Where I Live: A Tour of Western New York with Skarekrow13

Where I Live: A Tour of Western New York with Skarekrow13

Ahhh, New York!  Home sweet home.  When I say “New York” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  I’ve traveled a good amount in my day.  I’ve been to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Iowa, Canada (just over the falls), Puerto Rico and most of the eastern and northeast U.S. A.  In addition, I’ve met and spoke with any number of persons online from all over the world.  From my experience whenever a person says they’re from New York, it elicits visions of skyscrapers, Times Square, lights and a bustling city life.

You can imagine some of these individuals’ surprise when I mention little things such as; my graduating class from high school was a little less than 100 students.  And we were a central school, pulling students from a wide region that included kids from over half a dozen villages and a good number of hamlets (who did not know poor Yorick).  Skyscrapers are called “trees” here.  Lights are called “stars” and our bustling life is the three or four cars ahead of you dropping your kid off at school.


So what’s the deal?  Why do so many people have such a skewed perception of where I live? I mean, I grew up in a town where there’s only year in my lifetime that there were more people than cows.  Then a farm expanded and the status quo returned.  Some math will help this dilemna out I think.

New York, as a state, covers an area of 54,556 sq mi (141,300 km2) per some fast Wikipedia research.  The population of the state is a little under 20 million.

New York City takes up about 470 sq mi (a little over 1,200km2 ) which is less than 1% of the total area of the state.  However, the population is estimated as over 8 million.  In other words, over 40% of the population of New York state lives in less than 1% of the total land mass.  Add in the greater NYC metropolitan area and the result is that well over half the state is tucked away in a neat little corner.  Thanks for all the extra elbow room!

So for us Western New Yorkers we feel like we’re the “real New York.”  For instance, the rural county I live in occupies roughly 25% more land than New York City yet if every single person who lives there went to go see the Buffalo Bills play (I have a pic later) we wouldn’t even be close to selling out the game.  But what are we known for?

I could probably write an entire article on food.  Hot sauce is big here. Whether it’s the famous Buffalo Wings (just “wings” here, we know where they’re from), the local treasure of a Garbage Plate or a wide variety of other specialties, we’re no stranger to hot.

Or what about local produce?  Find me a better apple and I’ll probably kick you in the shins and deny you did so (which means we have great apples).  Cows mean excellent dairy products and some of our local ice creams are off the charts good.  Cheese too. If you see a container of Intense Chocolate Milk and have never tried it before, do your taste buds a favor and buy it immediately.

Corn is about as rare as air molecules in the summer.  The same goes for blackberries, wild strawberries and more.  In the fall we can put pumpkins, beets, potatoes and way way more produce to good use.  Our bees use a variety of local resources (like apple blossoms) to provide honey.  This complements our top notch maple syrup industry as well.

Looking for a more adult time in New York?  The Finger Lakes region produces more barrels of wine per year than I’d care to think about.  Many obtain excellent reviews on a national and global basis.  But since New York is not considered an “old world” style wine producer we take some risks which result in bottles that can be hard to find elsewhere.  Have you ever tried a cranberry blended wine? The competition in wineries in the category of ice wine is huge around here.  In my opinion this means everyone is the winner.  Recently many people realized that hops grow amazingly well right next to those grapes for wine.

The New York beer industry, while fledgling in age, has exploded in the last few years. Again, everyone is a winner here.  And don’t forget the hard hitting stuff.  Distilleries (thanks to some recent revisions to local laws) have begun springing up as well.  At just one location, my wife and I were able to sample cordials that were to die for, grape infused vodka that was as smooth as silk and bourbon that rivals most of the stuff from Kentucky (based on mine and expert opinions).  Remember those bees?  They help out with some fantastic honey notes and even mead if you know where to look (I do).   Amazing. Then of course there’s the option of just letting  some apple cider sit around a wee bit and ferment.

We’re also pretty (in)famous for our winters and cold.

But despite the mini article I just wrote…this is about the natural beauty that’s as big of a departure from the city as one can get.  Now that you’re hungry, let’s get to it. If you’re looking for something to see or do, the “what” is going to depend on the “when.”  So let’s explore things that way, photography style!

 

First up: Spring

Spring of course means flowers blooming (eventually) and things becoming green again.  But first it means brown here.  It means temperature that can swing from literal freezing to hotter than blazes in the space of a few hours.  Outdoor activities start to become prevalent again but mostly walking and bike riding.  State Parks (one of the best reasons to come here) open up again or resume full access.  Mud and still cool to cold temperatures are common enough where we stick to the basics for the most part.  As the sap starts to flow freely, it’s officially maple syrup season.

Letchworth State Park. Mist coming from one of several waterfalls. Taken in the Spring of 2013

 

Another shot of the falls at Letchworth taken in the spring. This is what’s causing that mist in the last picture

 

A shot taken at Letchworth from on top of the gorge. We’re about 400 feet above the river and the deer getting a drink. this was taken in the late spring of 2013.

 

Summer

Summer is a tricky thing in New York.  I’ve seen snow as early as August, although it didn’t have  a chance of sticking.  While overall it’s quite warm (to incredibly hot) there’s always the risk of a cold day still.  This is the time of year where it gets hard to book a cabin at a state park and rural tourism flourishes.  Camping has no shortages of great areas from rivers, to creeks and lakes. Fairs and festivals are booming at this time as well with some dedicated to local specialties.  Onion fest anyone?

 

This shot was taken in the Summer of 2013 and shows the same Falls as before.  Notice the drastic transformation

This shot was taken in the Summer of 2013 and shows the same Falls as before. Notice the drastic transformation in colors

 

 

I know what you're thinking.  This is Letchworth State Park again right?  No.  This is literally less than a stone's throw away from Main Street where I live.  This and many things just like it are just part of our everyday walking route

I know what you’re thinking. This is Letchworth State Park again right? No. This is literally less than a stone’s throw away from Main Street in the town I live in. This and many things just like it are just part of our everyday walking route

 

This is a different state park in Watkins Glen.  Waterfalls and forest trails are a common theme in the area and here is no different.  However, this park is mainly built around one trail with an ungodly amount of stairs leading up to the top of the chasm.  Along the way you're treated to a few things such as this path behind a waterfall.

This is a different state park in Watkins Glen, NY. Waterfalls and forest trails are a common theme in the area and here is no different. However, this park is mainly built around one trail with an ungodly amount of stairs leading up to the top of the chasm. Along the way you’re treated to a few things such as this path behind a waterfall

 

My wife absolutely fell in love with the church in the background architecturally. I was right there with her. But in addition to the beauty of Seneca Falls, these statues provide a reminder of the important things that have happened right around the corner. Please click on the picture for further details. The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is most likely based on the town of Seneca Falls as well and the current townsfolk makes sure people are aware of this fact

Fall (Autumn) 

So going back to my small school.  Not only was the class size affected by the area, so were the courses taught.  For instance, my landscaping class in high school.  The midterm exam consisted of: Here’s a chainsaw, go cut a tree down (that should be cut) without killing anyone.  I got an A.  Some of the more useful things we learned was the effects of temperature on leaves changing color. I tried to get a nice picture this year of a valley with trees on both sides but some haze thwarted that multiple times.  Last year (see the orangey tree below) we were treated to some interesting pinks and oranges due to a slow cooling.  This year we had a week or better of fairly cold temperatures.  This can produce the more vibrant hues.  Since I couldn’t get the valley shot here’s a couple leaves (from the same tree mind you) that show off the craziness of this year.

green_10red_an10

This little guy on the left will most likely end up as primarily yellow. Notice the areas away from the main structures are losing their green. The red here is mainly due to damaged areas that were more susceptible to the cold snap. The leaf on the right shows the red as far more pronounced with little of the green turning to yellow. This leaf likely has been assaulted with more steady cold than other parts of the tree due to wind direction, sunlight exposure (Praise the Sun) or the like.  Below is that orange tree I mentioned (that was actually more pink than the camera captured) and a nice shot going up a hill.

Tree changing in fall in New YorkApproaching a hill in New York with fall in full swing

 

 

 

 

You’re probably starting to recognize this location by now. These are the same falls from the Spring and Summer pics above. Yet again, the colors have changed.

This is near the area with the waterfalls you’ve seen a bunch of times already. Balloon launches are common here because of the space and the predictable prevailing winds. We went for a picnic dinner quite recently and were lucky enough to catch one. My daughter is transfixed with both the balloon and her apple

Winter

Winter is the time for cozy blankets and hot cocoa.  Also; sledding, skiing, crashing your SUV because you think 4 or all wheel drive means physics don’t apply anymore and of course football. How bad can winter be around here?  Every year the Weather Channel does  a football article about the cities with the worst football weather (aka “weather in general”).  Every year is pretty much the same article.  Is it Green Bay with it’s super low temperatures?  Nope.  Is it Chicago, with the crazy winds to go with winter?  Nope.  Is it Denver, a city known for snow in a state known for snow?  No again.  It’s Buffalo.  Where the temperature can be just as bad as Green Bay, the average wind speed makes Chicago look like a breeze (I’ll illustrate my point later) and the average snowfall is drastically higher than Denver (for real).  It’s actually a point of pride around here how much our weather sucks.

 

road conditions on a not so rare winter day in New York

Here I am driving home from work. These road conditions aren’t anything abnormal. I’m lucky actually. Low winds and steady snow (but not whiteout conditions) means I’m comfortable taking a picture and holding the car on the road. Between the two lanes you can see a difference in snow depth. That’s probably about ten to twenty minutes max between a plow going through. On a side note, there are usually several days a year in which I am NOT comfortable taking a picture while driving if that says anything

Driving home from work in a New York winter

Here’s a secret. Winter does not inherently mean treacherous. I mean, it does. But it can also be beautiful. These cloud formations and sunlight generally only combine like this during winter. The picture, while pretty nice, does not adequately convey the serene beauty across the snow covered fields.

 

Winter at The Ralph

Winter also doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. I once read an article that named Buffalo, NY one of the worst dressed cities in America. Apparently the author had the opinion that: A) The most expensive article of clothing most people had in their closet had a Bills or Sabres logo on it, and; B) We insist on wearing them year round, despite football and hockey seasons having long periods in which they aren’t played. Now, while that’s completely true, here we might argue that it means we’re the best dressed city.

Remember where I said I’d illustrate how bad things can get weather wise around here?  Well the snow you can see (and this is not the worst by far).  The temperature is one I bet most people don’t doubt (I’ve shoveled snow in -20F, in shorts of course).  It’s the wind that people don’t believe me on.  I remember a time in college coming back to my dorm where I took a step forward and stopped.  The wind was so bad I had to wait as I couldn’t make moving forward a reality.  At the time I was about 175 pounds and quite athletic.  Nope, not gonna cut it.  I have seen smaller classmates get knocked over.  Hats require staples to be worn.  Look above at the football picture.  See the yellow goal posts? See how thin those pipes are?  Buffalo has seen those twisted and pushed over (during a game no less) by wind.  I don’t think anyone spilled their beer though.

 

You can read more travel articles here.

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12 comments on “Where I Live: A Tour of Western New York with Skarekrow13”

  1. Ahhotep1 says:

    Really nice tour of your home stomping grounds, Skare! You become more then an internet persona whose words ride cyber waves. Beautiful pictures, too! Thanks for the share.
    Shoveling snow at -20F IN SHORTS!! Crazy. Just plain crazy! And the goose bumps? Hope there was no wind. 😀

  2. Cas says:

    You’ve outdone yourself Skare! Your pics are truly beautiful sir. I actually can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d love to visit there..

  3. -X- says:

    Commenting due to fear of farm animals.

    That’s really New York? I need to get with the times. And nice article, Skare – I’m not so hesitant about visiting New York after I’ve read this.

  4. Thanks everyone. If you’re still with me suspending reality a bit, they’re all cell phone pictures. As I illustrated with the math exercise we have plenty of space. Feel free to drop by.
    And Ahho, while most people are pretty cold resistant here (like Skyrim natives) I’m considered a tad “eccentric” for my specific degree of cold tolerance.

  5. Emergence says:

    Haha ahhh Westies. Nice overview, you’ve inspired me to do my own.

    1. …and me as well. 🙂

      1. Fex says:

        I’ll make some about local food instead! 😛

        Loved the article Skare! The way you framed this is perfect and the pictures are awesome!

      2. I can’t inspire you to do your own Pierre, you inspired me with all that motorcycle business. I demand that you take credit for this article!

        1. Nay! Nay! I…

          …ok.

          But I will be doing one nonetheless. LOL

          AND IT’S YOUR FAULT!

          1. I’m looking forward to it.

            And Fex, I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interests 😉

  6. Skare, I read the article.

    …just…WOW. I loved it. Congrats!

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