While confined with COVID-19 we’ve had time to talk about our past adventures. Of the following episode our memories differed. I thought it happened the night before we saw Niagara, Charles thought it was the next night. I dug out my journal and found we both were right. We first saw Niagara late one afternoon but went back the next morning. This camping experience took place the night between.
It was July of 1988 and we were on the first leg of a journey across Canada with tent in the trunk of our 1987 Buick.
After leaving my sister’s house in Raleigh, NC, where we’d enjoyed a fun Fourth of July family weekend, we headed north arriving in Amish country in time to have good daylight setting up our tent. It was a new tent and very simple to put together, or so the instructions said. To us, even in our well lit family room at home practicing, it was tricky making all the poles fit the way they should. It took us almost an hour there by that creek to put it all together but we did it, tent pegs down and rain flap in place.
Our camp site was right by a pretty creek. On the other side cows were plodding home. We’d been charmed and fascinated as we drove through Lancaster and the countryside by little buggies, often driven by ladies in long dresses, mingling with the traffic. We saw boys in black hats baling hay on wonderful neat homesteads along the way.
The next day was a very long one but full of beautiful sights. We wound through Pennsylvania following narrow roads intending to reach Niagara Falls by midafternoon. We purchased beanie weenies, crackers, and apples and ate lunch at a wayside park. As my journal reminds me, “because of my making a wrong turn, we saw a lot more of the Alleghenies than we’d intended to.”
It was late in the afternoon, 6:00, when we arrived at Niagara Falls. First hearing, then seeing Niagara was such an incredible experience. I remember it as a time when I wanted to shout with surprise and ecstasy but instead was struck dumb. Maybe it was a tiny bit like when we first will see Jesus, just totally struck dumb by His Glory.
Tons and tons of water, green and splashing white, thundered over the precipice, cool spray hit our faces, and wonderful rainbows played in the mist, adding unbelievable beauty to the scene. The roar was so loud we couldn’t talk much, just make motions to each other as we moved from one viewing place to another.
We enjoyed the sights so much that we let ourselves be late looking for a campground. By the time we found a camp, then drove cautiously between rows of quiet tents to our site, it was thick dark. We had a flashlight but decided quietly not to use it so we wouldn’t waken those sleepy campers. Putting the tent together in the dark was pretty tricky and we were exhausted when finally we crashed on our nice plump air mattress. We weren’t so tired, though, that we couldn’t talk about the prospect of going back to the Falls the next morning. I imagined I could still feel the vibrations from the thundering water as I drifted off to sleep.
I was wakened from a hard sleep by the sound of a tremendous roar, if anything much louder even than Niagara. Through the thin nylon of the tent I saw a huge blinding light coming straight at us. I shook Charles awake screaming, “We’ve set our tent on the railroad track! We’ve got to get out of here!”
By the time we could have gotten out of that tent, the train would have smattered us to pulp. But, as it was, there was a curve in the track and the train cruised on by. It is advisable that campers set up camp while they can see their surroundings. The next morning we observed that there were campers even closer to the tracks than we were and they didn’t look at all stressed or haggard.
The next day was wonderful. We saw the Falls from the Canadian side. We saw them from the Maid of the Mist wearing yellow raincoats. Our ride on the tour boat took us right into the cloud of mist at the foot of Horseshoe Falls, close enough to speed up the heart rate of at least some of us. Our tour guide told us many stories of those who perished when they went over the Falls (some on purpose) and those few who survived. One story that I recall was of a young child who somehow fell out of a boat upriver. No one was able to rescue him before he plummeted over the Falls. But he was rescued below by the crew of the Maid of the Mist. I couldn’t imagine anyone’s surviving such an accident.
We had a picnic lunch near the Falls before we struck out toward Guelph, Ontario. We would go then to Cyprus Lake on Bruce Peninsula, cross a ferry to Wawa, and drive along the shores of Lake Superior, exclaiming over and over at the splendor. But nowhere would we see anything more astonishing and magnificent than Niagara Falls.
Have you started looking for Christmas gifts? How about a fun and inspiring interactive Christmas journal? Check out the link below.