There’s always something magical about the first snowfall of the year. Of course it wasn’t Buffalo’s first, nor was it a big snow storm, but it was the first we saw this winter.
If there’s one thing I miss most about Buffalo besides friends and family, it’s the snow. They probably think I’m crazy, but London winter just isn’t as pretty or fun.
The next morning, the ground was covered. I stepped outside before anyone else was ready to leave the house to make the first footprints in the snow.
I walked out into the field behind our house where there’s a small patch of woods and a colourful row of houses on the other side. We used to play here as kids, building igloos, giant snow tigers and sometimes even ice skating on frozen flooded areas. Dark snow clouds hovered in the distance.
It was the perfect day to head up to Niagara Falls, so I went inside to round up the troops.
But first, before it all melted, we wanted to make sure we fit in that all important snowman. My dad brought us black olives for the eyes and a big carrot for the nose. We gave him pine branch antlers and I donated my scarf to snazz him up a bit.
First stop: The river. It’s bitter cold against our cheeks, the wind whipping over over the water, rustling the pampas grass and blowing the snow around our heads.
Walking along a bit, we admired the pop of red berries against the white-grey sky, the brittle branches, the blurred horizon.
We drove off then toward one of the great wonders of the world that sits on our doorstep. 10 minutes later and we could already feel the power of it as we crossed the bridge over the loudly roaring rapids.
If the riverside was cold, Niagara Fall is absolutely fridged. The mist comes down so hard it feels like rain. It’s beautiful this time of year through because as the temperatures drop, the mist clings to the branches and the blades of grass and the berries, hardening into ridged ice shields.
The American side doesn’t have the full on view of all of the waterfalls that you get from the Canadian side, but you can still see some stunning sites.
The nearest bridge that crosses over into Canada – the one most often used by tourists – is called the Rainbow Bridge because you can often see a rainbow appearing in the mist.
Any other time of year, you can walk down for a closer view, but with the slippery ice this time of year, it’s all blocked off. It’s still one of my favourite times to visit though.
It’s funny to think that Niagara Falls used to be “The Honeymoon Capital of the World”. My parents even had their honeymoon there in the late 70s.
It’s changed so much over the years. Cross the border and the Canadian side has become something of a playground with casinos, fun fair attractions and big tacky luxury hotels that host millions of tourists every year.
The American side is really sad, a decrepit place with condemmed homes, full streets of empty shopfronts, boards on windows everywhere you look, abandoned buildings, pollution pumping chemical factories. There’s drugs and gun crimes and, according to the US Census Bureau data released in December, about 25% of people are living in poverty. There’s also a factory – now closed down – where my great grandmother used to work for Nabisco to make Shredded Wheat cereal.
Bloomsburg wrote an interesting article about the area a few years ago that tells more of the story. I also came across an album by Joe Augstell on Flickr with photos of the area and its demise. Sad, sad.
We did see one thing that was worth the drive through the city on the way home though and it features in Joe’s other album about positivity in Niagara Falls. I had no idea what it was so I was happy to find his explanation:
“The house of Prophet Isaiah Robertson in Niagara Falls, New York. Isaiah believes the apocalypse is going to occur in Niagara Falls because the waterfall has magical powers. While some believe and some don’t, nevertheless his house has become an art form that is unique to say the least.”