Friday, June 14, 2013

Falling in Love with the Finger Lakes

After Canandaigua Lake, we continued East on Route 20, which we've now learned was New York's major East-West highway for the first half of the 20th century. Today, it still follows nearly the exact same route as it once did, due largely to the fact that it skirts major cities, but does not go through them, with the exception of Albany. Because of this, it has not been bulldozed to make room for modern superhighways, like Interstate 90, which we've so eagerly avoided. It still travels through pristine farm country and small towns, just like it did in the 1900's. How neat to think we are traveling along the same path as many road trippers and vacationeers from the early 20th century. 

We ran across this really neat old graveyard, which was being completely reclaimed by the earth. It was really old; the earliest gravestone we found belonged to someone who died in 1807. We liked the interesting angles the gravestones were falling into. The non-linear gravestones coupled with the bright, sunny day made the whole scene feel surreal. 

We'd heard from many sources that Keuka Lake, accessible from Keuka Lake State Park, was the most beautiful of the Finger Lakes, so we veered off Route 20 to see for ourselves. 

Keuka Lake did not disappoint! This amazing view was captured from a scenic overlook point right before the state park entrance. 

We got incredibly lucky with Keuka Lake State Park. The entrance fee was going to be $7, which we decided would be worth it. We were also hoping to be able to find showers at the park since we knew they had camping facilities. When we arrived, there was no one at the entrance booth, and there was a "Closed" sign on the park office. However, there were no barriers restricting access, and there were other cars parked in the lot. We talked with another guest, and it seemed that the park office was just closed for the day. Before going to the lake, we decided to drive through the camping area. We were delighted to find nice, clean restrooms and showers. Showers are like gold on the road, and a free shower is like finding a $20 bill on the ground. It was so exciting. We were incredibly grateful to have somehow gotten free entrance to the park, and free showers! 

After our refreshing showers, we explored the lake. The water was so clear; this photo is of water over ten feet deep. I didn't know water could be so clear and pristine in a lake. When we dipped our toes in, we found the water was freezing, making us even more thankful for our hot showers! 

We also got lucky with an incredibly gorgeous day. According to the locals, it has been raining for 8 out of the past 9 days in the Finger Lakes region. 

There are several trails in Keuka Lake State Park, but we decided to wander along a service road, which ended up leading out of the state park and along the lake past a stretch of lake houses, which were neat to see. Most of them were on the hill on the opposite side of the road running by the lake, but some, like this one, were directly lakeside. This house even had a little grassy yard jutting out into the lake, which was adorable. 

We couldn't get enough pictures of this lake. Even these photos don't capture how perfect it was. 

When we were by the lake, we chatted with a woman who told us about this scenic view, which she described as "one of the best in the world." She said she'd traveled the world, and in the end decided that this was the best view, better even than Italy or anywhere in Europe. Though we would like to see those European vistas someday, too, we have to agree that this view was spectacular, and certainly the best we've seen in our travels thus far. The view was from the parking lot of the Esperanza mansion, where you can actually get married, dine, or stay overnight with this in the background! 

As evening was quickly approaching and we needed a place to stay for the night, we regretfully left Keuka Lake and headed back to Route 20 to continue East. We drove right by another of the Finger Lakes, Seneca, so we decided to hop out and snap a few photos. While not quite as nice and clean as Keuka Lake, Seneca was still beautiful, and amazingly big. Seneca and the next lake to the East, Cayuga, are the two largest of the Finger Lakes. They are both nearly 40 miles long, and incredibly deep: 618 and 435 feet, respectively. 

Seneca Lake. 

We could have spent the entire summer just in the Finger Lakes region. It is truly the most perfect road tripping territory, and if you're looking for a vacation spot with beautiful views and country charm, we couldn't recommend any place we have visited along the entire Eastern seaboard more highly. We didn't have time to see even a quarter of what the region has to offer: dozens of waterfalls, countless small towns, bed and breakfasts galore, wineries, local farms, and so much more. 

Though we missed a lot, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Finger Lakes region and would love to come back again someday. The drive along Route 20 was certainly one of the best in the country, and we loved the miles of farm land interspersed by postcard perfect towns. One of my favorites was Cazenovia, which is a historic town with museums, adorable inns, and a wonderful main street with lots of locally owned shops and restaurants. We had a lovely chat with Monica when we stopped in Lavender Blue, a gorgeous French and Spanish import store with beautiful tablecloths, linens, and dishes. She told us about The Key, a second hand store down the street, where we found several great items, including a nice leather belt for Dave with a heavy pewter buckle, for $5! 


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