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The first stop on our journey through Eastern Canada was Niagara Falls, widely known as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.” So it was only fitting that the springboard for our trip would be a wedding.
No, not mine—Ben and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in January.
Instead, we rejoiced in the glorious union of our brother Bron and his bride Mo (both U.S. Marines):
You only have to witness the looks that they exchange to know that they “get” each other. We wish them years of happiness.
After the wedding, Ben and I loaded our kids into a rental car and headed north from Ohio on a 2 ½ week road trip through the eastern part of Canada. Niagara Falls was the gateway, as it stretches across the border between New York state and Ontario, Canada.
On the U.S. side was Niagara Falls State Park, where we stopped to take the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour. Our first view of the falls:
Niagara Falls actually consists of two separate waterfalls. Right before the Niagara River reaches the plummet point, an island divides the water into two streams—the flow that heads left becomes Horseshoe Falls, and the flow that goes right becomes the American Falls. In the above photo, the American Falls is closest to us, and Horseshoe Falls is in the distance.
The elevator to the Maid of the Mist boat dropped down a tall observation tower:
At the bottom was the loading zone:
Our ticket price included oh-so-lovely blue rain ponchos that we donned to protect us from the “mist.” Here are Sebastian, Genevieve and Ben, ready for action:
Genevieve made a beeline to the upper level of the boat, where she found us perfect viewing spots along the edge. We were soon chugging away from the dock and approaching the American Falls:
The American Falls are named after the fact that they are located on the U.S. side. Most of Horseshoe Falls, further upstream, is located on the Canadian side.
Every minute, millions of gallons surge over the edge of the falls with such tremendous force that the base is almost always shrouded in a white haze.
Even at a distance, we were coated in moisture.
The erosive power of the water has created a pile-up of boulders:
For several months in 1969, the water was diverted from the American Falls so that geologists and engineers could study the erosion of the underlying rocks and to decide whether the boulder pile should be removed. In the end, the rocks were left in place, primarily due to the high cost of removal combined with strong public opinion that the falls should remain unchanged.
Looking back at the American Falls:
Approaching Horseshoe Falls:
In the heart of the U-shaped Horseshoe Falls, heavy drops of water drenched us in waves. Laughter swelled all around as people clutched their raincoats and ducked their heads to stay dry. I whipped my camera out long enough to capture a rainbow:
In between the splashes, we shook out our hair and belongings, and tried to see the massive sweep of falls:
Back on land, we climbed a narrow walkway to the “Crow’s Nest,” which gave us a close-up view of the American Falls:
Rainbow Bridge carried us into Canada.
Since the falls face the Canadian side, the view is more direct and thus more appealing to tourists. Before traveling here, I had read about how “run down” the U.S. side was, and how the Canadian side had much more to offer visitors. The atmosphere, however, was akin to a carnival on steroids, with smatterings of seediness. Complete with all the typical “tourist” offerings—Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a wax museum, fast food shops, painted street performers, souvenir shops, and over-the-top exhibits—it was quite a contrast to the state park that existed on the U.S. side.
We couldn’t resist a ride on the Niagara Sky Wheel, a huge ferris wheel with enclosed capsules that provided a commanding view of the entire falls area.
Sebastian and Genevieve:
We could see both the American Falls on the left and the Horseshoe Falls on the right, separated by Goat Island:
Perhaps the most impressive thing we saw at Niagara Falls was another natural wonder—68 year old Jay Cochrane, who walked a quarter-mile on a tightrope that was stretched 600 feet in the air, with no tether or safety net. (He repeated this feat every evening for 81 days this summer.)
Genevieve and Sebastian spotted him first, on the wire between the Skylon tower on the left and the high rise hotel on the right:
Can you see him? He’s the tiny black dot above the tall tree on the left.
I held my breath as he neared the ending point.
After he reached the rooftop, we turned to each other, exclaiming over and over, “Can you believe that?” (In fact, we still ask that question!)
Jay Cochrane must be a man with focus and conviction. As he said in a newspaper interview: “Look, if I was afraid to fall, I wouldn’t be out there in the first place.”
Imagine what this world would be like if everyone pursued their passions, unafraid to fall.
Up on his high wire, one carefully placed foot at a time, Jay was no doubt reveling in the pure joy of his existence. We could feel it.
First, a celebration of love, and then a celebration of life. Both marked a great beginning to our journey.
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