Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ithaca is Gorge-ous!

    We spent 4 days in Ithaca in upstate New York the beginning of August. Now, we've spent lots of time there in the past several years, as my younger daughter has been in Veterinary school there. This time, though, we were there in the summer and had nothing we had to do except be tourists. The Finger Lakes region is beautiful in the late spring, summer, and early fall. The rest of the year it is usually cold, grey, and often snowy, so we were looking forward to exploring some places we hadn't been before. 

At the top of the list was Robert H Treman State Park in Ithaca. An acquaintance of mine who has traveled far and wide has been after me since we first went to Ithaca top visit this place, which he thinks is one of the most spectacular that he has seen anywhere. For some reason our schedule never seemed to work out to go there, although my wife and daughter had been to the lower (and more visited) portion of the park several years ago. He meant the up[per part of the park, though, sometimes known as Enfield Gorge.  After a short walk from the parking lot along the Gorge trail, you turn a corner and are greeted by the sight above.  This tiered natural spillway is fascinating, but the picture really can't convey the almost magical appearance of the vale it runs through. 

Walking further along, the water drops suddenly, a;most like ma log flume ride!  This is looking back at the spillway from the flume.

Here's ahot of the fulme itsel. All these pictures were taken with the lousy camera in my aging i-phone 3. 

crossing the bridge seen in the first shot to the other side of the gorge. Much of the original construction of the trails was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the great Depression. 

The rock in the Finger Lakes region is composed of layers of sedimentary Shale, Limestone, etc, and erodes fairly easily. The upper part of the gorge, which we're seeing, was all carved by the water since the last Ice Age, which ended only 10,000 years ago.

A turn of the trail reveals another small waterfall.

Looking back up the trail to the bridge we just crossed about 100 feet back, and the head of the Falls. 

The view from the head of the small falls reveals a broad expanse of water that looks very attractive to swim in. Although swimming is allowed at the lowermost falls, which we'll come to later, it is prohibited (for very good reasons) here. 

This falls is actually not that small, and very broad, as seen above...

and still better here. 

The stacks of rocks testify that not everyone respects the rule to stay out of the water here!

My younger daughter and I on the wall of the overlook to the falls above, along with Rory and Zoe, who made the hike with us. They both really wanted to go in the water!

My wife with my younger daughter. 

My younger daughter with her dog, Rory.

I included this somewhat blurry picture to show the stone path and stairs of the gorge trail,and to give some idea of the height of the wall of the gorge.

Looking back at the small, tiered falls and the pool below it. 

Turning the corner at the far end of the pool one finds... 

The top of Lucifer Falls. Perhaps swimming in the pool wouldn't be such a good idea after all!

This shot of the walls of the gorge above Lucifer falls shows the moss and ferns that grow in the cool, moist environment.... more akin to a tropical rain forest than upstate New York!

More of Lucifer Falls.

And still more..

I took this shot at an angle to give a better idea of the length of Lucifer Falls. which continues still further below. 

Here is the lower part of Lucifer Falls.

Another portion of  the wall of the gorge, with part of the falls just seen (hazy) at the bottom. The combined drop of Lucifer Falls is 115 feet.

When you descend to the bottom of Lucifer falls, you can continue on the Gorge trail down to the lower falls, or do as we did and cross the stream at the bridge, and proceed back up the 222 steps and switchbacks of the  Cliff stairs onto the Rim trail. Doing so affords you a couple of magnificent overlooks of Lucifer falls, such as this view. 

Note the steps of the Gorge trail, carved into the rock, and how small the hikers appear! There were a moderate number of people (and a few other dogs) on the trail the day we went, which was a perfect day for hiking - overcast, and about 75 degrees. They ran the gamut from children, older couples, and guys with their girlfriends (or boyfriends). 

A view from the second overlook - you'd be able to see more in the fall or spring here.

At the head of the rim trail, this man made bridge was washed out, showing that the this seemingly gentle stream can pack a lot more wallop when the water flow is high. It had been dry for a couple of weeks prior to our visit. 

We got back into our car, and drove down to the lower entrance to Robert Treman State park. This gives access to the lower falls and the swimming area, open seasonally. The water looks greenish due to the minerals, but is actually very clean and clear.

The water is quite deep at the base of the falls, thanks to this dam. 

Deep enough to allow jumping off a springboard!

As it was a cool; day (and the water temperature was listed as 66 degrees), we hadn't brought our bathing suits, although there is a changing house a short distance away. 

My younger daughter in front of the lower falls, which are much bigger than they look from a distance!

This young couple asked my daughter to take a picture of them... as I had snapped her jump 2 pictures back, I took one, too!

Our parking receipt was good for any New York State Park on the same day, so we made a short drive over to another famous Ithaca gorge, Buttermilk Falls. 

Swimming is also allowed here in the summer, but only on weekends, while it allowed every day during the summer at Robert Treman. 

My wife and daughter had hiked the rather steep trail here while I was at Historicon a month ago, and said the upper part of the Falls here is also very impressive. They had visited after a rainy week, and the water flow was much greater, the water cascading on the lower portion being white and frothy, which is what gave the Falls its name. Ah well, a hike for another day!

After resting up for a bit, we headed out to our favorite restaurant in the area, The Mahogany Grill,, on Aurora Street (aka "Restaurant Row", in Ithaca NY. The food and ambiance are outstanding, and everything we had there was superb. Definitely have the french fries with white truffle oil and shaved parmesan cheese - fattening but oh so good!  They feature fresh, locally grown food and wines wherever possible, and this is a major agricultural area.

Another favorite restaurant in the area is The Boatyard Grill on Lake Cayuga, Ithaca, NY. Don't ask me how they manage to keep palm trees alive this far North, though! Great drinks and view of the lake, and good seafood, steaks, etc. Very varied crowd form college students to young professionals to older couples like ourselves. Great decor and ambiance, too!


  1. Good pun, Peter!

    That is a ruggedly scenic area. Your photos reminded me of landscapes from the movie, "Last of the Mohicans." To me, turning the falls into a swimming attraction compromises the natural beauty of the falls but that is result of "Safety First" I suppose.

    Really enjoy your travelogues!

    1. I don't really think it mars the lower falls in either case, and both are only open for swimming for 3 months out of the year anyway. The pun is hardly original - it is the local tourist slogan, and is on T shirts sold in the area as well!

      The similarity to the terrain of the film is no coincidence; the Finger Lakes area was part of the territory of the Iroqouis Confederation - the Mohawk, Oneida, Onandaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations. Indeed, all but one of the above have lakes in the area named after them, although only Cayuga and Seneca are properly considered part of the Finger Lakes, being respectively the Longest and Largest of the group.

  2. The gorge and all it contains are very dramatic scenery. Looks like a very nice day out in the woods.

    1. They are quite striking, Joe. Despite the appearance, the Gorge trail really isn't arduous to climb. It is closed in winter due the combined hazards of slipping and falling rock.

  3. Great post. Always interesting to see beautiful scenery from across the Pond..

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. The pictures really don't do the scenery justice, either!

  4. Great looking photos, it looks like a very nice day out.