so we weren’t able to access letterbox clues or maps of the area. (We HATE how much we have to rely on our phones! Unfortunately we had forgotten our atlas and none of the gas stations where we stopped had maps for sale!) So we drove back to Bath and stopped to buy 2 new chargers. That’s right, we now are a 2 phone charger family. Now we can charge both phones at once! Haha! We then stopped back at the hotel to rest for a minute…which ended up being more like a half hour or so, with both Charlotte and Curtis taking naps. I woke Curtis up and told him about one more place we should visit before the sun went down, he agreed, and the 3 of us piled back in the Jeep for a short drive to a nearby park.
Mossy Bank Park is situated on a tall cliff/embankment on the South side of Bath, NY, and overlooks the town and valley. Technically it was closed for the winter, but a website we were reading said that they “don’t discourage winter visitors”, and that we would just have to walk a little further. No stranger to walking, we parked outside the gate and walked into the park, which only added about a half mile to our walk. There were 2 other cars there, so if we were breaking the law, at least we weren’t alone. We walked along the short loop that takes you to the vantage point, took our pictures, and walked back. I think every town needs at least a small overlook like this!
With sundown fast approaching, we returned to the hotel and I made dinner. We couldn’t find a good AirBnB option for this trip, so we settled for a hotel…but I still brought a skillet, kitchen utensils, and enough food to make meals every day. Over the 3 days there, I made fried pork chops, pancakes, quesadillas, breakfast hash, tacos, and breakfast burritos. It’s not that we don’t like going out to eat, we just prefer to save money in that aspect so we can take more weekend trips! We also just love being able to stay in and not go anywhere when we’re worn out from a busy day.
The next day, as predicted, was wet and dreary. We didn’t want to spend the entire day in the hotel though, so we decided to go for a drive around Keuka Lake. It may have been cloudy and cold all around the lake, but we agreed that we love seeing lakes the most on days like today. They’re quiet and still with a more muted beauty. The only thing that could make it better would be colorful leaves in the fall. We stopped only briefly in Keuka Park to grab a letterbox, admire the water, and check out the small Keuka College campus with its pretty buildings and chapel.
But the highlight of the day wasn’t just the lake, it was actually the drive around that impressed us the most. Before visiting here, I pictured this region to be much more flat than it actually is. Instead, each of the lakes is surrounded by steep hills and cliffs and water cuts gorges through the cliffs to drain in to the lakes. Some of the gorges are much larger like the ones we saw the day before, but there are also hundreds of much smaller ones every quarter mile or so as you go around the lake. Perhaps on most days, they are just gorges, but after the snow melt from warmer temperatures the day before and all the rain today, each gorge was filled with a rushing waterfall. It was amazing, and we got dizzy just from looking and admiring every single one as we drove past! Unfortunately there was no place to pull off the highway and stop at each one. If it were a bit warmer I think just walking down a stretch of the road would have been interesting enough. We were very impressed with this region and so glad we got to experience it as it was today!
Top 3: Keuka College; Bottom: at the Curtiss Museum. We didn’t visit because we had Charlotte, but when your name is on an airplane, you need to get your picture taken in front of it!
And that wraps up the adventures of our weekend in the Finger Lakes. The last day, we drove home via a round-about way through new counties. Normally this is much more enjoyable than driving on the interstate, but not so much that day during a snow storm! Thankfully we made it home alright and Curtis is a very good driver in all these conditions. We arrived home and found over a foot of snow had fallen in the Saratoga area. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because we truly enjoy being here and exploring all new places…but we are really excited for winter to be over so that weather doesn’t have to be such a huge factor in our plans!