Why Niagara Falls? Well, quite simply, it was all Daniel's idea. He wanted to after reading a book about Niagara Falls several months ago and got it in his head that we should go there sometime. After asking me repeatedly when the trip was going to happen, I said, "What the heck, let's go when school's out!" and so we did. I've always loved traveling, and now that my kids are old enough to be out of diapers and [ostensibly] responsible enough not to do things like wander aimlessly into oncoming traffic and eat stuff off the ground, I feel comfortable traveling with them solo.
It was quite the adventure! We stayed in campgrounds the whole time, tent camping in Michigan on the way there and back, and rented a yurt in Fourmile Creek State Park in NY for three nights during our Niagara stay.
We had such a great time. I have to admit I find detailed blog accounts of travel kind of wearisome, so I'll just share some highlights with you here.
1: I need more practice building campfires. Seriously, this is a project of mine this summer, to get better at fires. I was more or less in charge of the fire every night, though Daniel and his friend would have been more than happy to be put in charge, judging from their constant poking at the fire and incessant advice as to what I should be doing to get those flames going better: add more paper, rearrange the sticks, light another match, find a fire starter, here, put this in, just poke at it over and over... One evening, it took an hour, an entire book of matches, and many sheets of newspaper, not to mention a pile of frustration and unsolicited advice from a pair of 8yo boys, to get the fire going. Granted, it had rained earlier so even though the wood was dry, the ground below was plenty wet, so I don't think it was all due to my incompetence, but since our dinner depended on it, I was feeling quite impatient.
2. We roasted hot dogs over campfires every night of the trip except the last one. They were good. Don't judge me. Don't you dare.
3. It's possible to fit all you need for a weeklong camping trip into a Toyota Prius. Only if you leave your spouse at home, though.
4. Daniel and Anya took some really great pictures (using waterproof cameras they got for Christmas):
5. The boat tour is worth it. (The picture below is actually the Canadian boat. We left from the U.S. side, where everyone was wearing blue ponchos.)
6. Home sweet yurt. Yes, we stayed in a yurt! When I was looking for campsites in the Niagara area, I found that the closest campground to the falls, Fourmile Creek in New York, had a couple of newly built yurts to rent. Each yurt has bunk beds that sleep up to six, has electric outlets and a fridge, and is quite reasonably priced, especially when you consider splitting between two families. Not knowing what weather awaited us on our trip, we reserved on yurt for three nights, and boy were we glad we did! The second night of our stay, there were storms and torrential rain that saturated the campsite and flooded a lot of the tents. With two moms and four kids, it was a relief having a roof over our heads. Plus, it's way fun to say "yurt," as in "Time to head back to the yurt!" or, if you're my children, halfway through southern Ontario, "Are we therrrrrrre yet? How long till we get to the yurrrrt??"
7. We went hiking at Whirlpool State Park. It's just a little ways from the falls, but a nice change from the over-developed touristy nature of Niagara itself. The kids didn't complain about the hike, surprisingly, even though it lasted a couple of hours and it was well past lunchtime when we finished. The views were spectacular.
8. We took a sunset walk by Lake Ontario, just steps away from the yurt.
9. We walked around Old Fort Niagara. Fort Niagara has historical significance in that it was an important military establishment during the French and Indian War, and also has the only French-built castle on U.S. soil. I have a feeling every school kid in the Buffalo/Niagara area has a field trip here at some point. When we were there, though, there were only another dozen or so other people walking around. The kids loved it - there were cannons everywhere, and unlike many historic places where things are roped off, in this place you could go anywhere you please and touch just about anything, from cannons to wooden beds, to historic military costumes. We walked below ground into storage bunkers and on top of manmade earthen escarpments, looked out of high windows onto Lake Ontario, and watched a dude fire a musket. It was way more interesting than I expected, to be honest.
10. We went tent camping in Michigan on the way to and from Niagara. And the mosquitoes were awful. Holy cats, I've never experienced mosquitoes like that. We coated ourselves with bug spray, put on jackets and they still assaulted us at every opportunity. It was awful. Still, the camping part was fun and we stayed at Fort Custer SRA, which was otherwise very nice.
11. I would absolutely do this again, but it's good to be home. I loved this trip, but it's nice to sleep in my own bed and be able to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and get to the shower without having to traipse through the mud with a flashlight.