Since it's summer, I want to say hello to you all from some of my favorite places in Upstate NY, where I feel probably most at home in the US. In the summer we try to travel every weekend. I took so many great pics that it took me some time to decide which of my recent destinations to post first.
I finally decided to go with Little Falls and Erie Canal rock climbing. Most of the Erie Canal highlights will be in next post, together with Herkimer 'diamond' mines. l'll post more of my little explorations on a regular basis and I hope you enjoy this summer series. I will also make this post public after some time, so more people can enjoy it.
SOME CURIOUS HISTORIC BACKGROUND
New England and Upstate NY is where the growth and industrialization of America really began. Erie Canal, which is currently used only for recreation, was one of the 10 historic mega-projects that made the USA into what it is today: a super-wealthy superpower.
Of course, we are talking about a waning empire. If you ask me, it's fascinating to record for posterity that waning glory. That's what I think is the most valuable about our excursions: it's like documenting the last light of a star about to go out. This is why we do our expeditions, coupled with the fact that there are some hidden gems in Upstate NY, if you stay in good energy and avoid polluted cities and tourist traps, which are many. Some of the contemplative nature of Upstate reminds me of the serene beauty of the Russian nature.
The history of Upstate is magnificent but controversial. With the expansion of the white settlers and industrialization came the extermination of Native American tribes. Only the mere echoes of those tribes remain in the names of US towns, states, lakes and rivers, such as Lake Erie from which the Erie Canal takes its name, and the Mohawk River, the waters of which are diverted into the canal. Erie and Mohawk were American Indian, aka, Native American tribes, which had vanished.
The Upstate's positive is that despite all the industrialization attempts the nature remains lovely if you know where to go. Upstate's glory is in the past, but its charm is very much in the present. It had to reinvent itself many a time, and that's where America shines: it's not afraid to take a risk and change.
I probably owe the affinity to Upstate and its former accomplishments to my father, who was a travel, history and American/European literature buff. Well, and likely to one or two happy past lives spent there... ;)
LITTLE FALLS, NY
Little Falls, NY, is a slightly depressed and somewhat forgotten, but exceptionally charming, friendly and peaceful community. Its past accomplishments include being the community founded by some wealthy Erie Canal shareholders and entrepreneurs. It was the USA's cheese capital for some time and it produced (still does) electric power, using the Erie Canal locks. The town boasts some charming squares and distinguished historic buildings. It has a quiet neighborly feel, which I was used to in Russia but which is incredibly hard to come by in the US.
Check out the little falls along the Erie Canal. That's where the town gets its name:
Town views and history:
Little Falls prides itself on once being the 'cheese capital on America'. Of course, this was possible because of Erie Canal and the shipping bonanza it opened up. Not only you could deliver to New York City and New England via the canal and Hudson River, but you could have access to the ocean, as well as southern and western US states, if you used the elaborate network of canals connecting lakes and rivers, built between 18th and 19th centuries all over the US.
Just have to put in my two cents: they really love to boast in the US about the quality of their products; saying that something American is 'the best in the world' is like breathing. All you have to do is listen to Trump talk. More often than not it's just aggressive marketing and PR, having little to do with the real quality of the product. I seriously doubt it ever was the world's 'best' cheese, but I think it was probably ok. Nothing is left of that former glory... No great local cheese to be seen anywhere... No local cheese stores or anything of that nature... If it indeed was 'the best' they would still be making it, wouldn't they, like they've always done in Europe - wars, revolutions and changes notwithstanding.
But Little Falls, with its faded former glory remains charming. Canal Place:
That's how shallow Mohawk River is because all the water is being diverted to the Erie Canal next door. Also on the picture: these thick cables and powerlines are everywhere around the canal because they produce electricity, which they sell nationwide. This is what sustains Little Falls today.
The Canal Place, despite all these powerlines and the nearby very active freight train line, is still one of the most peaceful places I've ever seen in the US. Generally, Little Falls strikes as one of the best laid out, harmonious and peaceful towns I've seen in America. I didn't take as many pics of the pretty old houses and churches as perhaps I should have, but the pics you are seeing still relay the feel. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by how laid back it was, owing to low traffic and good original design. For that we have to thank those who once had a vision to create this town.
Erie Canal runs through the town of Little Falls:
A nice Victorian in the town center:
We stayed in the Ivy House, and you can probably see why it has been so named:
A 5-6 bedroom beautiful Victorian near one of the peaceful central parks may go for as little as $200,000, owing to the remoteness of the area and harsh winters. I have to say I'd easily settle there if I knew about this place 10-15 years ago. During our visit we even contemplated buying something in town.
People were hosting friends and having quiet get-togethers on their porches everywhere around town on Sunday. It was cozy, like the old country.
The view from Ivy House to the historic City Hall and Main St, Little Falls:
It was half a block from the impressive City Hall on Main Street. The police station, as it turned out, was also located in the City Hall building. I was concerned that it would be noisy. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the quietest Main Street I've ever seen and I had some of the best sleep I ever had living in the US. And bonus! It was an easy walk to everything your heart may desire: Canal Place, coffee houses, historic sites, restaurants and shopping, parks, Erie Canal, trails and rock climbing.
I little bit of Italy? My 'travel gear' by the Canal Place: it was good to read, meditate or post on Instagram:
MY ADVENTUROUS GEESE FRIENDS WHO LIKE TO SWIM IN ERIE CANAL
Erie Canal is now strictly recreational, but it continues to be active. I'll tell you more about it in the next post. The canal goes through Little Falls and there are trails and rock climbing where they once blasted the rock to make way for it. It was once noisy and bustling, but now it's all rather peaceful.
We were walking along the trail where we met this family of geese. At first we watched them swim all the way from the locks, and I was worried about the little ones, since with every opening or closing of the locks millions of gallons of water are being sucked in and out of the canal. I sincerely hoped they were safe.
They turned out absolutely fine and later we met them again, resting on canal's walls. They were amenable to posing for some pics:
Here you can see the famous Lock 17 in the background, which they say is one of the world's largest. Next time I'll show you some of the inside pics. We also did some cool videos, and when we get the chance we'll share them on YouTube.
ROCK CLIMBING ON ERIE CANAL, LITTLE FALLS, NY
A rock with a man's face hanging over trail:
The rocks were full of climbers on Sunday:
They asked us: are you climbing with us, or are you gearing up for a picnic? Az decided to prove he also can climb ;)
I knew Little Falls was a good place to stay, and that's why I picked it as our base to explore the Erie Canal. But even I was pleasantly surprised at how much charm and peaceful sweeness this town packs in such small space.
It's a lovely oasis in the midst of a noisy and not very good-looking Herkimer County, NY. What a contrast with nearby dusty town of Herkimer, where the Erie Canal boat rides and the Herkimer 'diamond' mines are. Filled with fast food, commercial establishments, busy highways and nothing nice to lay your eyes on, it's extremely highly overrated.
The Herkimer mines are also highly overrated. The mine museum was pretty cool and I made some great pics, which I'll share next time.
Meantime, Little Falls is highly underrated. But that's actually good. Few tourists means peace and quiet, and fewer fast food joints. To me, this is a lovely place to visit, where we'll be back.
Erie Canal itself is awesome and we enjoyed it very much. The best Erie Canal lock is No. 17, also in Little Falls. It looks impressive standing on top of Lock 17, and it's free and uncrouded, while the boat ride sets you back $50 + tax for two and it's overcrowded. We did take the Canal Boat ride and Az filmed our inside the lock experience. I also did the film of Lock 17 in operation from the top, which was pretty cool.
Hope you've enjoyed our little journey in time! More coming!
I also hope you enjoyed my previous travelogue about our fascinating but slightly controversial journey in time to the Russian Holy Trinity Monastery. This is now a free post, accessible to public:
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