Thus really sublime and grandiose effects of Nature are apt to lose their edge for us by over-popularization, as many of her scenes and moods have come to seem platitude from being over-painted. Niagara has suffered far more from the sentimental tourist and the landscape artist than from all the power-houses, and one has to make a strenuous effort of detachment from its excursionist associations to appreciate its sublimity.
Thus Colin and I discussed, in a somewhat bored way, whether we should trouble to visit the famous Watkins Glen, as we sat over supper in a Watkins hotel, one of the few really comfortable and cordial hotels we met in our wanderings, and we smiled to think what the natives would have made of our conversation. Two professional lovers of beauty calmly discussing whether it was worth while walking half a mile to see one of the natural, and national, wonders of America! Why, last season more than half a million visitors kodaked it, and wrote their names on the face of the rocks! However, a great natural effect holds its own against no little vulgarization, and Watkins Glen soon made us forget the trippers and the concrete footpaths and iron railings of the United States government, in the fantasies of its weirdly channelled gorge and mysterious busy water.
Watkins itself, despite its name, is sufficiently favoured by Nature to make an easy annual living, situated as it is at the south end of the beautiful Seneca Lake, and at the head of a nobly picturesque valley some twenty miles long, with a pretty river spreading out into flashing reed-grown flats, sheer cliffs and minor waterfalls, here and there a vineyard on the hillside, or the vivid green of celery trenches in the dark loam of the hollows, all the way to—Elmira! The river and the trolley run side by side the whole charming way, and, as you near Elmira, you come upon latticed barns that waft you the fragrance of drying tobacco-leaves, suspended longitudinally for the wind to play through. On the morning of our leaving Watkins, we had been roused a little earlier than usual by mirthful sounds in the street beneath our hotel windows. Light-hearted voices joking each other floated up to us, and some one out of the gladness of his heart was executing a spirited shake-down on the sidewalk—at six o’clock of a misty October morning. Looking out, we caught an endearing glimpse of the life of the most lovable of all professions.