I took a little break from posting last week because I was busy getting ready for our anniversary trip to Niagara Falls! Justin and I are on a tight budget right now with my grad school tuition bills rolling in, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make the trip. But Justin was able to work some overtime the week before our anniversary, and we decided to take a couple of days off (plus the 4th of July holiday) to make it a five-day weekend! 😀
I’ll be honest, I was a little bit nervous that the media had ruined Niagara Falls for me. I’ve seen it so many times already on TV and in pictures, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be disappointed. While it would have been cool to be the very first person to just go exploring through the forest and happen upon Niagara Falls, it was still exciting to see it in person, even though we knew what we were in for.
Looking at Niagara from the observation deck is nice, but I would definitely recommend seeing it up close from ground level. I did have an underwhelming moment when I thought, “This doesn’t look as big as I thought it would be.” But then we hopped on the Maid of the Mist boat ride and sailed past it on the water, and let me tell you…it’s a much different perspective when you’re standing under it rather than over it, being overwhelmed by the roar of the rushing water and the splash of the mist as it falls into the river. Horseshoe Falls was even more intense. I had to pack my camera away in a Ziploc bag because we were getting soaked and having trouble even seeing the falls. Being surrounded by rushing water like that on all sides is nearly deafening! There was a poor little five or six year old girl on the boat with us who was covering her ears with her hands and crying because she was so scared, her dad bending down next to her to yell in her ear, “Isn’t this fun?”
After Maid of the Mist, we traded in our blue ponchos for yellow ones and did the Cave of the Winds attraction. Don’t be deceived….there isn’t actually a cave. Well, at least not anymore. There used to be a cave until 1920 or so, when a rock fall filled in the gaping hole that was originally created over many many years by the sheer force of water rushing down the side of the cliff. It makes me laugh to see these old-timey photos of men and women dressed in fancy, Victorian clothing getting up close and personal with Niagara. We’re not following quite as strict a dress code anymore, are we?
If you have any doubt about the power of Niagara Falls, just try standing on the Hurricane Deck at the Cave of the Winds attraction, and staring up into the water rushing down towards your face. You’re by no means getting the full brunt of the water flow, but just the back splash ricocheting off the rocks is hard to handle. Justin grabbed my hand and tried to lead me as close to the roaring water as we could get, and I found myself scrunching my eyes closed, holding my arms over my head, and wanting to crouch down into a ball. It’s intense!
The ride across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada was a bit anti-climatic. From a long way off, the American flags and Canadian flags in the middle of the bridge are visible, marking the boundary line. I’d never actually driven across our country’s border before, so I was excited about it. For the first ten minutes. After sitting in traffic on the bridge for thirty-five minutes or so, waiting for each individual car to pass border inspection and customs, the fun started wearing off.
We entertained ourselves by looking up a Wikipedia article about all of the people (and animals, and inanimate objects) that have gone over the edge of Niagara Falls–some surviving, and some not so lucky. This all started because Justin didn’t believe me when I told him that there was a woman in the early 1900’s who famously went over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel and survived. It’s true! Her name was Annie Taylor, and she was sixty-three years old when she went over the edge:
There’s also a less famous story about a guy named Kirk Jones who got drunk with his friends in October of 2003 and decided to go over the edge of the falls. He actually jumped in the river and swam quite a long way before going over the edge, and he became one of the very few people to survive going over the falls without any sort of protection or flotation device. According to Wikipedia, his friends were supposed to record the whole thing (and probably upload it to YouTube or something), but they were too drunk to figure out how to work the camera. Kirk Jones was slapped with a $2300 fine and banned FOR LIFE from Canada, but he has a really cool story to tell his grandkids one day.
By the way, I’m a little more creeped out by our Maid of the Mist boat ride now that I know how many dead bodies Maid of the Mist has helped pull to shore over the last 100 years. But it’s nice to know that they’ve also been part of quite a few daring rescues, as well.
The Canadian side of Niagara is pretty gaudy and touristy (the American side probably would be as well if it wasn’t bordered by a protected state park). But one thing we did enjoy is that the Casino lights up the falls at night with multi-colored spotlights that change color every few minutes.
After Niagara, we headed on to Toronto for a couple of days, but I have TOO MUCH to say to write about it all here! Stay tuned for a series of vacation posts…I’m going to take a page from Desert Amy’s book and milk this vacation for all it’s worth, blog-wise. 😀