October 12 -15
With more than a couple of days in Ithaca we could relax a bit, do some sightseeing, and perhaps get a good bike ride in. The weather that first day looked a bit sketchy, so we decided to head to Buttermilk Falls State Park, a 811-acre park named for the frothy appearance of its churning waters.
The rock formations within the park are primarily made of Devonian shale and sandstone which, formed in horizontal layers, create flat slabs and angular edges as they erode and fracture. The gorge and waterfalls formed since the last ice age eroded back from the head of a hanging valley. The Park features 10 waterfalls in total, with Buttermilk Falls being the main attraction.
Following the GPS, we inadvertently drove to the upper section of the park and unsure of the trail situation there, drove back down to the parking lot of the southern part. There we decided to do a relatively short hike, heading up the Gorge Trail, which follows Buttermilk Creek as it cascades, dropping about 600 feet along the trail. Then we crossed over on a bridge and descended on the Rim Trail on the other side of the creek.
My lower back issues have curtailed what hiking I can do, something I’ve learned to live with as we all must as we age and accept our limitations but was glad I managed this rather short hike with the help of my hiking poles, which really do assist by allowing the upper body to take some of the strain off the lower.
With threatening clouds still on the horizon, we returned to the car and in a random fashion drove to Cornell University, a private Ivy League and statutory land-grant research university of renown that is a centerpiece of Ithaca. Established in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, Cornell was founded with the intention to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge — from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell’s founding principle, a popular 1868 quotation from founder Ezra Cornell: “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”
Located on the slopes of East Hill, it overlooks the city and Cayuga Lake. Since its founding, it has expanded to about 2,300 acres, encompassing both the hill and much of the surrounding areas. Ascending the hill, we navigated a maze of one way streets to reach a campus full of strikingly beautiful buildings, a number of which reminded me of the one I worked in for almost all of my tenure at UCLA, Kerckhoff Hall.
It took us a bit of time to work our way back to town as we continually got waylaid on the one-way streets, often ending up at a dead end or in a parking lot with no obvious way out. But some good came from it as we stumbled upon Triphammer Falls, a 55-foot waterfall on Fall Creek. The waterfall existed naturally but was altered substantially in order to construct a dam in the 19th century, leading to the formation of Beebe Lake. In 1997, a pedestrian bridge was built over Triphammer Falls to connect Central and North Campus.
It had been a good first day for us and having eaten out quite bit, we decided to take advantage of the kitchen at the Airbnb and cook dinner that night. Figuring we’d do a mini-stir fry with prepackaged vegetables, we stopped in at the Greenstar Food Coop to pick up the ingredients, but found our choices limited as stores of this nature tend not to have a lot of prepared items.
We found enough though to suit our needs and returned to the house for a quiet meal and an evening of catching up on some of the shows we are currently watching (Endeavour, What We Do in The Shadows, and Underground Railroad to name a few).
The weather the next day looked to be fantastic and we took advantage of it to get in a great 35-mile ride that we will remember for a long time. We rode out of the house down Floral Avenue a few miles until at the junction with State Street, we picked up the Cayuga Waterfront Trail which we followed for its length, taking us past the site of the weekly Farmer’s Market (we would visit later on our way out of town) and Cass Park before turning around and connecting with the Black Diamond Trail. It follows the Lehigh Valley Railroad route whose Black Diamond Express once ran from Buffalo to New York City and gives the rail-trail its name.
Like many rails to trails conversions, this one was composed of finely crushed gravel, a smooth enough surface to ride on whose only drawback is the increased friction it provides, shaving a mile or so per hour off your speed. Over its approximate seven-mile length we would climb a very gradual 600 feet (converted rail corridors rarely exceed 4% in grade) to trails end at Taughannock Falls State Park.
When we reached the end of the trail, we stopped for a bit, ate a bar and instead of returning the way we came, we left the trail at Gorge Rd. and rode eastward to Krums Corners Rd. following it south for some time before turning east on Bundy Rd to connect with Trumansburg Rd. and a fast downhill back into town.
Looking for a snack we stopped in at Press Bay Alley, a collection of shops for a bite to eat at Mama Said Hand Pies, which featured a nice selection of both savory and sweet fried pies. We ordered a Potato and NYS Cheddar (buttery mashed potatoes with a N.Y.S. 3-year aged Welsh-style Cheddar from Jake’s Cheese Company, English mustard, and ‘sneaky’ onions), a Mushroom and Oaxaca Cheese (cremini mushrooms roasted with scallion, cilantro, onion, garlic and tossed with Queso Oaxaca) and for the sweet tooth, an Apple Pie (Local apples, sweetened and spiced, served in a shortbread crust). The tab came to $19 including a tip, somewhat pricey but well worth the expense.
It was a perfect finish to a great ride on a beautiful day, one we’ll long recall. We saddled up and returned to the house to clean up and then relax. Later I made a run into town to Wegmans, (a privately held supermarket chain headquartered in Gates, New York with 106 stores) to pick up some more ready made for dinner. Forgetting we had an oven at our disposal I passed up a number of delicious looking entrees instead settling for something we could microwave, that is a Kung Pao Chicken Noodle Bowl and a package of Pan Seared Pork Pot Stickers. Although a second choice, they were both quite good and we had no problem cleaning our plates, leading to another quiet evening watching our favorite streaming programs.
The next day would bring another short hike and surprise, a movie at a theater, but that is a post for another day.
Buttermilk Falls State Park: https://parks.ny.gov/parks/buttermilkfalls/details.aspx
Cornell University: https://www.cornell.edu/
Kerckhoff Hall: https://alumni.ucla.edu/ucla-history-17/
Triphammer Falls: https://www.visitithaca.com/attractions/triphammer-falls-fall-creek
Cayuga Waterfront Trail: https://www.ithacatrails.org/site/Cayuga%20Waterfront%20Trail
Black Diamond Trail: https://ithacatrails.org/site/Black%20Diamond%20Trail
Mama Said Hand Pies: https://www.mamasaidhandpies.com/