I Fell in Love with Seneca Falls

I went to Seneca Falls to visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. I sat in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, which was the site of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention that Elizabeth Cady Staton read the Declaration of Sentiments (a must read IMHO). I could feel the presence of all those women before me who helped pave the way for women’s rights. Wow!

I stayed and discovered that my ancestor, Henry Palmer Westcott (1808-1896) started up the Westcott Rule Company in this city. I bet you all had a Westcott ruler at some point in your life. The Seneca Falls Visitor Center had a whole corner dedicated to Westcott. They also directed me to the factory building, now converted to apartments.

The icing on the cake was discovering that Seneca Falls was an inspiration for the town Bedford Falls in the movie: It’s a Wonderful Life. I visited the “It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. Each year, the town celebrates with an It’s A Wonderful Life Festival the second weekend in December. They directed me to the bridge that was the inspiration for the Bridge George Bailey jumped off to save Clarence.

Niagara Falls

I came to Niagara remembering 2 things: It was the Honeymoon destination and a place where people travelled over the falls in a barrel. I came away from Niagara learning 3 things.

  1. Niagara State Park was the very first state park in America. In 1885, New York State signed the Niagara Appropriations Bill into law, creating what is now Niagara Falls State Park and is claimed to be the oldest continuously-operating state park in the US and the first established via eminent domain. (One of the things I am most proud of our country is our dedication to preserving natural wild spaces)
  2. The first recorded person to survive going over the falls was school teacher Annie Edson Taylor, who on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, went over the falls in a barrel in 1901. Her motives were financial but she never made much money from her adventure. (I have no plans to do anything quite so daring on my 63rd birthday next year. I more likely will be sitting on a beach birdwatching)
  3. The water flow over the falls is regulated. The normal flow of water volume flowing over the Horseshoe Falls is approximately 100,000 cubic feet/second. From November to April, the water in the river below the Falls does not fluctuate substantially because the water flow remains constant at minimum 50,000 cubic feet/second.  From April to November the water level below the Falls rises an average of 3 feet each morning between 8 and 9 am. Similarly, the water drops an average of 3 feet each night between 8and 9 pm. At night, when Hydro Control Dam gates are lifted for diversion of Niagara River water into the hydro tunnels, the flow over the Horseshoe Falls drops to a minimum 50,000 cubic feet of water/second. (While I appreciate the need to manage water flow and provide clean electricity to New York and Ontario, I am saddened by the taming of a mighty river)

Lake Erie – Turkey Point

My Canadian visit to Lake Erie was to Turkey Point. This beach had a few treasures. I had a relaxing stay reading my book and people watching. I had to find a spot in the wind, because the mayflies were swarming. My umbrella was covered with them. I had to take it down and move upwind to a shade tree. When it was time to leave, I found my truck covered with mayflies as well. Of course there was no way to get in the truck without a few of them following me in. Which of course they did. I drove back to the campsite in various stages of windows and sunroof open. I hate things flying around in my vehicle when I’m driving. (Shudder)

Lake Erie is the fourth-largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes in North America. It is the southernmost (yet I visited from Canada), shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes and therefore also has the shortest average water residence time.

Lake Huron

I was excited to visit my 3rd Great Lake on my Journey. Staying in the “thumb” of Michigan, Lake Huron surrounded me in 3 directions. I went to Caseville County Beach. I practically had it to myself. What I really liked about the beach was all the wetlands behind the sand. I enjoyed watching the wind surfers. Although the sandy beach offered up no beach glass treasures, it was lovely to walk both the beach and the pier.

Lake Huron has the largest shore line length of any of the Great Lakes, counting its 30,000 islands. Lake Huron is separated from Lake Michigan, which lies at the same level, by the 5-mile-wide, 20-fathom-deep Straits of Mackinac, making them hydrologically the same body of water. Aggregated, Lake Huron-Michigan, is technically the world’s largest freshwater lake.

An old Ojibwa legend claims that a water monster lives in the Lake Huron. The monster, Mishebeshu, is said to live in a den at the mouth of the Serpent River.

Looking West over Lake Michigan

It was a novelty for me to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. Growing up as a child in the Chicago area, Lake Michigan was my internal compass for all points East. When I moved to the Seattle area it took me years to get used to Puget Sound being West. All my life the big body of water was East.

My home for 4 days on the east side of Lake Michigan was Muskegon, the largest populated city on that shore. The name “Muskegon” is derived from the Ottawa tribe term “Masquigon,” meaning “marshy river or swamp”. My campsite was just steps to the stairway over the dunes to the lake.

The state of Michigan is home to the largest dune system in the world, associated with a freshwater lake. The impressive sand dunes along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan were created by the prevailing westerly winds blowing the sand deposited along the beaches into the dune formations.

Lady Hawk

My friend, has been tending for a Red Tailed Hawk for the past 26 years. The hawk is now 31 years old and serves as a strong teaching tool and educational animal ambassador at the Lake County Forest Preserves. With a badly injured right wing, the future was uncertain for a 4-month-old red-tailed hawk found near Highland Park in the summer of 1988. The hawk was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, but after healing, it could only glide short distances. It was unable to gain enough lift to soar and hunt, and as a raptor both skills are necessary for survival in the wild. The Lake County Forest Preserves staff recognized this hawk could touch many lives as an ambassador for birds of prey. So a home was built at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods where the bird became an honorary environmental educator. She lives outside year-round in an enclosed structure, called a mews, built specifically for her. The mews protects her from stormy weather and predators, and provides a secure place for her to feed and nest.

The hawk, now 31, is tended to by environmental educators. Volunteers also donate their time each weekend. Staff members maintain regulatory permits and complete required government reports that hold the Forest Preserves accountable for her care. Because she is a wild raptor, staff refrains from assigning her any human attributes like a name. This helps communicate to the public that wild animals are not pets and should always be handled with caution and care.

On average, red-tailed hawks live between 10-21 years in the wild and up to 29 years in captivity.

Fun on the Beach

Never did I ever think that I would have the best beach experience so far here on the shores of Lake Michigan in Highland Park, IL. The sun was out, the water aqua blue with whitecaps crashing on the beach. The water was warm. The beach was perfect for beach glass treasure hunting. I could close my eyes and imagine I was in Mexico or Hawaii. I spent 4 different days on the beach.

  • One day beach combing: beach glass, agates, and all kinds of pretty stones
  • One day swimming – I had a little interaction with the Highland Park Police – swimming is not allowed on the beach where we were. Luckily I got reprimanded after a 30 minute swim (wave jumping). I was ready to come out.
  • One day hiking along the beach and the adjacent park
  • And this last day relaxing and watching a storm blow in.