Mention the word “road trip” to any New Yorker and you’ll see their face light up. There’s something truly majestic about ditching the grind for the gravel, even if it’s just for a weekend. Every Manhattanite can relate to this need, but the trick lies in figuring out which destination can best feed your particular appetite for the outdoors.
Growing up in New York, I had always heard of Rochester, but had I never found the time to make the quest up north. A city that boasts gorgeous rivers, lakes, and more than 12,000 acres of parkland, Rochester’s adventures were always calling. After years of thinking about it, I decided it was time to rally a group of friends to partake in a Rochester adventure.
As overused as the quote may be, “It’s not about the destination but about your journey,” it rang especially true on this trip. Getting out of the city, I was quickly reminded that the essence of an awesome road trip is being open to everything and anything that happens long the way.
Lost in the Mystic Fog
Two hours into our drive, we reached Pocono Summit, which is a small town located in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. Almost immediately, a thick white veil engulfed us. Captivated by the blanket that covered the roads and hills, we quickly fell in love with these soft white clouds. In a city swarming with skyscrapers, this natural element isn’t something us Manhattanites are too accustomed to. We inhaled the precious fragrance of leaves and loam, cleansing ourselves of the city’s fumes. Let it be said that the thrill of a random detour can lead you to nature’s greatest discoveries.
The Old Abandoned Barn
Several miles later we reached Elmira, a city that rests on the New York / Pennsylvania border. Within minutes of arriving into town we found our first photography pit stop – an old abandoned barn. Not only did we enjoy capturing the essence of its history, but it reminded us the golden rule of road trips…stop when you see anything that makes your heart skip a beat.
A Geologic Wonder
While looking for potential places to explore we stumbled upon the Chimney Bluffs Sate Park. Arriving just before sunset we didn’t give ourselves enough time to explore this geological wonder before golden hour was upon us. Not realizing that we had entered the wrong end of the park until it was too late, we did our best to capture the fading light of the day.
New York’s Best Kept Secret
Rochester, NY was recently ranked among one of the 10 most livable places in the country. It’s quaint family vibe is contrasted with a big-city caliber culture, while its scenery includes a breathtaking 90-mile stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline.
Talk to any locals and they will tell you two things. First, your money goes a long way here compared to NYC. Second, the people are incredibly loyal.
Residents like Steve Carter are more than willing to enlighten newcomers on how amazing their beloved city is. I met Steve through Instagram, and during our visit, he became our bona-fide tour guide as we explored the town’s bustling Public Market. We then witnessed the artistic heritage of the small town as we wandered through the abandoned underground transit system which operated between 1927-1957.
The Grand Canyon of the East
About 35 miles southwest of Rochester, the Letchworth State Park is a must visit location, especially for those who adore waterfalls and scenic cliff views. This place took my breath away.
As any photographer knows, the pre-sunrise alarm always arrives too early. But this wasn’t the case the morning we set out for the Letchworth State Park. Perhaps it was dreaming of the first light on the canyon or the magical approach of dawn looming over the horizon, but waking up at 4am wasn’t difficult. I was instantly grateful that I had surrounded myself with people on this trip who were just as committed as I was to the new experiences.
When we arrived, that brilliant orange was just beginning to spill over the horizon. In the distance the Genesee River roared through the gorge and over three major waterfalls, which were anchored between the cliffs. As we all sat on the ground capturing the beauty before us, I made it a point to breathe in that sacred moment in time that I knew I’d forever replay in my mind.