New York, a name that conjures up images of iron & concrete cityscapes and crowded streets of a shimmering urbana.
I have been to New York city multiple times in the last 12 years, given its proximity to Toronto. Almost all of those trips were to the famed "city that never sleeps" and its iconic landmarks, bridges and squares. This trip, I decided to deviate from those itineraries...to explore the state itself and its colourful natural beauty, some of the country's largest areas of pristine forests, bursting forth in autumn glory.
Although the whole trip was about New York, Pennsylvania does make an initial guest appearance in the show...with my trip starting in the Allegheny National Forest Region, on the borders of PA and NY.
For a park so beautiful (rolling hills, flowing clouds through valleys and the large Allegheny reservoir), it was a bit strange to find its winding roads mostly empty, especially during this time of the year. But good for me...unhampered well-paced (with repeated stops) drives through the heart of this beautiful forest region.
Admittedly my trip was not that well planned this time, I just set out from Toronto with the aim of covering a large swath of the wild forested regions of upstate NY. Allegheny being the closest , I ventured there first and did what an unprepared & curious traveller does, pick up a brochure with the major scenic drives cutting through the heart of the forest region. Quickly shortlisted 2-3 routes (of the 6 referred in them) and the spots I would like to stop by and started my romp through eye popping, colour oozing scenic vistas for the next 2 days. The areas around the reservoir, also called the Kinzua Lake has probably some of the most stunning scenery in Pennsylvania.
Re-entering New York state, my 1st stop was Letchworth state park (which calls itself the Grand Canyon of the East), a beautifully maintained small park dominated by canyons, waterfalls and a dam. I must admit, I have a weakness for waterfalls and somehow or the other end up at a few in most of my trips.
This trip was probably long overdue...with me getting into some people and cityscape photo tourneys for a year or so, taking a break from my usual solo forays into National Parks of the US in the past years. While people and social events photography (or even for that matter cityscape/street photography) are very challenging and interesting genres, nature and landscape photography is what brings unalloyed peace to me...that is where I started and that is where I constantly earn to sink into. Perhaps part of it is its allure to be close to nature, something our modern city lifestyle has almost wiped out from our busy lives. And no better place to do it than here in the vast expanses of multi-hued geographies of the American continent, its National /State Parks, Forest regions, conservation areas, et al.
As I continued on, heading north-westward, my next major stop was the Adirondacks. Spanning 6 million acres of dense forests, this region would probably hold within itself, a few national parks, in sheer size. Two days was too short a time to spend here but as before, chose the main highways and roads crisscrossing the park and drove through almost all of them, stopping by to take shots of the scenery and a bit of hiking to... guess where, a couple of falls, where else!
Among the major Interstates/Highways that I have been fortunate to travel through in the US, Interstate 87 (N or S), the stretch that passes through Adirondacks mountains on its Eastern flanks, would certainly rank as one of my all time favorite (after Hwy 1- PCH on the West Coast) nature routes. Anyone from Toronto, New York or nearby areas, got to drive through this route at least once (if not more) to truly experience the feeling...exhilaration would be an understatement.
When you have a larger-than-life great city hogging the limelight, it's easy for people to skip some really stunning treasures of a large State. And New York state and the Adirondacks make you aware of that sentiment. I drove around 4,500 km through upstate New York (including back and forth to New York City) of which probably around 1,500 km in the Adirondacks alone, but can say for sure I didn't even explore 10% of what this beautiful region has to offer, to nature enthusiasts.
Several writers and sports columnists have written about the beauty & class of the multitude of golf courses that abound in the area, courses around Lake Placid, Malone & Saranac Inn, to name a few. I saw a small one, the Ausable Club Golf course and could totally relate to their descriptions...flaming forests of red and yellow surrounding vast well-tendered greens.
After going back and forth on the highways around the lakes (Lake Placid being the prominent one), I made my way south, slowly towards New York City...with one last park/nature stop on the way...The Catskills.
Catskills region is not as big or high as the Adirondacks but has some of the most attractive little waterfalls in upstate New York, crown jewel being the Kaaterskills Falls. A short & medium difficulty hike from the road (route 23A) leads to the base of the lower level of this two-tiered falls.
Apparently there have been a few fatalities around the falls (especially the upper sections) in the last few years with overzealous hikers disregarding the safety signs and marked trails, so the Upper section was cordoned off and construction crew were working to build some permanent barriers and safety features...so I could not get unto the more dramatic middle & upper sections of the falls. But still I could imagine the beauty of these falls from the vantage points.
From the Catskills, finally it was time to head to "The City"...
My New York city trip, this time, was also going to be mostly a nature/greenery trip. So obviously Central Park would be my first stop. This park always leaves me wonderstruck, such a big patch of serene green area smack in the middle of a gigantic throbbing metropolis. Fall colours were yet to reach the city, so after some quick shots of early morning light filtering through the foliage and a long walk across the length of the park, I headed towards the 'High Line", New York's park in the sky, at the suggestion of my friend. In my previous trips I had seen most of New York city's iconic spots, except this one. A truly cool concept and execution of a brilliant idea, to convert the unused elevated railway lines in parts of the city (from being dismantled) into tranquil oases of greenery and colour.
Singapore comes to mind, looking at this attempt at greening a city, though it's on a much larger scale there, than here in NYC.
And finally my last destination in the city was the National 9/11 Memorial. My first visit to the city was around 2003/4, a few years after 9/11. The area then was cordoned and off limits and I never went back there in my later trips. This would be my first visit ...to the actual site.
Until now, 9/11 was a distant tragedy that happened in a country half-way around the world, the visuals from that sad day certainly in the mind, the stories of bravery and hope during the incident and immediately after, the dramatic shift in national security policies in several countries that followed and the wars that sprung from it...all were till now, in books and TV. As I made my way to the beautifully constructed memorial site, camera in hand...all those images suddenly came alive in my mind. And standing by one of the pools (the north & south pools designed at the location of the two towers) looking at the names of dead, etched into the stone...I went numb. I could not get myself to lift up my camera and take a single picture of the beautiful pool or the spanking new One World Trade Centre. The pools, some of the most sombre, touching and architecturally apt creations I have ever seen. A pool of water flowing endlessly into a giant hole, signifying the hole in the heart that this incident left behind...when will Peace be given a chance...?
Link to my New York Pics below