Last night after returning from seeing Middle Falls lit up, we saw a couple of deer on the way back. We haven't taken a drive in the park without seeing a deer or two or several. Also, we counted six raccoons from the campground entrance to our campsite. Along with the Bald Eagles I glimpsed yesterday, and the Red Fox and Eastern Milk Snake from the day before, the wildlife has been pretty good here at Letchworth.
I wanted to get on the Genesee River today, but Linda was a little shy about taking our boat given the higher water levels from the recent heavy rain. So, I decided to go on a commercial raft trip with Adventure Calls Outfitters. Yesterday, the trip was to start at 10:30 a.m. with arrival requested at 10:00.
I didn't have a reservation for today and just hustled to show up at their place in the Lower Falls area by 10:00. Unfortunately, today's trip was going to be at 11:30 and it was going to consist of about 60 people including a bus load of kids. I just didn't know if I wanted to do that. I asked if they would just rent me a single kayak, but they don't do rentals.
I decided to walk the half-mile down to the river to check out the put-in and walk around. The walk down the road to Lee's Landing starts with this sign.
All you need is a free permit from the park office to take your own boat on the five-mile trip through the canyon, BUT the sign was my first indication that inflatables are not allowed (except the outfitters boats). So, even if we wanted to do the river on our own, we couldn't go in our Sea Eagle. That was a little disappointing.
Apparently the theory is that people with inflatables, in general, typically aren't very experienced or they don't have a sturdy inflatable. I can understand the reasoning, but I was still bummed by the rule.
I walked down to the landing, and the river was still muddy. But it was quiet and pretty down there.
I walked around and startled two deer that were standing in the river. They saw me first and were gone before I could get a pic. But this is where they were. :)
I was doing my usual wandering and taking photos, .....
when three guys arrived and started getting rafts ready to go.
I walked back up the hill and thought about taking the trip some more since we're leaving in the morning and this would be my last chance. Ultimately I decided not to go. If it had just been three or four rafts and a dozen or so people, I would have done it, but I just didn't want to experience it with such a large group. Maybe next time.
I thought "Well, I'll just stop at the take-out, and walk down to the river for some more quiet alone time". I was driving north on the Park Road, when I saw a snake in my lane. I swerved to straddle it. "Was that a rattlesnake?"
I pulled the Jeep over, grabbed my camera and started back. A car was coming and I waved my arms, but they didn't see me and hit the snake. I could hear it rattling and knew for sure it was a rattlesnake.
It quit rattling, and then started again as I got closer.
It was a pretty good sized Timber Rattler- the first I'd seen in the wild. As I was taking pictures, I park maintenance guy drove up. I told him that a car had hit it. He blocked the lane with his truck and called someone to come with a hook.
He said it probably wouldn't live. It curled up in the road and calmed down.
The other guy arrived and put it in a bucket. There was blood on the road, and he too thought the snake wouldn't live. The guys went to their trucks ....
and I went on my way. I know people don't like snakes, especially venomous ones, but to me it was a cool wildlife sighting and I was saddened that it got hit.
Moving on, I saw another deer and eventually made it to the St. Helena parking area with its trailhead and river access.
The "trail" is a gravel road down to the take-out. But there was a wide grass trail that went off to the left, ....
so I took it. It ended up at the river as well, and I think it is just a closer route for people to carry out their kayaks. It looked like a makeshift take-out.
I returned and took the gravel road the rest of the way to the river. The outfitter bus was tucked away ready to shuttle rafters back to their vehicles.
This was the official take-out spot. Beautiful.
There was no one around, so I walked the edge of the river around the bend.
It was just me, the rocks, the river, the wildflowers, the chittering of a passing kingfisher and the soothing sound of the river.
The weather was perfect. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70s.
I just kept walking and until I had to make a decision. Turn around and go back, or keep going as far as I could knowing I might have to backtrack a very long way. Of course, I continued on.
A frog hopped into the weeds, and then I started seeing thousands of tadpoles.
Most of these already had their legs, but they swam using their tails.
And then there were thousands of tiny frogs that had just lost their tadpole tails.
Eventually, the rocks ended, and I had to gingerly walk the grassy, muddy bank. I came to an old bridge support, and couldn't get around it. It was either go back the way I came - a very long way by now - or bushwhack up the bank into who knows what. I thought I was pretty close to that other kayak take-out, so I climbed up and walked quickly through shoulder-high grass.
I have to tell you that seeing the Timber Rattler added a whole knew level of caution. Fortunately, I was only about 50 feet from the grassy trail I had been on before. Whew, glad to be in the short grass. :)
I made it back to the rig and told Linda about not going on the raft trip, that inflatables aren't allowed on the river, and that I saw a rattlesnake. She listned, but she was engrossed in her latest book on her Kindle.
She sat out in the sun reading, and I wrote a Journal entry and went through the photos for today.
Yes, we've enjoyed our short time here at Letchworth State Park. "Grand Canyon of the East" may be quite the exaggeration, but it's a wonderful park and I'm really glad we came.
Tomorrow, were heading east to the Watkins Glen area. We can't get into the state park there, but I have a few other camping options not too far away. We'll make a final decision after I makes some phone calls in the morning. Stay tuned. :)