I'm standing at the bow of the Maid of the Mist as it struggles up the Niagara River. The temperature gradually declines and I shiver as the fog thickens. Surrounded by the cool vapor, I close my eyes and all I can hear is the thunder of the powerful rapids. When I open my eyes, I can barely make out the rocks at the bottom of the American Falls. I lean against the railing and grin as water cascades down my face. This is completely new to me; something I've never experienced before.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
The next morning, I'm sitting at the edge of a glassy pond soaking in the beauty and stillness all around me. I am alone, yet surrounded by a living world of activity and purpose. A solitary bird sings it's morning song as the sun rises above the tree tops. My eyes are drawn to a colorful butterfly perched on a cattail. Everything around me is fully alive. I lean down. Through the crystal clear surface I watch hundreds of tiny black tadpoles swimming madly back and forth. Completely unaware of my presence, they live in a world of their own. Smiling to myself, I rise and skip barefoot through the soft grass, my feet wet from the dew. A grazing deer notices my presence and leaps out of sight.
Hours later I find myself standing on a gravel path in the center of Watkins Glen State Park. Surprisingly, this sublime wonder of nature is almost hidden in the middle of a common town. Beautiful beyond words, this magical place takes my breath away. I feel as if I've stepped into a world of fantasy. Walls of rock covered in moss and foliage rise on either side of me. A waterfall cascades down the gorge and snakes it's way over 2 miles of stone. As water drips down on me like rain from the leaves above, I glance upwards and see the sun shining through the trees. Inhaling deeply, I taste the fresh moist air and know that there's nowhere else I'd rather be.
New York is famous for its enormous city, a concrete jungle of flashing lights and busy traffic; people constantly come and go. My family traveled to the Empire State and were surrounded by something completely different: natural beauty and tranquility. Wonders of nature like Niagara Falls and Watkins Glen made New York State a wonderful place long before the city emerged. We felt as though we were stepping back in time to a world with fewer cares and more time to appreciate the creation blossoming around us. My family had the pleasure of experiencing the quieter side of this northeastern state and enjoyed every minute.
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