Since the early 1800s, people have risen before dawn on the brink of the northeastern escarpment of New York’s Catskill Mountains to watch the sun rise over the Hudson River Valley. Here the Hudson River School of American art was born in the early 1800s, in the area near the former famous Catskill Mountain House.
Buttermilk Falls State Park as seen from a farm along Bostwick Road on West Hill in the Town of Ithaca
In this week’s new episode of Walk in the Park (#57) I take you on a scenic tour from Cayuga Lake to the hills around the Town of Ithaca. We pass waterfalls, parks, vistas over the valley, take a short walk in a nature preserve, pass through farms, cross creeks, and take in sweeping views of hills, gorges, valleys, and Cayuga Lake.
The Town of Ithaca Conservation Board has produced a scenic view brochure which you can get at the Ithaca Town Hall at the corner of Buffalo and Tioga Streets in the city or at the Tompkins County Visitor Center on East Shore Drive at the southeast corner of Cayuga Lake. Or you can download a pdf copy of the map and guide.
But the best way to learn about the scenic views in Ithaca is to take a virtual tour with me in this week’s show. It premiers tonight at 9:00 on Ithaca’s public access cable channel 13 (or 97.3) and will repeat this weekend at 10:30 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. The final scheduled showing will be next Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8:00 p.m. Find out more about Walk in the Park TV.
This week, we ponder the end of summer with music events (such as Porchfest), goldenrod vs. ragweed, waterfalls near and far, a closer look at the new Cayuga Lake view exhibit at East Shore Park; Cops, Kids and Toys motorcycle ride around Cayuga Lake; and a discussion of why swimming is no longer permitted at Stewart Park in Ithaca.
Jim Rundle and Tammy Lovell joined two others to walk across the Grand Canyon last November in a trek that dazzled their senses with awe. They tell their story on this week’s episode of Walk in the Park TV series on Ithaca’s public access channel 13. It is showing now: next scheduled showings are this Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and next Tuesday, February 5, at 8:00 p.m. And at other times as the station chooses. I will post the show online very soon!
The Bright Angel Trail ascends toward the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Jim Rundle
Three people sit near the ruins of the former mill at Buttermilk Falls sometime in the 1800s.
Three people sit near the old mill by the base of Buttermilk Falls, in this old photo provided by photographer and local historian Bill Hecht. As with many of the gorges and mills around Ithaca and the Finger Lakes, mills gave way to those seeking the balm of scenery. This photograph suggests that transition. In the 1866 book, The Scenery of Ithaca and the Headwaters of Cayuga Lake, edited by Spence Spencer, we find that it was a sawmill in his description of this very scene for prospective tourists.
A page about Buttermilk Falls in Spence Spencer's 1866 book, The Scenery of Ithaca and the Headwaters of Cayuga Lake.
Late December brought two snows to the Finger Lakes, leaving a foot or more on our woods, fields, towns, and gorges. I made this short video (3 minutes) of the beauty of Taughannock Falls with the new snow and ice, accompanied by the composition, “First Snow,” by Ithaca musician Duke Koistra.
This short video is also included in my new episode of my Walk in the Park TV series which begins showing this evening (January 10) on Ithaca’s public access cable TV channel 13 at 9:00 p.m. and lasts for half an hour. In this episode, I also include my video “Winter Water” and pictures of a beaver along snowy Fall Creek taken by photographer Deanna Stickler Laurentz. Finally, I discuss the special Deer Management Focus Area hunting season that begins this weekend in parts of Tompkins County. The episode will also be aired on Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and next Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. I plan to have the entire episode online on this blog by the weekend.
Most big waterfalls in the Ithaca area are easy to see. You can marvel at Ithaca Falls from Lake Street or walk the short path into the gorge. You can drive to Taughannock Falls Overlook, and drive into the entrance of Buttermilk Falls State Park with the falls on your right. But 115-feet-high Lucifer Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park requires a walk along a trail, and in winter the Gorge Trail is closed due to ice and rockfall hazards. And in the past, the Rim Trail was closed in winter as well, so it was impossible to go see the big waterfall for several months of the year without trespassing on a closed trail.
By walking a few hundred yards along the Rim Trail in upper Robert H. Treman State Park, you can see Lucifer Falls in the winter.
In recent years, however, the park has kept open the Rim Trail from its start in the upper park to the view of Lucifer. (From there on, from the top of Cliff Staircase the trail is closed.) And park staff recently constructed a new wooden footbridge over a spot that has iced up along the trail in the past.
The Gorge Trail and the Red Pine Trail are closed, but the Rim Trail (yellow) is open from its beginning at the east end of the parking lot to the top of Cliff Staircase. (Map courtesy of Finger Lakes State Parks)
Check out my latest short episode ( 3 1/2 minutes) of Gorges TV to see and learn more about Lucifer Falls and the trails this time of year.