The Wild Side Of New York

When one mentions New York, a clarification must be made... the city or the state? I spent a year living almost as far north as one can be and still be in the state of New York. So, one could say it was upstate NY. As a qualifier, I could see Canada from my house, eh. The little town in which I lived is known, if you could say that, for its bridge out of the country. Agriculture is the name of the game, and with winter temperatures cold enough that the military uses the area for cold weather survival training, snow sports are a common past time. Well, that and going to the family lake house in the summers. Originally from West Virginia, I prefer milder temperatures, although snow doesn't bother me one bit. I moved there after Thanksgiving in 2014, and a couple of inches of snow were already covering the ground when I arrived. Fresh from surviving a Caribbean summer, I was met with an upstate NY winter. My first response was to hide from the -40° weather, but after taking a couple of days to thaw out and hike in beautiful Puerto Rico, I realized just how much I missed being outside. The next weekend upon returning, I bundled up and drove to the Adirondacks for a hike. Of course, I was still hiking on top of three feet of packed snow, and with no snowshoes at my disposal, I'm pretty sure I was the person upstate New Yorkers hate to see on their meticulously maintained winter trails. But it was just the motivation I needed. The view at the top of St Regis mountain was spectacular, even in the blustery cold with clouds that concealed most of the view. If there's one thing I learned early in my photography journey, it's that instead of coveting the pictures of places thousands of miles away (I'm looking at all you lucky people living in the American West), one should look in your own backyard, because for sure you will find something the others don't have. I was freezing my butt off, but I had wild, untamed New York at my fingertips. As I started looking for photo destinations, I was overwhelmed by the possibilities. Lakes, mountains, and waterfalls galore. There is no way I can tell you about them all, so let me just introduce you to my favorites! St. Regis mountain, McKenzie mountain trail, and Watkins Glen state park.

My first upstate NY hiking experience was St Regis mountain. That trail easily leads to one of the finest views in the Adirondacks. From the top, one can see Saranac Lake to the east, and around to the high peaks to south. With a fire tower and large bare rocks at the top, a panorama is almost necessary. My favorite thing about this trail was the combination of the hike, the run-ability of the trail, and the reward at the top.

If one hikes McKenzie Mountain solely for the view at the top, then there is the risk of being disappointed. Not that it doesn't have some spectacular views, but McKenzie trail is more about the journey than the destination. At every turn this trail took my breath away, either from climbing up a giant pile of rocks or from the beauty in the trail itself. Every tree, boulder, log, vine, and mushroom seemed to have been placed for maximum effect. Photography in forests can be difficult, but McKenzie trail gave me plenty of subjects to steal the show.

Watkins Glen may only be a state park, but photos of its gorge and waterfalls receive high praise as it commonly flies under the radar of most tourists to the Finger Lakes region. With stone walkways and bridges that pass above, and sometimes behind, the gorge's several waterfalls, the park could almost resemble something from Tolkein's Middle Earth. There is a reason for the regional phrase, "gorges are gorgeous".

With the number of tour buses that arrive through the summer, it can sometimes be difficult to get a shot that isn't crowded with people, but patience, and perhaps going on a rainy late afternoon in October, will help. After my year living on the border, I have accumulated hundreds of photos of various mountaintop views, trails, waterfalls, lakes, etc. There is so much to be explored, and I barely was able to scratch the surface of the natural beauty of the state. I hope you get the chance to visit some of these breathtaking places for yourself, because you won't be disappointed!!

Written by: Amanda Jones

About The Author

Amanda Jones is one of our newest and most talented photographers/writers for "Through The Lens" Online Magazine. An airline pilot by trade, her travels have taken her to incredible destinations, which she has captured for our viewing pleasure through the lens of her trusty camera. Show her some social love and follow her work @

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