Today our goal was to explore some of the other state parks and hikes near Watkins Glen, verifying whether Ithaca really is “Gorges”, and try out a few wineries on the shores of Cayuga lake. It was a good day!

We started out with the Gorge Hike at Robert Treman State Park. We were there early enough to get some beautiful morning light.

The Gorge Hike at Robert Treman SP

The hike takes you to the top of Lucifer Falls, and then you descend The view looking back and up is also amazing, but then you realize you have a lot of climbing to do to get back where you started. But it was such a beautiful morning and we almost had the trail to ourselves.

Lucifer Falls from below

After this hike we made a quick stop at Buttermilk Falls just on the edge of Ithaca.

Buttermilk Falls

We were noticing that the falls were a bit dry compared to the descriptions and other pictures we have seen.

Both Jane and I have been to Ithaca before, back when Kaia was doing her college search. But, that was in much cooler weather. It was nice to be able to explore. The motto of Ithaca is “Ithaca is gorges,” and it is a very pretty town, very hilly, but areas and paths along the waterfalls leading right to campus.

A beautiful walk from downtown to campus

We headed over to the shore of Cayuga lake at Taughannock Falls state park. We at our sandwiches and enjoyed the lake, and I answered a couple of emails on my iPad. Our post lunch hike was to the falls. It was a nice flat hike leading back to the falls, where we also saw a group of Perigrine Falcons circling. These falcons can dive at speeds of 200mph to knock out their prey!

Although high, the water flow at these falls was very low. So after our hike we continued north along the lake to check out some wineries: Sheldrake Point, the Thirsty Owl, and Buttonwood grove. All had great views of the lake so we could sip and enjoy the view. We thought that the Thirsty Owl should be introduced to the Thirsty Otter in Balsam Lake. We are learning that there are lots of good wines in the region if not what we are used to. Most are more of a German style like a dry Riesling or even a dry Gewurstraminer on the white side. While the reds tend to be a little more traditional, but with Cab Franck being a bit more prevalent. We definitely found something to like everywhere.

We finished our wine tasting a little too early to head back to town for a dinner out. So we stopped at a the Finger Lakes Distillery along the way to enjoy the waning sun and more lake views, and a cocktail.

Finger Lakes Distillery

Next stop Stowe Vermont!

Two Hikes: Letchworth and Watkins Glen

We started this morning with a hike from the upper to middle to lower falls at Letchworth State Park, and ended with the Gorge hike at Watkins Glenn. What a great day of waterfalls!

I have already had to rethink my opinion of New York State, which is totally based on my experience with New York City and “New Yorkers”. The rural parts of New York are amazing!

We spent last night at Letchworth state park, which claims to be the number one state park in the USA. I don’t know how you can possibly back up such a claim, but as the pundits say, Letchworth belongs in the conversation! Beautiful, well kept, great hiking options …

I don’t think our neighbors would vote for it… When we pulled into our loop and saw the water station we pulled over… Before we got out of the truck a guy on a bike pulled up to tell us “some guy just jack-knifed his camper, and is blocking the road. You might want to take your time! So we did, and even then the poor couple was no closer to a solution. They had unhooked their truck from the camper but were trying to reconnect in completely the wrong way! Husband and wife were barely talking to each other. But they did offer to move so that we could try to get around. We did, and we were all settled before they got into their site.

We had not thought to take anything out of the freezer for dinner, so we took out a couple of stakes and I put them in the sous vide while we headed to Eddy’s to watch the sunset! It was very nice with a great view of the river gorge and the sun disappearing behind the bluffs!

Sunset in Letchworth State Park

The morning was quite cool, we had to turn on the heat for a few minutes to take the chill out of the air. We dressed in layers and headed out towards middle and upper falls. Our plan was to hike from there down to the lower falls and back, about a 4 mile hike.

Upper Falls

Middle Falls with Upper Falls in the Background

Lower Falls

It was a great morning for a hike. There was almost nobody else on the trail. We did meet a couple from Ohio who had just come from Watkins Glen, so they had good advice for us on how to do the gorge hike.

After showers and some tacos for lunch we packed up camp and headed for Watkins Glen. It was just a two hour drive, and on much better roads than the route we took to Letchworth!!

The campground sits high above the village of Watkins Glen, and the gorge hike starts way down low. So we descended and then started the long trek back upwards. But it was spectacular.

After all of that hiking and climbing we were definitely hungry and sleepy campers. We hooked up our fire pit, and sat around the fire with some warmed up pasta and wine and just relaxed. By bedtime a light rain had started so we had that sound to put us to sleep for the night.

Day One Cabin to Indiana Dunes NP

Mostly just a travel day, but with a short hike at the end. Going through Chicago is never fun, but gave us the quote of the day from Jane: “Oh my gosh we are getting passed by an Oscar Meyer Weiner!”

Passed by the Oscar Mayer truck

The Indiana Dunes National Park is the newest National Park. It is located right along the shore of Lake Michigan, with plenty of beaches and sand dunes to explore. Here we are on the beach, Jane is pointing at downtown Chicago, which we could just make out through the haze.

Downtown Chicago from Mount Baldy

It was a very nice campground, but no electricity so we decided to cook over an open fire. We had bought a bundle of wood at the gas station but it was very wet, so it was a struggle but we eventually had enough coals for some turkey burgers. It was a very nice night to enjoy the fire, but we have a long day of driving to get to New York so it was an early night.

Relaxing campfire

There is never a good time to pull a camper through the Chicago metro area.

We are underway on a rainy Friday morning. Next stop Indiana Dunes National Park.

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No matter how much fun lies ahead, it is always a sad day when you have to take the boat out of the water!

Now I’ve ruined the NYT letterbox game for myself. Wrote a program to solve it, and rediscovered the Trie data structure. Very fun little diversion. I love a good data structure.

Feels so good to be productive! Develop in monorepo setup, deploy with docker. New feature done and tested in no time.

Spent the morning chasing down subtleties in nginx configuration. Some things are just not intuitive. To trail a slash or not to trail a slash, that is the question.

github is experiencing an outage…. Seems like a good excuse to go outside and play.

Nothing ruins a ride like a bear in the middle of the road. Luckily I didn’t have to reverse course as something spooked it and it ran off into the field. If you have sharp eyes you can maybe detect it running into the woods on the left.

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Due to travel, weather, and illness, its been a month since my last bike ride. It felt great to be back in the saddle.

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Spending Mother’s day doing Spring chores at the lake. Its so great to be back and enjoying lake time again.

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MNUFC looking truly awful tonight. Lucky escape midweek, but tonight is just boring soccer.

Unscheduled stop in Acapulco due to a medical emergency of a fellow passenger. Sitting in the harbor waiting to transfer the patient. It looks like it would make a nice stop.

Life at the foot of a Volcano. Taken from Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua Guatemala. I would love to learn some new post processing techniques to remove a bit of haze.

Cloud forest hike in Costa Rica. A good lesson in biodiversity.

Where does all our stuff come from? Going through the Canal.

I grew up in farm country so I’m pretty familiar with how food gets to the grocery store. But what about all the other stuff we buy at all the other stores? Well here is a clue for you…

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One thing this trip through the panama canal has made me realize is just how amazing, complex, and expensive the global shipping system is. Have you ever wondered how much it costs for a ship to go through the Panama canal? Take a guess? Our cruise ship cost about $370,000 and larger ships can cost over a million!

I can’t even begin to guess the value of everything in those containers but just think about it. Cars, wood, electronics, furniture, carpet, gas, oil, grain, it all makes its way around the world in giant ships. In Colon there is a huge duty free area where buyers go and order containers of various things. Oh, I like these shorts I’ll take 2 containers of medium 1 of large, etc…

Going through the Panama canal you really see where this all comes together, literally, to fit through a bunch of locks that are a thousand feet long and 160 feet wide. Plus the new locks for the even bigger ships.

Our route through the canal started at the Gatun locks. These take you up 85 feet to lake Gatun. You can see our ship the Celebrity Millenium in the background just entering the first lock. The white and blue ship is a car carrier heading the opposite direction.

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Here we are in the lock looking backward you can see a tanker heading out.

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We then travelled across the lake (formed by damming the Chagres river) to the Pedro Miguel locks which stepped us down about 50 feet and then on the the Miraflores locks which took us down to the Pacific Ocean.

This sequence just shows us at the Miraflores locks dropping down the final step before we head out. IMG 1129

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Panama City in the background.

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The whole thing is such an engineering marvel. And not done with new technology! Much of the canal has not changed since it was built over 100 years ago. No pumps are used, it is all gravity fed. Which means that in order for the locks to work they are draining the lake. Of course it is refilled by the river, but each ship uses about 52 million gallons of water to traverse the locks. The rainy season has not been very rainy this year so the lake level is down which means some ships can’t go through, or they have to unload some cargo before they go. One interesting addition that helps conserve water is that now we can use water from the side going down to halfway fill the side going up. This is a nice bit of recycling that saves about 50% of the water.

In the middle of the Gatun locks. Right next to a tanker.

A Day in Panama

After docking in Colon we joined our tour group for the day to see some of the sites in Panama. This tour included stops at the new locks – Wide enough for the “neo” class ships that do not fit in the original canal. It also included a stop and boat ride on Lake Gatun where we visited the village of some indigenous people and looked for wildlife along the shore.

I had this idea (probably from childhood) that the Panama canal was one long canal. Which is not true at all. The canal is actually a series of locks that bring the ship up into lake Gatun then you cross lake Gatun and go down some more locks to bring you back to the ocean. So, the constraints on the ships are really the size of the locks. In 2016 they opened a new set of locks at each end to support the really large ships. Now the main constraint is really on the depth of the water in the lake.

Here is a view of both sets of locks on the Atlantic side:

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The left side is the new lock which runs one way, They go one way for half the day and then the other way the other half of the day. the right side is the old locks which run both ways most of the time, but they can shut it down and switch to one way traffic if they have maintenance to do.

Here is a view of the village we stopped at.

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