Travel is something I’ve been craving extra lately. When the world is in quarantine and traveling even within your own community can be risky, the desire to explore a new place and connect with strangers and their world has become stronger. Precisely because it’s not currently possible, ideal, or safe.
For me, this feeling goes beyond a wish to deviate from my weekly routine; it comes from that human need for connection. When I travel, I feel connected to the strangers I encounter along the way — as we pass in a coffee shop or overlook a view at the same time, when I strike up a conversation with a local about the best places to eat and what hidden gems are nearby.
Now, we live in a world where we run to the other side of the street if we’re passing a stranger. We refuse to speak to anyone if we don’t know where they’ve been, what bubbles they have, how much they’ve been exposed to. That natural human connection is gone — and it is something I so desperately wish to gain back.
But, there will come a time when this feeling will return. When we will emerge from our homes, travel and explore the world again. We will once again foster and build connections, and have those moments of humanity. Until then, though, we can stay put and stay home, and reminisce about past trips and travels.
It’s been many months since I continued this blog series on my road trip with my college roommates — but here we finally are, on the final installment. Though well over a year later, this seems to be a fitting time to write about Letchworth State Park, because I’ve been spending so much time hiking outdoors lately and have been day-dreaming about other wonderous places I’ve hiked in the past. So now seems like a wonderful time to look back on my pictures and memories of Letchworth.
When we left off last post, my friends and I had just left Canada for upstate New York. We drove along the highway for a bit before exiting and driving through many small downtowns and corn fields. We stopped for dinner in the college town of Geneseo, home of SUNY Geneseo. We ate tacos at a Chipotle-style restaurant and bar, Bar-Eat-O, and then spent some time exploring the campus of SUNY Geneseo. With its ivy-covered walls and gorgeous mountain views, it made for a peaceful, serene rest from our drive.
After our pit-stop, we drove to the Inn at Houghton Creek, our lodging for the remainder of our trip. I’ll admit that, before we reached the inn, I was unsure of what it would be like and if it would be as nice as our previous hotels. But, as we pulled into the inn’s parking lot, I immediately felt comforted and, truthfully, at home!
The Inn at Houghton Creek is a very cozy, homey inn, almost like a bed-and-breakfast at the base of the small Houghton College. Built to accommodate visitors to the college, the inn looks and feels like a house, with a cozy living room-esque lobby and comfortable bedrooms. The staff was extremely friendly, too — to fast-forward a day, we spent the latter part of our last full day relaxing, and I decided to clean my car windshield (which was still covered in bugs from the first night of the trip!!). When I asked the college student at the front desk for some window cleaner, she was quick to offer to clean our room’s windows.
“Oh, no, it’s for my car!” I quickly said. “I don’t want to make you clean my car!” She laughed and handed me a spray bottle of water and a special rag that would clean glass as soon as gotten wet. While I know this may sound like such a simple exchange, to me it felt like one of the moments of human connection with a stranger. Her friendly demeanor and kindness added to my comfort at the Inn. To add to the homey feel, later that night, Mayra and I ate takeout for dinner in the rocking chairs on the Inn’s front porch, watching the fireflies and listening to the cicadas. There was no better way or place to spend the last night of our road trip, and this quant, humble little inn quickly became my favorite out of all the places we stayed at during the trip.
The next morning, Mayra, Meghann and I embarked for our adventure at Letchworth State Park. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth features three gorgeous waterfalls and the Genesee River, which forms a deep, winding and breathtaking gorge. There’s something for everyone at Letchworth: 66 miles of hiking trails and paved trails; kayaking; whitewater rafting; camping in lodges, cabins, or at campsites for pitching your tent or trailer; and hot air balloon rides. In 2015, Letchworth was even named USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Award for Best State Park in the United States! After visiting the park, I can definitely see why! Visiting this park was definitely the best way to end our road trip.
When we first arrived at the park, we parked by the Genesee Arch Bridge and viewed the Upper Falls before moving our car to a spot closer to the Middle Falls. This was the most accessible waterfall, and as such it drew the most crowds. This was one of the (many) things I liked about the park; the Middle Falls were so easily accessible, allowing anybody who wanted to enjoy the gorgeous views to do so. Experienced hikers, people in wheelchairs or with walkers, and casual visitors were all able to gather and admire the roaring waters. That level of inclusivity is important, but unfortunately not something I see a lot of in parks. It’s something I wish more parks had.
Of course, if you want a more rugged outdoor experience, you definitely can. While we hiked all afternoon, we didn’t even make a dent in the overall park! We chose to hike the Gorge Trail, along the cliffs of the valley, stopping at all the waterfalls along the way. Though we didn’t strictly keep track, I’d estimate we hiked around six miles to get from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls and back. The views in these short six miles alone were breathtaking; the gorge, the falls, the lush greenery — it was magical to be surrounded by such a miracle of nature. As my friends and I watched each waterfall cascade down, as we breathed in the mist and fresh air, I thought of how fitting it was that we started our road trip with waterfalls and ended the trip with waterfalls.
After our hike, we ordered an elegant lunch at the Glen Iris Inn, a historic inn/restaurant overlooking the Middle Falls (yet another nice amenity in the park!). After lunch, we took one last look at the gorgeous falls before returning to our own inn for some R&R before our long drive back the next morning. I took this time to clean my car, drive around Houghton College’s campus and check out the nearby Kampgrounds of America site. The campus was very pretty and quaint, making a relaxing end to the day — though as I was leaving, the bell tower began playing a haunting melody that was somewhat out of tune! And as I mentioned earlier, Mayra and I ended the evening by eating takeout dinner on the Inn’s front porch, as Meghann rested up for the next day’s ride.
And the next morning, Mayra, Meghann and I packed up early and began our scenic drive through the mountains and the valleys back home.
My heart swells with joy as I look back on this road trip, and I’m smiling now as I’m wrapping up this blog series. I was surprised by how much I grew in the course of the week we were on the road, gaining a stronger sense of independence and confidence afterwards. I also grew even closer to my friends, solidifying and deepening a bond that was forged years before.
Writing this blog series over the past few months and reflecting on my past travels has also gotten me through this travel-less stretch of time. As I reminisce about this road trip, I look forward to the days when we can travel safely again. I hope this series has given you some inspiration as well, and maybe some ideas for your next vacation once the world opens up again. Thank you for reading!
Click the first picture and then the arrows to click through each photo in the gallery.
This article originally appeared on the Wix site.