Day 2: IDYLLIC WATERFALLS IN IDYLLIC ITHACA
After sleeping in and having complementary continental breakfast, we headed out to Taughannock Falls – finally arriving at the trailhead at 10am. It was hot and sunny and it seemed rather cloudless this day. Fortunately, the trail was mostly shaded and we made a lazy mile-long walk towards the head of the gorge where the 215ft falls awaited. It was still in partial shadow so we knew photography wasn’t optimal this time.
So we headed back to the car and briefly checked out the Taughannock Falls Overlook. Again, the lighting wasn’t optimal and we vowed to return later this day when the falls and the whole canyon would probably be in shadow (for some more even lighting).
Next, we headed to Buttermilk Falls. It was a very popular spot just beyond the south end of Ithaca. Fortunately, the state fees we paid at Taughannock Falls also applied to this park so we didn’t have to pay more. Lots of people were swimming and frolicking at the base of the last 80ft of the falls. But we continued to climb up the trail skirting the creek alongside the falls.
Above the initial climb, we saw another attractive cascade. This was memorable because there was a young couple who set up a little barbeque and a couple of chairs inside the light-flowing cascade itself. It was kind of an interesting scene made possible by the stair-stepped geology of the omnipresent flat shale in the gorge.
We’d continue to climb up further until we got to yet another interesting cascade. We passed by a narrowing of the gorge where the creek was louder and interesting slot formations could be seen below the trail. Obviously they were inaccessible and it was difficult to photograph, but still we were amazed that such scenery could exist here in the Eastern US when we expected to see such slot canyons in the American Southwest. Of course, red sandstone dominated the scene there while here it’s more grey. The cascade above this narrowing of the gorge was where we turned around and headed back to the car park at the bottom of the falls.
Next, we sought the next major falls in the area – Ithaca Falls. This impressive 167ft high, 175ft wide falls was pretty but it was a bit bright for good photos. There were a few people around the falls enjoying themselves either sunbathing or cooling off in the plunge pool below the falls. This was another waterfall I wanted to come back to later in the afternoon.
It was still hot and humid (by now the thunderclouds have grown enough to partially gray out the skies) and still quite early in the afternoon. So before returning to Taughannock Falls, we opted to treat ourselves to some Purity Ice Cream at the crowded ice cream shop at an interesting triangular street corner.
It was 6pm by the time we returned to the car park for Taughannock Falls. The collection fee kiosk was closed at this time (though I doubt we would have to pay twice in a day with out pass anyways). We wasted no more time going back on the walk and heading straight for the 215ft falls.
As expected, the gorge was shadier. There were also heaps of people going the other way. Apparently, it was the end of the day and everyone had their fill of the falls. When we got to the falls, lighting was favorable as expected and we took plenty of shots from the base. There were still rows of chairs from some kind of activity that happened earlier in the day so it was interesting to use them as subjects for some of my more artsy photographs.
At 7pm, we were back at the car and immediately headed to the overlook of Taughannock Falls. Barely a couple minutes later, we were at the overlook though there were still lots of people coming in and out of here so I had to exercise a good deal of patience to try to get decent photos of the stairs with the falls. I think my best shots were from the end of the stairs anyways where I was able to use the people down below as scale for the falls.
By 7:45pm, we were back at Ithaca Falls. As expected, it too had much softer lighting though the top of the falls had an orangish glow from the refracted sun through the thunderclouds. There was a group of people fishing by the base of the falls. It was surprising that we still had this much light even though it was getting late in the evening. That’s what happens when you’re further north latitude and perhaps it was training for the 24-hours of brightness we’d get in Iceland…
As the day wore down into evening, we decided to try out this chain-like restaurant called the Boatyard Grill. The food was surprisingly decent and their dessert rivalled the BJ Pizookie in guilt. Considering all the cheap yet unhealthy fast foods and overpriced foods we tried to avoid on the trip thus far, the Boatyard Grill was easily the best place we had eaten at so far so we allowed ourselves to splurge a bit. We also used this time to reflect on the busy day that had just taken place…
Who’d have thunk that Ithaca, a Cornell University Town right off Cayuga Lake, would have its share of beautiful waterfalls? Yet they’re easily the best waterfalls we’ve seen since Niagara Falls on this trip and yet they’re having a rather dry year rainfall-wise (gee, seems like this is happening everywhere we go). We especially liked Taughannock Falls (if we can get the pronunciation correct on this one) and Ithaca Falls.
Julie and I also noticed that there were numerous young people either working or playing in the Ithaca area and the neighboring lakeside attractions. We reckoned they were probably attending summer sessions at Cornell.
Still unused to East Coast time, we uneventfully ended our day looking forward to more waterfalling in the area tomorrow…
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