Since we’ve visited the Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon North Rim, and Black Canyon (Gunnison NP), it was time to make a trip to the “Grand Canyon of the East”, Letchworth State Park. Located on the western edge of New York, Letchworth is a narrow long park that surrounds the Genesee River through deep gorges and multiple waterfalls. Letchworth has eight campground loops but only three allow pets. Due to Mike’s planning, we were able to snag a site in one of the pet loops for six nights. Dogs are allowed on the hiking trails and various overlooks so we were able to take Opie with us during our visits.
We drove the length of the park and stopped at various overlooks with views of the river and various waterfalls but the majority of the sites were located south, including the three large waterfalls (creatively named Upper, Middle, and Lower falls), museum, and visitors center. Since all three waterfalls are relatively close together, a short easy walk along the trail allowed us to view all three while Opie enjoyed the sniffing/peeing opportunities.
While crowds tend to flock to the big three waterfalls, I enjoyed the Wolf Creek cascading waterfalls, located further north. The Genesse River falls 225 feet through this area over wide ravines in 4 different sections. We could only see parts of the cascades on the Gorge trail and the Wolf Creek overlook but I loved the look of the cascades as it flowed over the rocks. It reminded me of a giant open waterslide, except for the imminent death waiting at the bottom of the falls. We enjoyed Letchworth State Park but we covered all the interesting areas within 2 days of driving and hiking; six days is overkill.
After all this nature, it was time to assuage our adrenaline addiction with a trip back to the rollercoaster mecca, Cedar Point Park in Sandusky OH. Boasting 17 roller coasters, Cedar Point has six coasters higher than 200 ft, and is the only amusement park with a coaster in each height category: kiddie, hyper (200ft), giga (300ft), and strata (400ft). Since we love coasters, we try to visit Cedar Point every 3-4 years. This year, we spent two full days at the park (three nights at the campground). That allowed us to try all the coasters we wanted and to repeat favorites. Since we find the experience often differs in the front and back seats, we tried almost all rides twice to see which experience was better. More importantly, staying at Cedar Point’s campground got us into the park an hour early each day so we could ride the newest coaster with only a half-hour wait instead of the 3-4 hour wait it turned into when the main gates opened.
*Warning, the rest of this blog is geared towards coaster-fiends. If this isn’t your thing, you may find it boring.
In the last 7-8 years, a new type of coaster has been making the rounds. Called a steel/wood hybrid coaster, the ride often marries an old wooden coaster track with a new type of steel track (ibox). This allows a super-smooth steel ride but still has a wooden coaster identity due to the structure. Since it is a steel coaster, all kinds of great inversions, corkscrews, and barrel rolls can be done which feels freaky on a wooden coaster frame. We’ve ridden several hybrid coasters in the last couple years and they have become our new favorite coaster.
For 2018, Cedar Point opened a new steel hybrid called Steel Vengeance. Built on the old Mean Streak wooden coaster frame, Steel Vengeance broke 10 world records when it opened, including tallest (205ft), fastest (74mph), steepest (90 degrees), and longest drop (200ft) hybrid coaster. At 2min and 30sec (5740ft), it’s also the longest hybrid coaster and it really did feel like it went on for a long time! We enjoyed the front seat since it gives great views of the tracks, twists, and turns but the back seats are the best on this one with the super-fast speed and it never stops moving. Steel Vengeance was truly an awesome ride.
We had to also hit Millenium Force, a traditional favorite and the world’s first gigacoaster (300ft). On this ride, the back is ok but feels surprisingly tame after all these years. The front seats are the best for this ride. We feel faster in the front and both of us also experienced narrowing of vision during the first banked turn, apparently common due to the sustained g forces at the beginning of the ride (but that just made the whole experience even cooler!). Mike even did a new trick of catching a gnat in his teeth on this ride!
We were disappointed with Rougarou, the floorless coaster. We rode it when it first came out a few years ago but it’s become bumpy and with the restraints close to the head, we ended up with headaches from banging our heads during the turns and twists. Even though it’s only a few years old, it feels like an old coaster. We were also really sad that Magnum has become a “no go” for us moving forward. Magnum, build in ’89, was the first hypercoaster (200 ft) and we’ve enjoyed it every time we visit. Due to its age, Magnum is now WAY too rough and herky-jerky. In the front car, we often felt like the back was pushing us around and the car felt very jumpy on the track. We both ended up with headaches and the ride only has lap bars!
Top Thrill Dragster, built in 2003, was the tallest coaster at the time and is currently only one of two strata coasters (400 ft). The train is hydraulically launched and moves from 0-120 in 3.8 seconds to climb straight up to 420ft. It’s a great thrill coaster and we think the beginning is the best part of the ride. Both the back and front are great seats for this ride but after 15 years, the track is more bumpy and rough than the last time we rode it.
Maverick is steel coaster that uses linear induction to send the train over the top and halfway through the track. It makes for a smooth quick ride. We did both the front and back seats. The back seats feel faster but we enjoyed the front seats more due to the visibility of the twists and turns.
Valravn is currently the tallest, fastest, longest dive coaster in the world. Dive coasters contain only three rows of seats but 10 seats per row. It also stops the train at the bend of the first 90 degree hill which allows the passengers to look straight down before the train releases for the rest of the ride. Valravn pauses for 4 seconds at the bend of the first hill and then descends 214 ft. The front row gives a perfect view of staring straight down while paused but we found the back a lot more fun since the first drop feels weightless. Overall a really good ride with greed speed and turns.
Now the best for last, Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper, built in 2013, is a wing coaster where pairs of passengers sit on either side of the track with nothing above or below the passenger. Because there is nothing below or above, it feels almost like free-flying. Like suspended coasters, the only seats worth doing are the front seats. Every other seat is obscured by the seat in front but the front gives complete visibility and the sense of nothing around. I love coasters, I love the thrill and stomach-drops, I love the height, inversions, corkscrews, banked turns, bunny hills and completely immerse myself in the experience. Gatekeeper was the only coaster at Cedar Point where I loved the ride but also felt actual fear. I rode in the seat furthest away from the track and therefore felt like there was nothing around me at all. During the loops, spins, and dives, the seat swings away from the track and I feel like I was going to get flung out into space. Mike started laughing during the ride since my usual screams of glee had turned into screams of fear during some of the twists and turns. After the ride finished, Mike couldn’t stop laughing at how hard I screamed during the ride. With the exception of Tatsu in Magic Mountain, this is the only coaster that gave me fear-sweats. I’m so ready to do it again!
And that is how we ended our East Coast tour for 2018. After Cedar Point, we went south to Red Bay to finish off any last warranty work before heading back to the DC area to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving.