Hanging out with sweet and gentle Merlin
My blog is normally centered around our athletic pursuits, race reports, and other fun outdoor adventures as vegans living in Vermont. However, I wanted to write about a visit to a special place that inspires me to not only be a strong athlete, but to be a better person. Last weekend we made the 7 hour journey to The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York which is centered in the Finger Lakes region.
Several years ago I discovered discovered one of the most amazing non-profit, rescue organizations called The Farm Sanctuary co-founded by Gene Baur, a modern-day super hero for animals. The Farm Sanctuary is dedicated to ending exploitation of animals raised for food production and educating the public about the realities of factory farming. The Farm Sanctuary has shelters in California and New York where they provide life-long care for hundreds of animals rescued from factory farms, abusive environments, stockyards and slaughterhouses. Their endless compassion and kindness towards farm animals has been an inspiration to me. It brings tears to my eyes to think about all the stories and animals that have been saved and loved by these incredible people.
The famous Turpentine Turkey!
The rescue efforts of the Farm Sanctuary have truly touched my heart over the last several years. Scott and I sponsor the care of a big grey goose named Yvette on a monthly basis. We made a trip out to the Farm Sanctuary three years ago where we had the privilege of spending quality time with the amazing animals residing there. I was deeply moved and fell in love with the animals and the Farm Sanctuary.
Scott thought we should make the trip this year for their annual Celebration for the Turkeys which is an amazing event. I have wanted to do this for several years now and I’m so grateful we got to have the experience. The celebration is a Thanksgiving dinner made specially for all the rescued Turkeys on the Farm Sanctuary. This is one of the most heart warming gestures I have ever witnessed in person. About 300 animal lovers (many vegan if not most) came to the Farm Sanctuary to celebrate with the turkeys. Many drove hundreds of miles like Scott and myself to be there for the special day.
Before the turkeys enjoyed their feast, everyone got to spend quality time with the other animals on the Farm Sanctuary. I love walking around on the grounds and visiting the animals. This was my favorite part of the trip. These beautiful animals are all so special with unique personalities and amazing stories. Even while many have an incredibly difficult past full of suffering and horror, they have learned to forgive and trust people. I only wish I could be around these animals on a regular basis. That would be a dream come true for me……
After the Celebration for the Turkeys, we then headed back to the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel right on Lake Seneca where we stayed three nights. This is where the most delicious Thanksgiving dinner awaited all of us in a very large ballroom. Anyone who still wonders what vegans eat should check out my Food and Beverage Report below for photos of this decadent vegan feast. We had a really enjoyable evening and met some wonderful fellow vegans who were sitting at our table. It was the first time we’ve been to an event with so many like-minded people where we could speak freely and eat everything offered.
Susie Coston feeding pumpkins to the pigs
We both enjoyed listening to all the inspiring speakers including Gene Baur, Susie Coston, and Zoe Weil. One of the most important messages of the evening for me came from Zoe Weil, a humane educator and author. As vegans we are sometimes overwhelmed with so much information about the horrors, suffering, and unspeakable abuse that goes into exploiting and raising animals for food, other human use and profit. Every day there is a new undercover investigation coming out in the news and social media exposing abuse, violence and neglect in the animal food industry. Every day I learn of a new nightmarish way that animals are suffering needlessly at the hands of humans. This can effect a person deeply and eventually it can be the fuel for the fire that burns inside us. But how we manage this anger and fire within us is extremely important. Zoe talked about how as vegans we can either be a “forest fire” or a “camp fire” when living among non-vegans. It is easy to become a forest fire where people run from us when possessing so much anger and knowledge about animal agriculture. I truly understand this because I was absolutely furious when I first learned about the atrocities and suffering on factory farms 7+ years ago. But we can also be the camp fire where people are drawn to us and want to be around our warmth. Honestly I have been both the forest fire and the camp fire throughout my years as a vegan. After hearing Zoe speak, I truly want to do a better job of being the campfire and showing more kindness and compassion to all humans. When we become the camp fire that Zoe illustrated, we do more good for the animals.
One of the best aspects of the day was meeting my personal hero, Gene Baur, author of the book Farm Sanctuary and co-founder of The Farm Sanctuary. I highly recommend his best seller! Gene recently completed the Lake Placid Ironman and is an accomplished marathon runner. He will also be running in the Boston Marathon with me in April 2014. While Gene is an amazing vegan endurance athlete, I am also inspired by his compassion for both animals and people alike. Knowing that Gene is out in the world saving animals and inspiring so many people gives me comfort and hope. He is a true role model for all of us no matter what path we choose in life.
Running in the Watkins Glen Area
We were able to enjoy a nice 6 mile run on Saturday before the event and then a 10 mile run on Sunday morning. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day with bluebird skies and temperatures in the high 50s F. We did a little running on a road along Lake Seneca for 3 miles and then ran another 3 miles around the town of Watkins Glen which was fun. It was nice to run right from our hotel.
Sunday morning the weather was warmer for our run but we had showers off an on the first 5 miles and then a bit more steady on the 5 miles back. We weren’t soaked and the rain was actually pleasant. I found a bike path on Mapmyride.com earlier that week and it turned out to be a really great place to run. This was the Catherine Valley Trail that started in Watkins Glen and went for almost 12 miles. We ran 1 mile from our hotel down Franklin Street to 12th Avenue and then followed the signs for the trail head. This was a lovely packed gravel and dirt trail that went along the canal for a few miles. Then it took us through the quaint little town of Montour Falls with an amazing waterfall. We then found ourselves back on a really nice wooded trail where we continued on until we hit 5 miles. We were only going to run 9 miles that morning but the trail was so nice we decided to make it 10 miles (5 miles out and then back). Because of the rain I didn’t bring my camera. So before we headed back to Vermont on Monday, we drove to Montour Falls to snap a few photos for my blog . I really look forward to running on this trail next year! Hopefully we’ll run a few more miles on it.
Food and Beverage Report:
Eating delicious vegan food, pastries and soy lattes was also a highlight of our long weekend. This is all easy to find in Watkins Glen thanks to the presence of the Farm Sanctuary and the many vegans that make the pilgrimage to the Farm Sanctuary every year in the summer and fall. Even the fancy hotel where we stayed is very vegan friendly. On Friday night I had a delicious white bean cake dinner with a relish, soft kale and asparagus. Scott enjoyed a vegan veggie burger which was also very tasty.
For breakfast after both of our runs, we made our way to the best place in town called the Glen Mountain Bakery and Deli Market a stone throw from the hotel. They have several vegan pastries and cookies and the best soy lattes! The deli also has many vegan offerings. They have about 7 lunch choices that are vegan. They use a very tasty seitan for their vegan sandwiches. Their tofu vegan veggie burger was also a yummy option I had for lunch. We even went in there at 7am before our ride home (when it was quiet) and had them make us lunch for the road which was most welcomed during our drive through the Adirondack wilderness! This café was very cozy and friendly even when it was so busy with the Farm Sanctuary visitors and many locals. The staff was really nice and I enjoyed the atmosphere and service. I only wish we had a place like this here in Vermont!
Saturday night’s celebration at the hotel was a delicious buffet vegan Thanksgiving meal that was truly amazing. A picture says a thousand words so here is what we ate:
On Sunday evening after a few wine tastings, we had a terrific dinner at the Crooked Rooster Brewpub also within walking distance from our hotel. We had been here 3 years ago so we were looking forward to our return. We love brewpubs and fresh beer so it was a treat to have their beer once again. For dinner we both had the vegan blackbean burgers which were excellent and went well with the cocoa porter!
The Finger Lakes region is also a famous wine country where there are hundreds of vineyards and wineries along the different lakes. It is no secret that we both love wine and tasting the many different offerings. The Farm Sanctuary gave us a list of vegan friendly wineries (where no animal products such as egg whites are used in the fining process). So we returned to one of our favorites, Lakewood Vineyards on Friday evening which has some of the best port we have ever had. We also tried three wineries on the other side of the lake on Sunday afternoon. Catherine Valley Winery, Silver Thread Vineyard, and Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars all showed us a lovely wine tasting experience. We left with wine from all three wineries to stock up for the winter months here in Vermont.
Lake view from our hotel window
Overall it was such a great weekend trip with so many precious memories. I can’t wait to return next year and maybe we’ll get to run with Gene on the Catherine Valley Trail.
This favorite quote of mine reminds me of everyone at the Farm Sanctuary:
“To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson