Saturday, September 22, 2018

Niagara Falls Day 1 & 2 -- Hiking the Gorge

We had a good 7-8 hour drive up to the house we were renting in Niagara Falls and while we enjoyed the sights out the window along the way we could not wait to arrive!

We found the house a good 30 minutes before check-in time so we headed out to downtown Niagara falls to find a late lunch/ early dinner.  We settled on the Hard Rock cafe and after a wonderful dinner we walked around Niagara Falls State park for a bit.



After seeing some of the falls we checked into the house, explored all the nooks and crannies, and unpacked the car.  My husband and I left the boys with my mother in law while we went to do a quick grocery shopping and then we all settled in for an early evening.

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My husband offered to cook bacon and eggs for everyone on our first morning in Niagara and I offered to make toast.  After breakfast we decided to head back to Niagara Falls State Park and try out a few of their hiking trails.  It was a bit chilly and overcast but that worked to our advantage.



You just can not beat these hiking views!!

We started at Niagara Falls State Park and planned to hike to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center.


The city of Toronto and the rainbow bridge 

We came to the old Schoellkopf power station elevator and decided to go down the elevator; reading about the old Schoellkopf station and how it crumbled into the Niagara river one day.





Evan snapped this to show just how far down we were! That blue dot was a lady at least 5' 5" tall!


We decided to pick up our hiking from the base of the power house and hiked for a good couple of hours all the way down to Whirlpool State Park. We had to back track a few times and lost the trail a time or two but we did prevail.


We saw quite a few rusted and wrecked cars along the base of the river.



See those two bridges in the background?  We're hiking past those (and we've already hiked over an hour)




Toronto and the rainbow bridge keep getting further and further away

(except when I zoom)

We're now close enough to see and HEAR the whirlpools
You can take a cable car ride over the whirlpool on the Canadian side and we saw quite a few jet boat tours that you can also try out; we weren't  (Okay, I wasn't) brave enough for any of them!

We learned that the Niagara river gorge is considered a class 6 rapids; which basically means it's impassible.  One tour company tried to get a tour going and while proving that the tours would be safe capsized on their first trip down the river loosing 3 members of the crew.  Needless to say they were not allowed to open and operate and no other company has tried since.




After 3 hours of hiking around the trails and walking all the way to Whirlpool state park we hopped on the free Discover Niagara Shuttle.  We got back off on Old Falls Street and went walking around looking for some lunch.  

It was after 2 by this time and we were starving! It was a really cute area to explore and we ended up eating lunch at the Rainforest Cafe.




We went through a few souvenir shops after lunch and headed back to the house for the night. After a whole morning of hiking we were quite content to relax in our pajamas and spent the night playing card games and watching TV.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Our Two Week Wrap Up: Niagara Falls Vacation

Our first week was spent exploring the entire area of the Niagara river.  From viewing Lake Erie on our day trip to Buffalo, walking to and through a bit of Niagara Falls Ontario, hiking along the Niagara river and touring a fort at the complete other end of the Niagara river and seeing Lake Ontario we had a wonderful time.  The second week was spent mostly at home starting our first official week back to school.



On Friday the boys and I spent some time finish up all the packing and cleaning the house.  They finished up some schoolwork and managed to feed themselves breakfast and lunch with what little bit of food we had left in the house.  I did offer to call out for pizza for dinner though.   My parents came over after dinner and we took them around showing them what each turtle eats and giving them the rundown on the house since they're house sitting for us for the week.

Saturday morning we headed out just after breakfast to pick up my mother in law and get on the road for Niagara Falls.  It was a long day of travel but no one complained at all.  We went right to downtown Niagara falls for a late lunch/ early dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and then walked over to the park to see the falls from the American side.  The boys were in awe and could not get over the roar of the water.  We went to check out our house rental and then headed out to do a quick grocery shopping before settling in for the night.








We ended up spending most of the day Sunday hiking!  After breakfast we decided to head back to Niagara Falls State park and try out a few of their hiking trails.  We ended up hiking for over 3 hours!  We went from the falls all the way to Whirlpool state park and tried out 4 different hiking trails. The views were amazing and we learned a lot about the history of the area and the first large scale hydroelectric dam that eventually crumbled into the Niagara River.  By the time we ended we decided to take the free shuttle back to where we started and find something for lunch.  We ended up eating at a Rainforest Cafe and we were all so hungry that there was not one bite of food left when we were done.  We headed back to the house we rented and spent a quiet night watching TV, relaxing, and doing laundry.


All that remains of the old dam



It was pretty rainy on Monday but we didn't let the weather deter us in the slightest.  We headed out to explore the New York Power Vista and the Niagara Falls Aquarium.  We had the best time at the power plant!  While we can not go through the plant and see how it runs they had tons of fun hands on activities and displays about the history of the region, power, and clean energy.  The aquarium was a bit of a letdown.  It was very small and we easily covered the whole thing in 20 minutes (yet it cost $60! for admission).  We ended up walking next door and checking out the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center where we learned all about glaciers, fossils, and even more about the history of the region.

Trying to make a waterfall by stacking the layers of the Earth in the correct order

Learning about the building of the dam

Myself and the younger two boys took a turn trying out the Van De Graaff generator

Learning about how flood control dams keep regulating the power they make to meet demands







Tuesday we decided to head into Buffalo New York and explore the zoo there.  We had a great time even if it did start out a bit rainy.  We saw so many wonderful animals up close and learned about a few new ones we hadn't seen at any zoos before.  We all pretty much agreed that the polar bears and the gorillas were simply amazing.  After we were done with the zoo we ate lunch at the fabulous  Pearl Street Grill and Brewery.  We went back to the house rental for a few hours before heading into Canada to view the falls all lit up at night.  We also wanted to know how tough it might be to cross into Canada for our lunch reservations the next day (it was actually quite easy with our new passports).   The falls were beautiful as they changed colors and since it was 9/11 the American side of the falls fired off a bunch of fireworks.










We had plans to eat at the Skylon Tower  restaurant in Ontario on Wednesday and decided to just hang around the house until mid-morning.  We parked and walked over like we did the night before and had no  problem finding the restaurant... unfortunately I didn't realize that the dining room we made our reservations at didn't revolve like the other restaurant but luckily we had prime seats overlooking the horseshoe falls.  Our dinner included admission to the observation deck and we walked around after eating.  The younger two boys and I spent quite a lot of time talking to the glass blower and learning a bit about his craft and how it differs from traditional glass blowers that use a torch (he used a huge oven/kiln).  After lunch the younger boys and my husband decided to try out the zipline over the falls.

Our view! 




Alec 

My husband 

I'm not sure if you can spot Evan; he's near the big green tower with a white helmet on
Thursday we planned to spend our day at Niagara Falls State Park getting pretty wet!  We saved the Maid of the Mist tour and the Cave of the Winds tour for the end of the week since it was supposed to be a bit sunnier and warmer than it had been at the beginning of the week. We started with the Maid of the Mist and we were the first people on our boat so my husband suggested we get right in the front... we got pretty wet! I can't say I saw much once we got up close to the Horseshoe falls as my eyes were closed against the water.  After the ride we walked out on the observation platform and then headed inside the visitor's center to watch the movie inside the Niagara Adventure Theater.  From there we walked through the park over to Goat Island and went down the elevator to the Cave of the Winds tour.  Evan LOVED the hurricane deck and he was soaked head to toe regardless of the poncho when we were through.  We took the trolley back to the front of the park to get our car and headed out to Old Fort Niagara (after stopping at "home" to get dry clothes).  We had a quick and delicious lunch at The Youngstown Galley before touring the fort.  We were getting our tickets just as a new movie was starting and after the movie we had the option of joining in on a free guided tour!  It was fantastic and the view out over Lake Ontario were amazing on this clear sunny day.  We could see right to Toronto!













Our last full day in Niagara Falls was Friday and we decided to head 30 minutes outside the city and take a boat tour through a few of the locks on the Erie Canal. While I can't say the boys were thrilled with the ride we did all think it was pretty neat to see how the locks works.  In just under 12 minutes we raised up almost 50 feet from one part of the river to the other.  We decided Friday evening to head back to Niagara Falls State Park one last time.  We parked on Goat Island and walked around Amelia Island and over to Three Sisters Island.  We saw so many sections of rapids and enjoyed seeing the falls from a new perspective.  We stayed until it was dark enough to see the lights on the falls and then headed back to our house rental.








Saturday morning we were up bright and early and on the road home by 7:30.  We stopped for breakfast at Tim Hortons and found ourselves wishing we had one near us!  We made great time on the road and arrived home by 4.   After unpacking my husband and I headed for the grocery store.  The kids had helped me write up a menu and grocery list while driving home so we were in and out of the store pretty quickly.  Once home Ian set the table while Alec started cooking dinner and my husband, Evan, and I unloaded the car and got the groceries all put away.  We bought pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and quickly made a salad and some corn on the cob to go with it.  After dinner I helped Ian clean out his turtle tanks.  He treated his turtle for the shell rot which got just a bit worse as we were gone and were unable to treat him for the week. 

Ian headed off Sunday morning to go fishing with his grandfather and the younger two boys spent a quite morning playing video games and catching up with their friends on-line.  Ian ended up running excavator helping his grandfather work since the fog prevented them from fishing.  I worked on making a double sided fall/winter sign for the front porch.




We decided it was time to start our official school year on Monday.  We added in a new science curriculum we were trying out this year to their summer math and reading work and decided to take a field trip to the apple orchard.  As soon as he had completed his book work Ian headed off to work screening loam and was gone for most of the day.  The younger boys and I worked on making some homemade pie crust and went for a walk. I worked on decorating the house inside and out for fall.  After dinner my husband and the boys all played wiffle ball together; I had a great time just watching.




Alec had karate on Tuesday and I had a huge list of errands to run while we were out... that I never got around to doing at all.  I stopped by my sister's house and visited for a bit with her and my mom and before I knew it it was time to pick Alec up.  Once home the boys ate lunch, worked on some math and reading, and we all began watching season one of How the States Got Their Shapes for geography.  I read a cute picture book aloud about bees for science and then we tried making candy apples using Jolly Rancher candies.  While we had the Jolly Rancher candies out we also tried making our own lollipops with them.  It was pouring rain and we had a bit of flash flooding. Ian had to go move the excavator and try to unclog the drain near the base of our driveway.  Our beach washed away completely and we had a river running down the street.  It was so dark in our house even with all the lights on (which is why my photos aren't that great!).  Then by dinnertime the sun came out, all the water dried up, and the humidity went through the roof but the younger two boys decided to go play hide and seek outside anyway.






We started school very early on Wednesday.  Ian was heading off to work with his grandfather and wanted all of his schoolwork done before he left.  We watched another episode of How the States Got their Shapes, read the book Secrets of American History; The Revolutionary War and then he settled down to work on his math pages.  The younger two boys played outside from 9:30-11:30 when I called them in to finish school and eat lunch.  They each did a bit of reading and worked on some math before Evan and I went to his room on his All About Spelling lesson for the day.  We're only one lesson away from finishing up the whole book!  I spent the afternoon running the errands I was supposed to run on Tuesday and finished decorating the house for fall when I got home.




Alec had an orthodontic appointment on Thursday but we still managed to get some schoolwork done.  We finished up the first chapter in our Science book, watched another episode of How the States Got Their Shapes, completed some math and reading work and even managed to work on a fall crafting activity.  Evan and I played a few games of Scat then Ian and I played a few games of Uno.  I also stopped by the library to pick up the books we had on hold... you know homeschooling is in full swing when there aren't enough room in the book bag to bring them all home!


Our pile of library books! 



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