For our family vacation this year, we managed to talk my mom into renting a cottage on Keuka Lake (one of the Finger Lakes in New York state) instead of the usual Chesapeake Bay locale. Not that Maryland isn’t nice, and not that we don’t enjoy hunting for sharks’ teeth, but we all wanted a change, and we remembered Keuka Lake fondly. My grandparents used to have a cottage on the lake, and we vacationed there every year during most of my childhood.
This is a view of the lake from the cottage we rented this year. The dock, boat, and Adirondack chairs belonged to the neighboring cottage, but the scene gives you a good idea of how nice it is to be on the lake. Our dock was a little less photogenic.
Traveling down memory lane is a dangerous activity if you love your memories too dearly. Things change, and you have to both expect and accept that. My mother didn’t even try to rent the old cottage. This cottage was located on the other side of the lake from the old one. We weren’t trying to relive old vacations, but there were certain places we needed to revisit, and one of them was the “Untamed Glen.”
We mounted an expedition to the glen on my first day there (the Monday before last). According to the dictionary, a glen is a narrow valley, but for me the term means specifically a gorge cut by a stream running down a mountain. The Untamed Glen is a small gorge near Keuka Lake. It doesn’t have an official name. I call it the Untamed Glen to distinguish it from all of the other glens in the area (and there are many!) including the famous Watkins Glen, which Faithful Reader and I climbed later in the week.
The beauty of the Untamed Glen is that it is literally untamed. It is exactly as Nature created it. There’s no marked path, no manmade stairs, no gift shop at the top. It’s wet, slippery, occasionally very steep, and always full of debris. So why climb it?
For the challenge, of course. My grandparents’ cottage was within walking distance of the glen. Climbing the glen was an annual activity when I was growing up. It was something I always looked forward to.
I’m not a kid anymore. I’m also not as physically fit as I ought to be. I hadn’t done anything that strenuous for a long time, so I was feeling a little trepidatious. What if I couldn’t make it up? Worse yet, what if one of us got hurt? Though that idea had occurred to me, I never thought to bring a phone. Neither did anyone else. We didn’t discover this major oversight until we were about to start the climb. Oh, well. There weren’t any cell phones when I was a kid and we survived.
Faithful Reader and one of my nephews parted with us at the start of the glen. They had not brought the right kind of footwear, so they were going to take the woodland path along the left of the glen and meet us at the top. The rest of us (me, my dad, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew) went on to the glen.
The glen did not disappoint. It was almost exactly as I had remembered it. Here is the first part of the glen. This is what you see after you leave the road, wade through the sea of roadside wildflowers, and step down to the stream.
See what I meant about wet, slippery and full of debris? I wish I could also show you how it smells and sounds and feels. Try to imagine the smell of wet plants, the babble of running water, and cool air hitting your face.
The glen has to be tackled in sections, and this is one of the steeper ones. The best route is often straight up the middle where the running water keeps the algae from growing. You get your feet soaked, but it least you keep them under you. At other times, it’s necessary to go up one of the sides. That’s my dad making his way up the right side in this picture. The sides are covered with scree (loose rock), and he was probably slipping and sliding and causing tiny avalanches the whole way up. Scree is difficult, but we guessed it would be preferable to the slanty, algae-slimed part in the center of this section.
This is a nice section, one of the few parts that can be characterized as a waterfall.
The lighting in the glen isn’t the best for photography. It’s either too dark or too bright, and the combination of dark plus moving water plays havoc with the auto-focus on my camera. I didn’t try to take too many detail shots. There’s not much but water and algae anyway, but I did manage to get one picture of something growing in the glen. I just can’t resist taking pictures of interesting fungi.
It is a long and strenuous climb, and definitely not without its dangers. I and my nephew, on separate occasions, managed to bump our heads. That’s what you get when you concentrate on keeping your footing and forget to look up! My sister-in-law fell down several feet, but luckily landed on her feet. There were scrapes and bruises and lots of soaked footwear by the time we reached the top. Faithful Reader and my nephew were there to greet us and share their freshly-picked wild black raspberries.
We went back down via the trail on the right side of the glen. It was an easy trek back down, except for my dad, who walked right into a wasp’s nest. He only got stung once, thank goodness, and his hollers alerted the rest of us to the danger. When we reached the bottom, though wet and tired, we could not resist the urge to head farther down memory lane and check out our old cottage.
Oh, dear. They tore it down and put a McMansion in its place. We were stunned, but in a way it was a relief, at least to me. No one could possibly have appreciated the cottage the way we did. Now that it’s gone I don’t have to worry about people wrecking it, if that makes any sense.
That was my first day of vacation. On the second day, we went to Niagara Falls. I’ll tell you all about it soon.