Orange, Yellow and Red Maple Leaves

Kent and I took Thursday and Friday off the first weekend of October to take a 50-mile hike in southeastern Indiana. We are trying to become more experienced backpackers and outdoorsmen, so we thought our first backpacking trip should be one close to home. We had already planned this hike in May, but then Kent surprised me with an awesome trip to Michigan, so we rescheduled the hike for October. However, as the weekend quickly approached, we both became apprehensive and nervous about the 4-day, 3-night hike. We are inexperienced backpackers and were hesitant as to whether we'd able to carry 30-pound backpacks for 50 miles, so we decided to take another trip instead.

After brainstorming different destinations such as Washington D.C. and Michigan, we opted to explore Niagara Falls and Toronto.

Wednesday/Thursday
After we finished work Wednesday evening, we drove three hours to Columbus, Ohio where we stayed in a Ramada Inn. Had we stayed in Indianapolis Wednesday night we could've saved money, but we also would have lost time on Thursday and got to our destination early evening rather than early afternoon. Our destination was Allegany State Park, an expansive park in northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York. The New York section is more than 65,000 acres, is New York's largest state park and is the area we rented a campsite.

We arrived to our destination around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, set up camp and explored some of the area's trails which also double as snowshoe and cross country skiing trails in the winter. Since we didn’t have too much time before the sunset, we did a short, sub-par hike and then headed to Red House Lake. We walked around the lake and hung our hammock between two trees. The view was perfect with the lake's backdrop of rolling hills full of green, orange, yellow and red trees. The pictures don't do the sea of fall colors justice.

The end of our hike!

Enjoying the hammock on Red House Lake!
We then returned to our campsite where I luckily got our fire started (without lighter fluid) and cooked some sausage and potatoes for dinner. We enjoyed some local beer around the campfire while our other neighbors enjoyed the warmth of their campers. In preparation for the cold, we (as in I) packed smart and brought warm sleeping bags and 15 covers that kept us warm throughout the night.

Friday
In the morning, we broke down camp, reheated some potatoes and sausages for breakfast and then headed north to Niagara Falls. We drove through Buffalo, New York and stopped briefly at Anchor Bar, the original home of the buffalo wing. It was a unique joint, right in the heart of buffalo. The super crispy wings were some of the best I’ve had.

Enjoying our wings!
We got back in the car and headed thirty minutes north to Niagara Falls State Park. We parked in a nearby parking lot for $5 and headed to the edge of the falls. I’ve seen pictures of Niagara Falls before, but just like the Grand Canyon, it is completely different and more breathtaking in person. The falls are monstrous and the water pours over the edge fast and without forgiveness. 

We knew the falls were best viewed from the Canadian side, so we got to straight what were on the U.S. side to do, the Maid of the Mist boat tour. This boat takes people out on the falls every 15 minutes. It was only $17 per person, included a poncho and literally took you to the bottom of the falls. It was a windy day, so the mist was blowing every which way leaving Kent and I with wet faces and hair but a memorable experience. Since it was a cold, Friday there weren’t many people and we were able to get on the boat immediately. The ride was definitely worth the money and was an experience I will remember.
Soaking wet from Maid of the Mist!

American Falls from the U.S. side. Horseshoe falls in the distance.
Once we walked around the falls a little more on the U.S. side, we got in the car and headed to the Rainbow Bridge to go through Canadian customs. I had been warned that customs would ask a lot of questions and they most certainly did. Then they proceeded to make us pull over and check our car since we were first-time visitors to Canada. Kent and I laughed because the car was so dirty and full of so much stuff they had a hard time looking through it. We got the "all clear" and then headed to the Canadian side of the falls. 

Here we walked along the edge of the falls, getting great views of the Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil falls. All three of these falls cumulatively make up Niagara Falls. As I mentioned previously, it was a rather windy day so on our way from the parking lot to the viewing point we got rained on from the mist that was blowing up and behind the falls. While the mist can bring rain, it also can bring rainbows and we were able to see plenty of those as well. 


Canadian side of Horseshoe falls.


Kent and I also soaked up the Wi-Fi in the Visitor's Center because at this point in time we realized we were in a different country and our phones would be charged out-of-country fees if we used the internet or GPS for directions. Therefore, we used the Wi-Fi on our phone to get directions to Toronto, screen shot the directions and then hoped we didn’t get lost.

We got in the car and navigated to our Toronto hostel flawlessly, minus the incredible amounts of traffic. This experience showed us that our generation is solely dependent upon our phones for navigation, but here I was using an atlas we found in Kent’s car to make sure we were still on the right path.

We arrived to All Days hostel, a quant and affordable hostel on the north side of downtown. It luckily had parking right outside on the street, so this hostel worked out great. We made sandwiches, checked into our room and then headed down the street to the Bloor-Yorkville area where we found a British pub called the Oxley. Here we each tried a local beer and then headed back to the hostel to rest up for our full day in Toronto. 

Saturday/Sunday 
We woke up on Saturday ready to explore the city of Toronto. Home to 2.5 million people and the biggest city in Ontario, Toronto has a big-city feel without being overwhelming. The public transit system is relatively easy to navigate and the city streets are wide and clean. 

We started our morning at Kensington Market, a place highly recommended on all of the travel sites. It is an area full of unique, local shops and fruit stands. We walked around the area and got cappuccinos at a small coffee shop, Casa Coffee. We briefly explored the area since most shops didn’t open till noon and headed to another popular area, West Queen Street. This neighborhood was full of shops and restaurants as well but was a little less hippy than Kensington Market. Here we got brunch at Big Rock Brewery, a small restaurant I highly recommend.

Kent, being a huge soccer fan, bought tickets to the Toronto FC match for 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, so after brunch we headed to a nearby bar where fans gathered before the match. We hung out there for a while and then joined in their march to the stadium. It began to rain a little and since few fans were in the walk, Kent and I were even able to carry flags in the march. It was a rather comical event that two Hoosiers were carrying flags with 15 people they didn't know to a Toronto FC match.
Kent carrying the flag during the march.
We enjoyed the rainy, cold match and got to see Josey Altdiore and Michael Bradley play, two big-time players from the U.S. national team. Once the match was over with a 3-1 Toronto FC victory, we headed East to the Distillery District, another area we had read a lot about online.

We walked part of the way to avoid the crowds filling the streetcars from the game. After walking for a while, we tried to maneuver the public transport, but ended up walking all the way to the Distillery District. This night was the first time I had walked so much since our nights in the UK. At the Distillery District, we enjoyed a quick bite at a small French café and then we headed back to the hostel.


Sunday morning we woke early to join fellow Liverpool FC fans at a nearby English pub and were only able to order coffees since we were out of Canadian dollars. We cheered on Liverpool as they played their rival, Everton, in the Merseyside Derby. The restaurant was a fun atmosphere to watch the game, packed with Liverpool fans. They tied unfortunately, so not victor was crowned. We then settled in the car and headed back home, with atlas in hand until we arrived to Detroit.

Tips:
1. I would only allocate 1 day to Niagara Falls unless you are staying in a nearby city.
2. I would highly recommend All Days hostel in Toronto. It is an affordable place to stay and still resembles a smaller hotel.
3. Use public transportation in Toronto! It is relatively easy to navigate and will save your feet a lot of pain!

Other photos:
Our hammock spot.



Rainbows!


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