Ithaca, Part 2 (Waterfalls)

Some sources claimed the presence of “over 150 waterfalls within 10 miles” of Ithaca, New York.  I guess it depends on how they’re defined.  Even so, waterfalls seemed to pop into view just about wherever we looked.  As numerous T-shirts and bumper stickers around town reminded us, “Ithaca is Gorges.”

We squeezed a lot of interesting places into our brief trip and naturally that included a lot of waterfalls too.  They all led to Cayuga Lake, a part of the Great Lakes watershed.

I’m presenting them here in the order that we visited them.

Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen State Park

Technically the waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park shouldn’t be included on this list.  Visiting them required about a half-hour to drive over to Watkins Glen at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.  However, I went there in 2006 and loved them so much I had to return on this trip.  I wondered if they could possibly meet oversized expectations from my fading memories.  Happily, they did.

Few walks anywhere could top the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail (map) for the sheer concentration of  amazing features crammed into such a confined space.  Nineteen spectacular drops and cascades lined a narrow slot of less than a mile and a half.  Sure, we had to push through hordes of tourists.  These falls attracted tourists for a reason.  I’ll come back again during the off-season someday and appreciate them with a bit of solitude.

Cascadilla Gorge

Cascadilla Gorge at Cornell University

The Cascadilla Gorge (map) cut through the southern edge of Cornell University.  It offered a scenic path between campus and downtown, a part of the Cornell Botanic Gardens.  Water dropped about 400 feet (122 metres) along the length of the gorge in a series of steps.

I wondered about the name, Cascadilla.  One source claimed “it most likely comes from Spanish, meaning ‘little waterfall.'”  That seemed reasonably plausible although I couldn’t prove it.  The cascades seemed most impressive as a collection, several falling from respectable heights although none really overshadowing the rest.  I could see how some would view them as a set of “little” falls (relatively speaking) all lined up sequentially.

We saw a Cascazilla beer (yes, with a Z) at Ithaca Brewing.  They explained, “The name CascaZilla (Cas-kuh-zil-uh) is a play on both the name of the gorge in Ithaca called Cascadilla and the monster amount of Cascade Hops we use while dry hopping during the brewing process.”  So, I figured like Godzilla?

Wells Falls

Wells Falls

Along Six Mile Creek, below the overpass on Giles Street, stood one of the more obscure cascades within Ithaca; a feature called Wells Falls (map).  It also went by an unusual alternate designation, Businessman’s Lunch Falls.  Apparently, with its proximity to downtown, it became a “popular lunch spot for downtown office workers.”  That seemed a little far-fetched to me because it would take a mile-long walk in both directions plus a descent down a dusty path curling around a steep hill.  Maybe people in Ithaca get longer lunch breaks than I do.  I don’t know.  I did enjoy the surprisingly secluded spot so close to the roadside, though.

Old ruins lining one side of the falls hinted at an industrial past.  A mill stood there in the 19th Century.  A water pumping station later occupied the site as the 20th Century dawned.  Only a collapsing multi-story brick building and its huge rusty pipes remained.

Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls

An impressive waterfall crashed 150 ft (46 m) down the appropriately named Fall Creek (map).  We got to this one quite easily too, practically in the middle of Ithaca.  A small parking lot led to a short trail.  Only one waterfall in town could be named Ithaca Falls and the convenient location probably led to this one claiming it.

Industrial activity took place here too.  Several mills and factories stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the spot around the turn of the last century, using these rushing waters as a power source.  One of them, the Ithaca Gun Company (still in existence), lasted here until 1987.  Unfortunately it also left behind a lot of lead residue, contaminating the soil.  Signs warned people to wash up after visiting.

Triphammer Falls

Triphammer Falls at Cornell University

Also on Fall Creek although a little farther upstream stood Triphammer Falls (map).  This one could be visited quite easily too, smack in the middle of the Cornell University campus.  A pedestrian bridge offered a handy observation post.  Some of the natural falls remained.  The remainder was formed by a man-made dam fashioned to look like a waterfall that held scenic Beebe Lake behind it.  The whole conglomeration descended about 55 ft (17 m).

I wondered about the name of this one too so I looked up the definition of a triphammer.  Merriam-Webster defined it as, “a massive power hammer having a head that is tripped and allowed to fall by cam or lever action.”  Wikipedia had a nice video of one in action being used to forge metal.  A triphammer forge once stood at the site, using waterpower to operate the hammer, so the falls earned its name honestly.

Lucifer Falls

Lucifer Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park

Then we headed a bit farther out from Ithaca to Robert H. Treman State Park on Enfield Creek, in a town of the same name.  We entered on the western side of the park and hiked along a gorge trail (map) built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.  That brought us down to Lucifer Falls, with its impressive 115 ft (35 m) drop.  The trail led all the way down to its base, crossed Enfield Creek, and looped back up to the other rim of the gorge.  It required a little more physical activity to appreciate than most of falls we visited that weekend although I certainly didn’t mind the hike even with the excessive humidity.

Old Mill Falls

Old Mill Falls at at Robert H. Treman State Park

Finally, we visited Old Mill Falls, at the same park.  This one could be found near the parking lot on the western side, on Fish Kill Creek near its confluence with Enfield Creek (map).  That placed it about a half-mile upstream from Lucifer Falls.  It would have been the  main attraction in a lot of parks although we’d seen so many spectacular falls by this point that it seemed rather ordinary.  I did enjoy the 1830’s grist mill off to its side that gave the feature its name.

People familiar with Ithaca probably noticed I didn’t mention two of the area’s most impressive waterfalls, Taughannock and Buttermilk falls.  I visited both of them in 2006 so we skipped them.  We only had so much time.

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Ithaca, Part 1 (Four Busy Days)

We can drive from our home outside of Washington, DC to Ithaca, New York surprisingly easily.  All it takes is about six hours in the car over some pretty scenic roads.  I’ve loved the New York’s Finger Lake Region for many years, one of the few places I’ve ever return to for repeated vacations.  We didn’t stay up there long though, just four nights over the 4th of July weekend.  Because of that, I’ll spare the Twelve Mile Circle audience the usual long string of articles.  Instead I’ll split this topic into two, the first covering the preponderance our travels and the other  focused on all of the waterfalls we saw.  Do we have a deal?

Cornell University

McGraw Tower

Readers might be wondering why we took such a short trip to a place we loved so much.  I blamed it on my older son.  It seemed like only yesterday he enjoyed things like inventing his own town and attending the annual bring your kid to work day.  When did he become a rising High School senior, just one year away from graduation?

We won’t be taking any big vacations this summer.  Instead, we’ll focus on several short trips to colleges and universities.  One name kept coming up as we compared our son’s interests against the specialties of various academic institutions; Cornell University (map).  So we headed towards Ithaca, home to Cornell, to take a closer look.  We’ll probably see another dozen-or-so places by the time we’re finished.  However, this initial trip led us towards the Finger Lakes.

County Counting

The route up to and back from Ithaca

I won’t claim to have been completely altruistic.  Of course I found a way to alter the route ever so slightly both coming and going.  That allowed me to grab three previously unvisited counties in Pennsylvania:  Bradford; Sullivan and Wyoming.  More importantly they filled an unsightly doughnut hole on my county counting map.

No interstate highways crossed their borders either.  In fact I’m pretty sure only 2-lane roads went through any of them.  I never would have gotten those counties ordinarily so I had to go out of my way.  Fortunately, I hit them during lightly traveled times and I didn’t get stuck behind too many locals.  I love county counting although I hate driving well below the posted speed limit down remote farm roads.

My total now stood at 1,497 counties visited.  That’s going to really bother me until I find three more and hit a nice, round number.

Keeping Intellectual

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

We stayed busy during our brief time in Ithaca.  My son loves animals — birds in particular — so we had to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (map).  Many 12MC readers from the United States probably spent their 4th of July at family gatherings, or the beach, or getting ready for the evening fireworks.  Not us.  We took the 90 minute behind the scenes tour at the lab looking at drawers of dead bird specimens and such.

A couple of days later we found ourselves at the Paleontological Research Institution’s Museum of the Earth examining fossils (map).

Around Town

Ithaca’s Farmers Market

We still had plenty of time to pursue non-academic activities too, of course.  One afternoon we strolled The Commons, a pedestrian mall downtown where the city didn’t allow vehicular traffic.  We also enjoyed the Farmers Market (map) on a busy Saturday morning, and appreciated stunning views of Cayuga Lake from several different vantages around its southern rim.  I wondered what it must be like during the school year when the local population essentially doubled.

Outdoor Activities

Mulholland Wildflower Preserve

I needed my regular exercise.  Fortunately I woke up earlier than anyone else in the family (as I always do) and could explore on my own.  One morning I went for a 5-mile run on the South Hill Recreation Way (map).  This rails-to-trail path seemed to be the only relatively flat surface in a very hilly Ithaca.  I didn’t really feel like pushing myself too hard in the stifling humidity so this seemed perfect.

The next morning I took a walk through the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve (map).  I can’t say I noticed a lot of wildflowers although the natural beauty along the paths made up for it.  I felt relaxed and rarely saw any other person during these quiet times by myself.


Hopshire Farm & Brewery

I would be remiss if I didn’t pursue a few breweries and brewpubs along the way.  I added three new locations to my lifetime list:  Scale House Brew Pub; Liquid State Brewing Co., and Hopshire Farm & Brewery.  I also went to Lucky Hare Brewing Co.’s taproom in Ithaca. Technically, that didn’t count.  By my bizarre rules, brewing has to actually happen on-premises for me to claim it as a “brewery” visit.  I liked the beer but it came from a brewing facility in Hector, about 20 miles away.

I also recorded a repeat visit.  We first went to Ithaca Brewing in 2006, a small storefront operation at that time (photo).  We were surprised to see how much it had grown when we returned in 2019 (photo).

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Jersey Shore, Part 7 (Leftovers)

The Jersey Shore trip came to an end all too soon.  I still had a few things to talk about, though.  Some topics didn’t fit neatly into the earlier categories so I lumped them all together in this final article.  After that, Twelve Mile Circle will hibernate once more until I find something else to write about.  I’m not sure when that will be.  Currently I don’t have any travel plans so it may be awhile.

Rutgers Half Marathon

Half-Marathon Route as recorded on my GPS watch

After the unexpected, miserable ten hour drive to our initial destination where I could barely make it through dinner at a local brewpub without falling asleep, I didn’t feel very confident about running the next morning.  Oddly, I felt great when the new dawn arrived, as if the previous day never even happened.  The course felt pretty comfortable too.  I finished the Rutgers Half Marathon with a time of 1:43:32 in pretty decent shape.

That put me in 180th place overall, although surprisingly it was good enough for third place in my age group.  Sometimes getting older doesn’t suck and I got an extra medal for my effort too.  I kept pace for an even faster finish until we hit the last two miles with a couple of strenuous uphills and had to slow down.  Seriously, what kind of sadistic race director puts the hills near the end?  I still enjoyed the race and I’d probably do it again if I found myself in the area.


In the Casino

I’m not a gambler.  I could probably move to Nevada and live in one of the two towns that ban gambling without any issues.  Of course, avoiding gambling in New Jersey would be a lot easier since it’s not nearly as ubiquitous.  We were in Atlantic City though.  How could I not visit at least one casino?

That said, I had no idea where to stay.  I knew nothing about the wide range of casino hotels available there.  The Super 8 wouldn’t do, naturally enough, although that hardly limited the choices.  A co-worker familiar with such things suggested the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino so we stayed there. Hotels were dirt cheap, subsidized by guests’ gambling losses, no doubt.  We paid half as much at the Hard Rock as we did at any other place during our entire Jersey Shore trip.

My wife gambled double her usual amount… $2!  No worries.  She let me count my counties so I could hardly begrudge a couple of bucks.

Lucy the Elephant

Lucy the Elephant

I love roadside attractions, the cheezier the better, and Margate City included a true icon of the genre.  Various sites on the Intertubes described Lucy the Elephant as the oldest surviving roadside attraction in the United States (map).  I couldn’t prove that claim although Lucy dated back to 1881 so it was genuinely old. Thank goodness local activities saved Lucy from the wrecking ball in the 1960’s when she fell into serious disrepair.  Now she continues to tower over the beach in her original splendor.

Lucy should have been closed that day like the lighthouses.  I stopped to take some exterior shots and found her open for business!  Our lucky streak continued.  We got to go inside and climb the stairs in Lucy’s back leg, and discovered a surprisingly room interior, not cramped at all (photo).  It felt like the cross between a church and a social club.  Then we climbed more stairs to her howdah for great views up and down the beach (photo).  What a fortunate opportunity!

Southernmost Point in New Jersey

Land’s End

I also managed to capture a genuine geo-oddity, the southernmost point of land in New Jersey.  This didn’t make it onto any tourist maps.  I tracked it down all on my own in Cape May (map).  The boulder on the far left marked the actual spot.  For one brief shining moment, nobody in New Jersey could claim to stand any farther south within the state than me.  Not that anyone else cared.  I knew better though.

Cape May – Lewes Ferry

The Ferryboat Delaware

We left New Jersey on the Cape May – Lewes Ferry, crossing the seventeen mile mouth of Delaware Bay (map).  This remarkably large ferry carried about a hundred vehicles; cars, recreational vehicles and even trucks.  I’m not sure it really saved any time even if the overland route followed a large U-shaped detour around the Delmarva Peninsula. That wasn’t really the point.  I’d rather take a relaxing boat ride followed by an easy drive down a lightly-traveled highway on a more direct route any day.

I rode this ferry once before.  In fact, I’m pretty sure this may have been the very first ferry I ever experienced (certainly the first I remembered).  We took a family trip across the bay sometime during my early High School years.  This sparked a lifetime interest in ferries and began my relentless collection of them ever since.  I welcomed the opportunity to return to where it all began.

Articles in the Jersey Shore Series:

  1. Huh?
  2. Boardwalks
  3. Lighthouses
  4. Brewery Renaissance
  5. Positive Signs
  6. A Little History
  7. Leftovers

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr