Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taughannock Falls

images from Taughannock Falls State Park, New York

Taughannock Falls is another place I went more than once when I lived in Ithaca in the summer of 1990, studying language at Cornell. I went to Taughannock several times by myself, walking many of the trails on the cliff above the gorge, as well the gorge trail itself. I also went one hot July afternoon with three fellow students. It was so hot we did what many other folks were doing that afternoon: we walked up the riverbed itself, walking in the water most of the time, wading, sometimes swimming, sometimes pausing for awhile to soak in the cooling water of a hot summer's afternoon. The flat planes of the slate rock make walking upstream easy: like walking over a stone patio with shallow water flowing across it. Some places you have to walk along the shore, as there's no passage in the riverbed itself.

There are several state parks built around spectacular waterfalls, all within a short drive from Ithaca. There's Robert H. Treman SP, there's Buttermilk Falls, which is literally only two miles from downtown Ithaca. These two parks actually function as municipal swimming spots in the summer. There are designated pool areas below the falls, with lifeguards and everything. HOw many towns can boast of having waterfalls as their city swimming pools? That's a real rarity. Of course there's Watkins Glen, which is only a short drive, one lake over from Cayuga Lake, whose southern end is where Ithaca perches on its hill. Allan H. Treman Marine SP functions as Ithaca's de facto marina on Cayuga Lake, although of course there is a city marina as well. Are you getting the picture yet? Ithaca: summer water playground. And Taughannock itself is only ten miles from downtown Ithaca, flowing into the west bank of Cayuga.

Taughannock Falls, a good hike back up in the gorge, plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge's floor. That makes TaughannockGorge and rim trails offer spectacular views from above the falls and from below at the end of the gorge trail. Niagara Falls is certainly one of the most spectacular waterfalls in North America, and very beautiful; but Taughannock Falls is taller by around 40 feet.

The trails along the rim of the gorge are not to be missed. They provide some of the most spectacular views of the actual falls. One hot afternoon after language intensive classes, I was felling particularly lost. I drive alone to the parking area at the viewing area across the gorge from the falls, and went hiking on the trails. It was a hot sweaty day, and I hiked shirtless and soaked with my own rain in the afternoon. I met very few people on the trails. I remember chatting briefly with a father and son out together on the trails, all of us equally sweaty.

the lower falls

Then at some point, I found a place where the sheer mass of air being moved by the water plunging over 200 feet made an updraft, creating an island of moist cool air along the canyon rim. I stood in the invisible mist, more felt than seen, and something like tranquility came into me.

This spring, as everywhere, the trees were just beginning to fill out with budding leaves. Other trees were spectacularly prolific with their veils of flowers. The air was filled with scent and sweetness. Near the end of the gorge, there's a place where there are some lower falls, wide and stepping down to a deep pool at their base. On the lawn nearby the magnolias were in bloom.

This visit, the afternoon end of a sunny day, before the rains returned, the park was crowded with hikers and people picnicking everywhere. I did not walk up the gorge, due to time constraints, this visit, but I spent time at the lower falls as well as above the main falls in the back of the gorge. With the heavy rains, the water was moving strong and fierce and cold, making veils of white water over the dark rock.

patterns of light and dark
make trails of white spray
on the white light of the mind
bringing home the salmon of wisdom
to spawn and live again each spring

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Blogger Dave King said...

Truly superb images. I am drooling over them.

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Swanee said...

Oooh, you should do a waterfalls DVD...

3:40 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, Dave. Hopefully they'll inspire you and others to go out and do likewise.

A waterfalls DVD has been thought of, and is in the planning stages, actually. I might to go out and shoot more waterfall footage, though. That's just the burden of it all . . . . *snicker*

8:31 AM  

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