October 9, 2018

Unlike our jaunt into Chicago, where we had a fairly clear sense of where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, and why it was significant, we were pretty much flying by the seats of our pants when we began to venture into the Northeast region of this beautiful country. We have not — I repeat, NOT — been booking RV campgrounds ahead of time on this trip. Once we have an idea of where we want our day’s journey to end, I hop on the Park Advisor or KOA app, find a place that’s in the vicinity, and give them a call.

Side rant: RV campgrounds need to get with the times. Srsly. KOA camps have fabulous websites and their app is {thumbs up emoji} but they are the exception, not the rule. With most campgrounds, more often than not you have to call and actually talk with a real live PERSON when booking a site. I know. And sometimes that person is named Grampy and has the thickest southern accent you ever did hear….but we haven’t gotten there yet. (Stay tuned.)

Back to our spontaneous, free-spirited selves. After spending a delightful few days with delightful friends in Indiana and Ohio, we headed out towards Niagara Falls. As we drove we booked a night at a campground that turned out to be so great, we took one look around¬†when we got there and then asked them to please let us stay for a second night. The campground is called Branches of Niagara, and if you ever go visit the falls in an RV, STAY THERE. It is beautiful, well-kept, and comfortable, with a variety of activities available for families (although we were a little out of season and not everything was open). The staff is friendly and helpful, the facilities are spotlessly clean, and it’s an easy drive to the falls.

When we checked in it was early evening, and the woman at the front office mentioned that Niagara Falls can be cool to see at night because they shine lights on it. We thought that sounded fun, so we got ourselves settled and then headed out. At that time we still had our van (do you like how I keep slipping that into my posts?¬†the accident is coming….), so we left the RV and drove the van on over. This was easier, of course, but for those who are interested, Niagara Falls does indeed have RV parking available.

It was dark when we got there and we didn’t have to pay to park. Was this a mistake? Or the normal way of things after a certain time? I don’t know, but there you have it. If you want to see Niagara Falls on the cheap, try driving over there around seven p.m., and if someone stops you and tries to make you pay, say the Watsons sent you.

We walked to the falls through pretty little paths and discovered that we were not the only people to think coming at night was a good idea. There was, in fact, quite a large crowd gathered around, and it was rather breathtaking. Great big spotlights of color were on the water, morphing from purple to blue to green and back again.

And then, quite unexpectedly….fireworks. We stood with mouths agape while explosions of light and color burst over the roaring falls. The majesty of it all was too much, and I cried as I watched.

The next morning we came back for the full experience (which included paying for parking), and it was every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Some have commented that the waterfalls aren’t as tall as expected, and I agree. They are, however, very wide and very powerful. Between the three falls there are roughly 750,000 gallons of water going over every SECOND. What?!?! Where does all that water even come from?! It boggles my mind.

Seeing that much water from above is all well and good, but like I said, we went for the FULL experience. So we bought our Maid of the Mist tickets, donned our blue ponchos (fun fact: they give out red ponchos on the Canadian side), and headed to the boat. The view from down there was quite spectacular, and I cried again, but no one could tell because we were all getting completely drenched anyway. For all I know, everyone on the boat was sobbing, and I wouldn’t have blamed anyone. The falls seemed taller from below, and they were frightening in their power and their beauty, and I felt glad at their very existence and praised God that he had made such things.

Our older two boys loved it, as did Todd and I. The younger two were mildly stressed out by the abundance of water, but not to the point of actually disliking it. (“Not disliking” something equates to a win on this trip.) Foss kept telling strangers all about it afterwards, and Will fell in love with his blue poncho, so we bought him a blue-poncho-wearing ducky stuffed animal from the gift shop. (The first thing he did when we got back to the RV? Remove the poncho from the duck. Now he just has an overpriced stuffed ducky.)

After our time in the hot sun and the cold mist, we pulled our unkempt selves together, shook the water from our hair, and crossed the street to the Red Coach Inn to eat a delicious and much-appreciated lunch.

That’s all the time we spent, and by mid-afternoon we were back at the RV park, relaxing and doing laundry (which is actually the opposite of relaxing for me.) If you go to Niagara, do it the way we did. See the lights on it at night, and go back the next morning to experience it in daylight. It’s not a place where you need to spend an excessive amount of time, but it’s absolutely worth a lengthy pause. Moving from city to city the way we have, it was a gift to trade the noise and hubbub of a metropolis for the noise and hubbub of nature, to briefly leave the soot and soil of cities for cascading water and fireworks. It was a stop that refreshed our eyes, our faces, our bodies and souls.

RV’s and Niagara

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