It’s been said many times that the wonders of nature are all around us…seek and you shall find, so that was the inspiration for our “Spontaneous Sunday Drive”. Every now and then it just feels comfortable to not have a plan and to just “wing it”.
I was at my favorite stall of our local farmer’s market a few weeks ago, the man with the hat is always there with a smile on his face, chatting with shoppers. We struck up a conversation and it was him who told me all about Letchworth State Park- “the Grand Canyon of the East”; he was heading there in August to join a group of hot air balloon enthusiasts.
Curious about this “grand canyon of the east” description, I decided to do some research about the park and was immediately enthralled by it.
Letchworth State Park is in New York State, and covers over 14,000 acres of land with the North flowing Genesee River within the park. This river formed a gorge with towering 550 feet walls at certain points.
The park is rich in history since it was once home to the Mastodons and the Seneca indigenous people who were forced out after the American Revolutionary War ( a.k.a. the War of Independence.)
In 1856, industrialist William Pryor Letchworth bought approximately 1,000 acres of land, to construct the Glen Iris Estate which was eventually bequeathed to New York State.
Three main waterfalls lend their beauty to the park. The Seneca people called the area “Sehgahunda” or “Vale of Three Falls”.
With all this background information about the park now covered, it was only befitting to make it our Sunday destination. We headed out early, with a general plan in mind – Letchworth Park first, then perhaps a little cross border shopping. GPS mapping gave us a 2 1/2 hour travel time from Mississauga, and we factored in another 1/2 hour at the border. When we arrived in New York State, we decided to switch up the order due to time constraints. The park was opened until 11:00 p.m. therefore we figured it might be a pleasant option to have a picnic instead of rushing through it in order to get to the mall. We did after-all, have a teenager and a tween on board enthusiastic about certain stores exclusive to the U.S. like Wet Seal, Game Stop and Papaya. Soon after stopping for a super-sized hot fudge Sunday, we found ourselves at the Walden Galleria Mall. The selection of stores, merchandise and customer service was great, we each found a few special things and then it was back on the road to continue the drive.
The drive to Letchworth Park was very soothing – lots of farm country with incredible wind farms sprouting along the landscape, spinning around a big blue sky. The playlist for the drive included songs like “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Croft and “Ventura Highway” by America – quite appropriate.
One thing we soon realized on this spontaneous journey is that we planned on a picnic but didn’t bring any food with us – spontaneity at its essence! Our next task was to find a local grocery store to assemble our dinner. Easy enough in theory but the reality of driving through small town U.S.A. is that there isn’t much around on a Sunday afternoon at 4:30. Lots of cool, overgrown, abandoned barns, closed up farm stands and just in case we needed it – even the local auto body shop called “Bliss Wrecking” was shut down for the day.
We eventually drove into the small town of Castille, on the outskirts of the park, found Carney’s grocery store and put together a flash picnic. Curious to know what we found? Turkey, tuna and ham and cheese subs, corn chips, lemonade, butter crackers, Muenster cheese, mini Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream and a Chateau Diana, Cabernet Sauvignon “wine product”. Just perfect!
We entered the park around 6:00 p.m. and stopped at a couple of look-out points with breathtaking views of the canyon and the Genesee river. We eventually found the perfect stone picnic table near the Upper Falls. A few families were also there, enjoying the summer evening and dining al fresco. It was soon clear to see why this park was such a serene home to its previous inhabitants. And now, it’s enjoyed by the many newcomers who have discovered its beauty.
As dusk settled on the park, it was time to leave. We walked around the grounds of the Glen Iris Inn, the former residence of William Letchworth, we marveled at the stunning Middle Falls and we even admired, from afar, a wedding party dancing to the song “Tonight’s Gonna be a Good Night” by The Black Eyed Peas – very appropriate song for the day.
The drive home was equally as special with a spectacular lightning show with its bolts cracking the sky followed by a cool rain and content smiles. As I reflected upon the day, it was interesting for me to follow the path of an idea – from chatting to a farmer, to discovering history, to being flexible with a plan, to stepping outside a comfort zone, to soaking in the beauty of nature in contrast to a bustling man-made shopping mall, and to eating lots of hot fudge Sunday ice cream. All this had taken us on the best Spontaneous Sunday Drive thus far!
© 2014 Ann Ivy Male