Friday, August 21, 2015

Oh, Canada! – Niagara Falls

Canada trip #3 this year.  I was flying in on Sunday, and originally, I was going to spend the afternoon and early evening in Toronto again.  I had hit most of what I wanted to see during my previous trip, though.  As I leafed through my Frommer’s Day-by-day Toronto guidebook, it reminded me that Niagara Falls was just an hour away.  Since I last visited when I was 10 years old or something, it has been my dream to go back, so Niagara it was!  

Unfortunately, my flight was delayed by 1.5 hours due to a bird impact incident on the previous flight, along with some un-specified issue with the plane.  When we finally made it into Toronto, there were no GPS’s to rent, either.  Fortunately, the road to Niagara from the airport is straightforward.  Unfortunately, the traffic was terrible, so I got there about 3.5 hours later than I had originally planned.  Still a good amount of daylight left, though, so time for adventures, and hopefully, a few geocaches, too, on both sides of the border.

I started driving through the uber-touristy (ridiculously touristy) Cliffton Hills, then parked way upstream.  Since it was the middle of summer, it was very crowded.  The falls were as big and cool as I remembered.  I gradually made my way downstream, towards Rainbow Bridge.  I attempted 2 geocaches along the way, but found neither, even though one of them had a hint that seemed to point to the very spot I was looking.  It was supposed to be the most visited cache in Canada, I guess with all the Canadians and Americans passing through, along with all the other visitors from around the world.

The lines to go on the boat rides were really long.  I wasn’t planning on doing that, since I had done it years ago, and I had also done it at Iguazu Falls in Argentina.  I did want to do the Cave of Winds boardwalk attraction, though, where you get to walk within 10 feet of the falls.  We had elected to do the boat ride, rather than that, so it has always made me wonder what it was like.  I feared that the lines may be equally ridiculous once I got to the NY side and made the hike over, but I had seen enough of the CA side and was ok with taking the gamble.  

Crossing the bridge was cool.  There’s a plaque that marks the boundary between the two countries.  It’s also a unique view that requires a 25 cent (either currency) toll (I used Canadian 25 cents, since the dollar is a long stronger), and the ability to get into one country from another and to get back.  I have a colleague who has a great story about getting stuck on the bridge, not being able to get back into either country.

Once I got to NY, I decided to go on a bit of a jog with my second personal geocaching Travel Bug ever, since it is a race bib whose goal is to run with Geocachers from around the world.  After putting it on, I started making my way to Goat Island, where the Cave of Winds attraction is.

The line ended up being very reasonable.  We were given mandatory souvenir sandals and a poncho.  Under the poncho, I put on a compact rain jacket, for extra protection.  I had my Gopro hero with me, along with Paddington bear, so I was ready for some great pics.  

There used to be an actual cave called Cave of Winds, which tourists could go under long ago.  It got messed up and doesn’t really exist anymore, though, so now, it’s just a boardwalk attraction.  At first, we were all very close to the roaring waters but very dry.  It was exciting just to be able to reach over and touch water flowing off of rocks.  As we walked onward, there started to be a bit of spray at a photo op, and water was flooding over the board walk a bit.  That was even cooler, and I took a picture.

Then, at the top, it’s all craziness, with a section called the Hurricane Deck, where people can get within 10 feet of the falls and feel heavy sprays beat down on their backs…. It’s hard to look into the falls, since the spray hits your eyes.  This is where I got soaked, despite the poncho and the light hooded rain jacket.  The water would hit my hands and flow down my arms, which is why. 
I heard that there were fireworks on that night (a special thing for holidays and Sundays), and I recalled that they lit up the falls in different colors at night.  I made an attempt at a geocache in NY, to get both sides in one day, but that failed, so I scampered back across the bridge (with the Travel Bug race bib, which I was still wearing), to try to make it back to the Canadian side for the fireworks.

Fortunately, you’re able to get US phone and LTE even in the Canadian side of the falls.  I saw in the geocache comments that others after me had found it, so I checked the site again.  It was right there, actually out in the open and not hidden like it was supposed to be, so someone must’ve just had it while I was looking.  Logged it, traded 3 of the TBs in my possession (including the bib) for 3 TBs in the cache, then ran to the fireworks location.  

Since it was very close to fireworks time, there were no open spaces along the railing by the falls.  There was a pavilion, though, and I climbed up a pillar and was able to get a good view.  I hugged that thing for about 15 minutes as I watched the fireworks.  Nothing huge, and the subsequent smoke clouded the view of the falls a bit, but it was a nice finish to the night.

I was very hungry, having not eaten much that day, but there was a great place overlooking the falls, and I enjoyed an awesome shrimp salad.  I found another very cool geocache, then started the 2 hr drive to my hotel.

Tuesday, August 18:
The city where I stay for work is smaller, but it has a lot of charm, and I did a bit more adventuring than I did last time.  I went for a run in a park at Westminster Ponds, where the ponds were formed by glaciers.   It had very runnable dirt trails that you could wander in.  4.5 in 45:50, 10:00 ave (distance/pace estimated, based on the elapsed time and the fact that I was carrying a pack and wasn’t going very fast).  I found two geocaches there… one earth cache and one that had been archived (but the cache was still there).

Thursday, August 20:
The treadmill at the gym was taken, so I did an easy 60 min bike session while reading a magazine, at 5:30am.

Friday, August 21:
Flying back to the US that day, but I wanted to get in a run while I could… this is supposed to be the first week of training for my next marathon, anyway.  I wanted to have a solid interval session, since I hadn’t done any serious workouts that week, and my legs were fresh, even at 5am.  However, the run was extremely difficult, cardiovascularly, for some odd reason, so I did less than I normally would’ve done.  Oh well… I’m at least building a foundation for the rest of the cycle… hopefully, I’ll be stronger next time and better able to handle the workout.
Workout: (at 2 degrees of incline) 1 mi warmup in 8:23, 2 x [0.4 mi in 2:40 @ 9mph, 0.2 mi in 1:37 @ 7.5mph], 0.3 mi recovery in 2:33 @ 7mph because I was struggling so much even after the first two reps and was even struggling with the 7.5mph recovery, 1 x [x [0.4 mi in 2:40 @ 9mph, 0.2 mi in 1:37 @ 7.5mph].  Called it after 3.1 mi, total, in 23:45, 7:40 ave = 7:23 effort with the incline.   The treadmill was in mph (not kph like I expected in Canada, so at first, it was starting to get really fast before I realized it)… the distance was in 0.1 mi increments, though, so I had to adjust my usual interval lengths.  Did some arm weights with 15lb weights afterwards… yes, 15 lb, not kg.

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