I've said it before and I'll say it again now, NY has some of the most beautiful state parks in the nation. This summer we took LG camping for the first time at Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY (on the Genesee River).
Touted as the "Grand Canyon of the East", Letchworth has amazing trails to hike. Some go through lush woods, some go over the falls and the river, taking you up and down the shale steps that have been naturally carved in the sides of the ravine.
The park is filled with "site" points and has a driving tour so that even people who can't hike can enjoy the whole falls experience. I was 7 month pregnant when we visited, and LG was only 15 months old, so we enjoyed one or two of the shorter trails and did the driving tour.
I enjoyed reading about how the park was set up by William Pryor Letchworth and much of the "park" was built as part of Roosevelt's work programs. There are amazing stone picnic tables that were built in the 20's and are still being used today. I never fail to be amazed by the incredible things that came out of those work programs. Men that were down and out with almost no hope were able to build stone walls and picnic tables. Create picnic areas and cabins out of only what the forest provided. They did a beautiful job, and much of their original work still stands (and is being used!)
If you are into trains, there is one that runs about 4 times a day, I think, right over the falls. Our friends actually hung around this spot for a while and got to see a train go over the falls. Pretty cool stuff.
On the land is an original Genesee Indian Longhouse. Part of the history of this park is that "The White Woman of the Genesee" is buried here. It's pretty much one of those long, sad stories about how we ruined the Native American way of life. If you're into American History, you'll appreciate this part of the park. Even LG enjoyed being able to wander into the longhouse and stomp around (that's a screen door to the cabin to keep out the critters behind LG).
On one of the lawns is a HUGE chair that LG had fun playing on with me, and there are fields galore to play ball, or run around on. In the summer there is a swimming pool, and you can kayak down the river. We didn't bring any toys at all, and LG ran through the tall grass in the fields, chased the squirrels, gathered sticks for the fire. He just enjoyed being outside in the open, after being cooped up all winter.
The one thing that made me sad about visiting was seeing that Letchworth has become a victim to the NY State budget shortfalls. Only one of the pools was operating, and many of the fields hadn't been mowed. They have reduced the park staff to only those necessary to keep the place running. It made me say that instead of putting people on "unemployment" and letting them sit in front of the TV, they should be provided with a week of work or something. They could mow the grass or hand out pamphlets. Much like the original work programs that built the park. I know, the politics is more complicated than that. It just makes me sad to see one of the most beautiful sites in the NE fall into disrepair.
Again, if you happen to have a spare weekend, and you're into camping, come to the NE. Forget hiking in the Southwest for a summer, and try it out.
Have a good Thursday, all!