Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 22 - Niagara Falls

I have never been to Niagara Falls. As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, seeing this enormous force of nature probably should have been higher on my list of “go-to” destinations; however, I never had a strong desire to see the falls. Basically, the narrow range of appeal that one massive waterfall had in comparison to other, more diverse travel locations resulted in Niagara falling to the bottom on my list of travel priorities. That stated, the recent unexpected visit to Toronto presented me a unique opportunity to make a trip of little more than one hour to see Niagara Falls. Knowing I wouldn’t have such an opportunity again in the near future, I grabbed my camera and made my way to the falls on the second day of my trip to Toronto.

The view from above...

The drive to the falls from downtown Toronto was surprisingly easy and altogether uneventful. In no time, we were upon the falls. As we drove down the road nearest the river the peak of the falls was barley visible, yet mist rolled high into the sky, speckling the windshield with drops of water. After finding a parking location, we began walking toward the walkway running along the cliffs downriver from the falls. With each step we took a larger portion of the falls became visible. Step after step, more falling water came into sight until, finally, the full height of the falls became visible. I was immediately captivated by the size and breadth of the falls, but a part of me expected them to be larger for some reason. Regardless, the sight of the falls made its status as a natural wonder apparent. These falls are massive fixtures in the landscape that simply cannot be avoided. They demand attention, and once they get it, one finds it hard to take it back.

I spent the better part of 45 minutes wandering up and down the walkway observing the falls from different vantage points. The omnipresent sound of rushing water and the beauty of the falls were constant as I looked on from every possible angle. Eventually, I felt as though I had seen as much as I could from the top of the cliffs, so I weighed my options for other ways to experiences at the falls. I decided I would try to cross another “I have never…” event off of my list by finding a way to get behind a waterfall via the “behind the falls” tour. Already near the ticket booth, I made the short trip to purchase a ticket; only to find the tour was not running during the time I was visiting the falls. The employee working at counter expressed her apologies and offered another experience to get closer to the falls, a “Maid of the Mist” boat tour. Knowing I had to make the most of my experience at Niagara, I ultimately agreed to take the boat tour. After a quick jaunt to the attraction, I had my ticket in hand and was dockside waiting for the next boat to arrive.

The "little" falls.
I took in the direct view of the smaller falls before me as I waited for the boat. Although the falls had seemed massive from the top of the cliffs, the view of the falls from water level made them appear to double in size… and I was hundreds of yards away from the larger Horseshoe Falls of Niagara. We waited several minutes before we were permitted to board the boat, donning our bright blue raincoats as we shuffled through the line to board. Once permitted on the boat, I worked my way to the upper balcony and grabbed a position by one of the center rails. Just as I settled in the boat started the journey across the river to the base of the smaller falls of Niagara. Mist fell across every surface on the boat as those on board absorbed the size of the falls before us. The journey parallel to the falls took several minutes as one bend of the falls ran into the next. In time, we moved passed the first set of falls began approaching the larger Horseshoe Falls. A low rumble swelled and the water became more turbulent as we drew closer to the massive white wall before us. The sight and sound of it all was unlike anything I had experienced before.

The Horseshoe Falls

Passengers on the boat struggled to absorb the magnitude of the sight before them while making obvious moves to brace themselves against the sway of the boat beneath our feet. Hanging on to the railing in front of me, I stood, mouth agape, as I saw a panorama of raging water pouring over some of the largest cliffs I had ever encountered. I found myself struggling to believe the speed with which the water fell just as we began getting pelted with wind swept drops of water spun skyward by the force of the waterfall. Minutes passed as we continued to take in the sight of the falls between periods of drenching mist. My excitement building, I felt as though I could stay before such majesty for hours. Just as quickly as I came to terms with that reality, the boat began the journey back to the dock to end our tour.

I spent the majority of the ride back to the dock trying to take in the experience. I was smiling so intensely as a result of journey that I started to feel a bit foolish. The power, intensity, and brilliance of Niagara Falls captured me, and every outward expression I had showed it. Still wet from our journey to the base of the falls, we parted ways with Niagara and made our way back to Toronto. We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the city by foot. Our travels took us through Chinatown, to the Kensington Market, through the Discovery district, and finally through the fashion district of Toronto. On our way we stopped at several watering holes to refuel, including the Village Idiot Pub and the Black Bull Tavern. Ultimately, we planted our feet in a restaurant for dinner and wound down the night with a quick meal and a good drink.

Today was another incredible day of new experiences. Niagara amazed me, Toronto continued to impress me, and I accomplished a laundry list of “I have never…” experiences. I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to make this trip, and it is only day two. If the next few days prove as eye opening and awesome as the first two, I’m in for an unbelievable trip laden with new experiences. For now, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and my eyes open for new experiences and opportunities. In a city like this, that should be an easy task.

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