Looking for a way to burn off some of those excess Christmas calories, when I heard that Boxing Day was "dollar admission day" at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens it didn't take long to decide to take a nice leisurely run out to the Buffalo/Lackawanna line. And wanting to see what might be going on along the lake shore, I planned my route via the Outer Harbor and Ridge Road in Lackawanna.
Bundling up, and lacing up my running shoes, I headed south for the Outer Harbor. As I passed through downtown I found people everywhere making their way to the hockey tourney, with folks parking from near the Marine Drive apartments all the way to Buffalo River Fest Park. It was great to see all that life downtown on a Sunday afternoon. A great description of yesterday's hockey action by Andrew Kulyk can be found here.
As I made my way over the railroad tracks on the windswept Ohio Street bridge, I tried my best not to get blown into traffic on that barren, sidewalk-less expanse of concrete. I wasn't sure what signs of life I would find when I got to the other side, knowing that Outer Harbor magnet Dug's Dive wouldn't be open. But not to worry: I found the NFTA Small Boat Harbor well "stocked" with ice fisherpeople.
As it turns out, the folks there told me, this is looking to be a banner year for ice fishing. Most years, right around now is when folks are first able to get out on ice thick enough to safely hold the weight of them and their equipment.
But the harsh weather earlier this month, especially in the south part of the city, enabled folks to venture safely out on the ice by mid-month.
The NFTA allows use of the Small Boat Harbor for ice fishing, strictly at-your-own-risk. Although the folks ice fishing certainly rank among Buffalo's heartiest, it's still a chilly proposition spending hours out on the ice along the edge of the lake. And as soon as I stopped running to take some pix, I felt it, too (or rather, stopped feeling my fingers). It made me sorely wish that Bill Zimmerman's Seven Seas Sailing School shack could be converted in winter to serve up lots of steaming mugs of hot cocoa--or whatever beverage warms you best.
Getting back on the run, I headed south for the Union Ship Canal but soon came up short. From the south edge of the Small Boat Harbor area all the way to the Lackawanna line I ran into snow barrier after snow barrier--clearly, I would have to work for this. In many places I couldn't even find the trail--this deer and I were equally lost and confused, I think.
Especially past the southern end of the Outer Harbor Parkway, where in some places the only north-south link is the elevated expressway and the trail running alongside. I understand that we've been socked with some severe weather this year, and that keeping paths clear in a windy, drift-prone area can be a constant battle. But given that the Big Weather Event was over three weeks ago, couldn't the path have been cleared by now?
The situation was especially tricky at the Union Ship Canal, where the only way across it is either up on the elevated expressway, or below on a pedestrian bridge blocked on each end by hills of plow-deposited snow. For landside recreation along the Outer Harbor, the only link between the west side of Lackawanna and Buffalo's Outer Harbor is the Outer Harbor Trail. Snow removal is going to have to be addressed if we really want to see year-round recreational use of the Outer Harbor.
Heading through Lackawanna, crossing the new bridge over the tracks provides an outstanding view of both St. Barbara's and Our Lady of Victory Basilica. Rounding the corner by Father Baker's, it's just a block or two back across the Buffalo city line, and into the Botanical Gardens. After the brisk Lake Erie winds, the almost tropical atmosphere of the conservatory was a most welcome change.
Although the architecture of the conservatory buildings--majestic both within and without--and the amazing worldwide collection of plants make for a rewarding enough destination, I found much to my delight that the buildings also had been transformed into a holiday wonderland.
First, it seemed like there were Poinsettias everywhere--right at home in the tropical atmosphere. And holiday decorations like this Santa Claus (not sure if that's his naughty or nice list), and the magical garden railway, done up quite nicely by the great Western New York Garden Railway Society.
The sleepy little town in the layout is fortunate to be served by both high-speed rail and a trolley!
I also got to see the new Arcangel gallery, dedicated to the memory of the tragically killed Brent Arcangel. It's full of high quality artwork, and definitely enhances the experience of visiting the gardens.
The sun was setting as the gardens closed, and I headed out the front door just in time to catch a beautiful view of Lackawanna, where I was headed to cap things off with some dinner. Broadway Bobby's on Ridge Road next to the post office is one of my favorite stops after a long run out that way. They have an unbeatable $4 (including tax!) special of two slices of great pizza along with a bottomless fountain drink. And that part is especially nice, because on a nice long run--whatever the weather--you're going to work up a bottomless thirst. After the refueling stop, it was just a matter of buying a newspaper and catching the South Park bus toward home. Not a bad Boxing Day adventure.
I hope that you and yours are enjoying the blessings of the holiday season, and that the new year has good things in store for you--and all of us here in WNY!