Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Quest Continues: Ithaca

My husband and I just returned from a brief excursion to Ithaca, New York, which was the first place I wanted to go once the school year ended. I had intended to combine it with a trip to Letchworth State Park, but we didn't have enough time to fit that in. Perhaps that's a trip for when the fall foliage peaks in October.

I had two purposes in mind for the Ithaca trip. One was to visit some friends at the last minute, before they moved to Colorado. Another was to visit and photograph my favorite waterfalls as part of my summer quest for inspiration, peace, and rejuvenation. I love waterfalls - the wondrous sight of cascading water, the soothing sound that accompanies it, and the energizing, mood-enhancing negative ions they produce!

Ithaca Falls was first on the agenda. The Northeast experienced torrential downpours this week, and Ithaca Falls was raging with water! All the sitting spots by the stream had disappeared under water. It was difficult to take pictures because the spray was so intense and the foliage so luxuriant. However, the advantage was that since nobody was swimming or going too close, I didn't need to wait for people to move out of my camera frame. The energy coming off the falls was powerful, and the roar was thunderous!

Normally, it's difficult when someone accompanies me on my notoriously lengthy waterfall photography shoots. However, it worked out perfectly this time because my husband has a newly discovered passion: rock balancing. So while I photographed the falls, he stationed himself nearby and balanced rocks.

Shooting from the distance was much gentler on my gear, although much of the view was blocked by trees that seem to have branched out significantly in recent years!

Next, we moved on to Buttermilk Falls State Park for a brief stop. Visitors were not allowed to have contact with the water because it was contaminated with E. coli apparently due to farm runoff from all the rain. And since nobody was swimming, once again photo composition wasn't as complicated as usual.

And once again, my husband occupied himself by balancing rocks.

Next, we went to Taughannock Falls State Park just northwest of Ithaca in Ulysses, New York. My friend who is moving to Colorado loves Taughannock. We have gone there together many times with our children, and I decided to give her a photo of Taughannock Falls as a housewarming gift. First we stopped at the overlook on the rim of the 400-foot deep gorge, which offers a stunning view of the 215-foot cataract for which the park is named. Taller than Niagara Falls, Taughannock Falls is reputed to be the highest vertical, single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains.

One thing I love about the above photo - and didn't realize when I captured the image - is that the cliff walls and trees form a heart with the waterfall running down the center!

Then we drove to the main parking area of the park and walked the 3/4 mile trail to see the waterfall up close. Last year when my friend and I walked to the falls, we arrived to find it bone dry. Not even a trickle of water came down! It was a different story this year!

No rock balancing here! My husband sat patiently on the walking bridge and took in the spectacular energy of the place. You can almost feel the negative ions in the air as the water plunges down and pounds the ground, creating a constant, swirling mist at the bottom of the natural amphitheater.

Below is a video I made of Taughannock Falls. Make sure to watch it in HD!

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The next day, we went to my favorite gorge in Ithaca: Cascadilla Gorge. It runs from Cornell Law School to downtown Ithaca - a 400-foot drop of cascading falls. However, it's been years since I've hiked the entire trail because the upper section has been closed for restoration and repair. I remember the day I discovered Cascadilla Gorge. It was Memorial Day weekend of 1989, and I set out on a full day of solitude in nature. I happened upon the gorge when I was downtown, and as I hiked up the winding trail, I was blown away by the beauty of it all. It was as if I'd stumbled upon heaven on Earth. Each successive waterfall was more impressive than the last and the trail culminated in a glorious falls up at the top. Here is the last photo I was able to get of the topmost falls, six years ago:

For this trip, I had to be content with the bottom third or so of the trail. 

I set up by one of the lower falls...

...while my husband balanced rocks close by. Passersby stopped, gazed and remarked in amazement, and took pictures of his performance art - although he didn't notice because he was so focused on rock energy.

The steady, falling water was like a deep massage of sound. Cool, shaded areas of the gorge provided relief from the Fourth of July heatwave.

Here is a video from my afternoon in Cascadilla Gorge, meant to be viewed in HD:

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Shortly after leaving Cascadilla Gorge, my husband and I both hit a wall so to speak and were "Ithaca done." We had wanted an extra day in Ithaca, but the weather earlier in the week postponed and shortened our trip. It was time to get into the car and drive home through several Central New York small towns on Independence Day en route to the highway, with images of scenic gorges in our minds and echos of falling water soothing our spirits.

However, I'm already itching to return...

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