Niagara Falls, Europa, and Jabba the Squirrel

Feeling better and finally blogging, again.  Wow — the cold/flu/whatever kicked my behind!  On our recent trip to Syracuse with Mr. & Mrs. Jonathan McNair and Mr. Sheldon Monson, I came down with a serious case of the horribles just about one week ago.  I haven’t been sick in a while, but it still kicked me around mercilessly.  My Beautiful Wife was spared, which was an answer to prayer as far as I am concerned, because it ran through every single one of the rest of us Smiths.

And the timing was a real bummer, too, because I missed a couple of sessions at the camping conference that I would have loved to see in person, although my wife brought back some very good materials.  Thankfully, I was well enough to speak in Rochester, New York (great folks, there–loved the visit! Thank you!) during the church-wide fast, though the next few days I still felt as though I had been dragged around by a truck “Indiana Jones” style.  Today is probably the first day I can say that I feel more than 90% normal (well, 90% normal for me).  And the kids are recovering well, also.  And Beautiful Wife? Continuing just fine, cold/flu/whatever-free!

Niagara Falls (American Falls)
This picture misses showing some of the drop off of the American Falls, but I like having the two humans in the image on the left for scale. (Do you see them?)

Another “bummer” element was the fact that we had planned to stop by Niagara Falls on the way back, as it was simply too incredibly close to ignore.  And while it was amazingly beautiful, even in the winter, it would have been wonderful to visit at a time when I don’t feel like a dog’s leftovers.  The pictures I am adding to this post are from that visit.

As yucky as some of the kids and I felt, though, it was very worth stopping for.  The Falls are absolutely gorgeous, and the raw power of the place is exhilarating to experience. Being without passports, we were limited to seeing the American Falls up close, as opposed to the Canadian “Horseshoe” Falls, which are, perhaps, more iconic, and I thought this might be disappointing.  However, it was not disappointing in the least — really, absolutely amazing.

Canadian & US Flags on border bridge
Mr. Weston! Mr. Arseneault! Can you hear us? So close, and yet so far...

It was a motivation to get our passports, I must say, knowing that we were just yards away from entering the exciting and exotic land of Canada!  What odd and unusual crafts and artifacts they would have had there!  I can scarcely imagine the strange language and dialects we would have heard and experienced, or the unusual rituals and foreign customs of that mysterious land!  What would we use to barter?  How would we communicate?

OK, I’m kidding.  But to be so close to the land of so many of our northern friends and to realize that we couldn’t step foot across that border because we are passport-less Americans was enough of a prod, I think, to finally push us into getting them.  We’ve wanted to for some time, but, like many things that we’ve wanted to do for some time, it just hasn’t risen too high on the “Must do now!” list.

On the “different” side of things, the visit reminded me much of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Many scientists believe that Europa’s icy shell actually surrounds an ocean of liquid water which, predictably, has many excited about the possibility of life there.

Ice in the river at the bottom of the American Falls
Ice in the river at the bottom of the American Falls.

The view that brought Europa to mind was this one, at right.  There was a lot of ice on the river below, and you could tell that at its fringes near the bottom of the American Falls more was forming as the water calmed.  But the activity under the ice and the constant pressing formed numerous cracks and crevices, and looking at it I thought of the icy Jovian moon.  Not exactly the same, I know (check out the real thing here on Wikipedia), but enough to get me on a “Hey, kids, let’s talk about Europa” kick for a good five minutes or so.

The Chubby Squirrels of Niagar
Bo shuda...

And the final treat I have for you (if you don’t think of them as treats, please don’t tell me; I’m still weak and recovering <cough, cough>), is an image of this guy at left: one of the legendary Chubby Squirrels of Niagara. These guys were enormous (the guy pictured here was not the biggest, methinks), and completely lacking in fear of us puny humans.  And no wonder: they likely equate us with giant pockets of free food.  As I stood there in my coat, gloves, and hat, shivering a bit in my post-sickness enhanced chill, Jabba the squirrel, here, looked as warm as could be.  The first one I noticed was actually just a few inches above my head on a tree limb.  I thought to myself, “You are the chubbiest squirrel I have ever seen in my life–how in the world did you get up in that tree?” Of course, looking at me, he could have been thinking analogous thoughts (ahem), but both of us were courteous enough not to say anything.  And, again, he did look warm.  I suppose if it serves a purpose, who can complain?

Yes, it was horrible feeling horrible, but it was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up, and we loved it.  I would definitely like to visit again sometime when it is warmer and we all feel better.  Really, an absolutely stunning sight.

13 thoughts on “Niagara Falls, Europa, and Jabba the Squirrel

  1. Linda Patterson

    The falls look lovely, the squirrel is chubby and cute. The dreadful bug, I hope it does not visit and re-visit and then visit again. It is famous for that, 2 & 1/2 mounths famous for my part with it. Keep warm, eat sensibly and get plenty of rest.

  2. Jabba the Squirrel. I didn’t know that squirrels could get that big – that any rodent this side of a capybara could get that big.

    What might’ve been more charming in context, however, would be a colony of White Squirrels from Olney, Illinois. I’ve seem them. I don’t suppose you have?

    Oh, yes, Europa. Gotta take every opportunity to talk about Europa. “Life in Time: Just Add Water.” Yessirrebob, them evolutionaries sure are a smart bunch. 😀

  3. Teresa

    I hope all of you are 100% really quick.
    I’ve seen the Falls twice, the first time on a planned trip on the way to Montreal, Quebec. The second though was because I didn’t know which exit to take as we approached the city and chose, as is normal, the wrong one. A friend and I were driving from Michigan back to New Hampshire. The exit I took brought us into town and all of a sudden there were the falls to our right! The day was clear and the beautiful rainbow over the falls in plain view. What an unexpected blessing!

  4. I spent 11 Feasts in Niagara, so it always brings back good memories. There is a park on the American side that my dad always liked to go to because you could look right over the edge of the falls. He thought it was exciting. We didn’t like to get too close.

  5. Oh yeah! Since you were on the American side, did you see the gigantic convention center where we used to have the Feast? It’s a big dome-shaped thing. Because the exterior walls were so sloped, some of the more ambitious teenage boys liked to walk up the sides.

  6. Hmmmm… “Big dome-shaped thing” seems familiar, but honestly I’m not sure if we noticed it. I’ll ask the missus if she saw such a thing. In moments when the awe of the falls wasn’t dominating my mind, the awe of my feelings-of-crumminess usually took over, so it might have been right in front of me. Sorry I missed it!

  7. Sorry to take up so much of your comment space, but I wanted to say that I’m glad to hear you were able to visit Rochester. It was one of my dad’s churches for many years in GCG. It was a really fun congregation that would host awesome regional church events regularly.

    The congregation ended up splintering, though, and I’m not sure if any of the original folks are left. I’m glad you were able to stop by.

  8. mike heykoop

    if you do get your passports for an exotic trip into Canada, the Canadian Church Office is only a little more than an hour from Niagara Falls. be sure to come visit!

  9. Will have to send you some photos this summer of Olney White Squirrels. Its illegal to kill them even. I am being revisited over and over again with that flu bug. And the White stuff is keeping me indoors off the slick roads.
    Glad you all were able to enjoy the falls…and glad for photos of which I am content to just view…scared of falls and water!!!

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