Ithaca is Gorges! A Detour through New York’s Finger Lakes

Riding alongside a Finger Lake.

Riding alongside a Finger Lake.

The Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is a hidden gem. People know the names of local famous institutions like Smith College in Geneva and Cornell in Ithaca, but I’d challenge them to place the towns on a map. (I sure couldn’t.) Beyond the prestigious schools, the landscape is stunning. Deep gorges split the earth and waterfalls cascade any way you turn your head. High viewpoints overlook lakes nestled into forested valleys. It’s lovely, which is why there are a ton of pictures in this post and I still couldn’t get them all in.

And we pedaled through all of it, traversing rolling hills along the lakes and then working hard up steep, long inclines to the spine of ridges. This was a 200 mile detour (see jog in map below) and was totally worth it. What’s 200 miles when you’ve gone 3,600? 20 hours of extra pedaling, that’s what!

3,600 miles and counting! The Finger Lakes region in the horseshoe underneath Lake Ontario.

3,600 miles and counting! The Finger Lakes region in the horseshoe at the far right beneath Lake Ontario.

Shaking up our bicycle touring muscles, we even did a hike. First of the bike tour, I might add. After camping out in Watkins Glen State Park, we rose early to beat the crowds and hiked up 800 steps (so says the brochure) laid into the deep, narrow gorge. Mist from 19 waterfalls creates a micro-climate at the bottom of the gorge and stone bridges add to a fairytale feel to create a magical setting. One of my favorite memories of our trip and a must-visit if you’re ever in the area. Cue huge string of photos. 🙂

Chelsea ascends a staircase in Watkins Glen.

Chelsea ascends a staircase in Watkins Glen.

Cascade Falls in Watkins Glen SP.

Cascade Falls in Watkins Glen SP.

Rocks and stuff in Watkins Glen.

Rocks and stuff in Watkins Glen.

Awww, we still like each other even after all this biking together!

Awww, we still like each other even after all this biking together!

Cool climes at the bottom of the Watkins Glen SP gorge make for tons of moss on the old stone work.

Cool climes at the bottom of the Watkins Glen SP gorge make for tons of moss on the old stone work.

The main event - cascading falls below a bridge in Watkins Glen State Park.

Cascading falls below a bridge in Watkins Glen State Park.

Another highlight of the area is Ithaca, a college town in the Finger Lakes. Sticking true to our new slowed-down plans, we only rode 30 miles from Watkins Glen and then decided to take a full day to explore. What a cool city! With only 30,000 people in a remote area of New York, Ithaca nailed all the basics for creating a vibrant, connected community. Their farmer’s market draws thousands of people, the city has its own car sharing system and the whole place just has a great feel to it. Gorges and waterfalls everywhere (hence the “Ithaca is Gorges” motto of the city), a vibrant downtown and quick access to the outdoors are other positives.

We ate ourselves into a food coma at Moosewood Restaurant, a breakfast place with vegan waffles (I totally got coconut ice cream on mine), plus Thai and Vietnamese food! Yeah yeah, so we ate out four times in a day and a half. We were forced to get back on the bikes to avoid starting to waddle…and I’d do it all over again.

How do you like these apples? Rolling by a Lake Ontario orchard with a (brief) break in the rain clouds.

How do you like these apples? Rolling by a Lake Ontario orchard with a (brief) break in the rain clouds.

I moved this eastern red spotted newt out of the road and Chelsea moved him over to a nearby pond. Ever the rescuer! (They can live for 12-15 years, but not in 42 degrees in a torpid state lying in a road.)

I moved this eastern red spotted newt out of the road and Chelsea moved him over to a nearby pond. Ever the rescuer! (They can live for 12-15 years, but not in 42 degrees in a torpid state lying in a road.)

I started this post sitting on a loveseat 20 feet from the shore of Lake Ontario as geese trumpeted their way south. I’m finishing it sitting by a fireplace in a stately 1873 B&B as the thermometer heads toward freezing. We’ll spend the next week deep into the Adirondack Mountains during what is forecast to be a perfect sunny week of pedaling as the leaves turn golden hues. With less than 350 miles to go, the lure to finish coupled with the sadness that I always get at the end of a journey is starting to creep into my mind at times. What’s next from here? We shall see, my friends, we shall see.

Peace out from Boonville, New York on this lovely first day of autumn!

Dakota

Buckling boards and ivy on a back country road.

Buckling boards and ivy on a back country road.

End of a hilly day in the Finger Lakes up a steep dirt road toward Farm Sanctuary (to be discussed later).

End of a hilly day in the Finger Lakes up a steep dirt road toward the Farm Sanctuary near Watkins Glen.

SONY DSC

Colors starting to pop on the climb through the Tug Hill wilderness between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks. Next couple weeks are going to be gorgggges.

Colors starting to pop on the climb through the Tug Hill wilderness between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks. Next couple weeks are going to be gorgggges.

6 replies
  1. Kaylin Lydia
    Kaylin Lydia says:

    So great! I meant to recommend Moosewood to you all, its great! Such a neat town, would love to go back some time. It really is gorges!! Safe travels.

    Reply
  2. Gail
    Gail says:

    Glad you liked my town! The gorges are shale (sedimentary rock), though, not basalt (igneous rock). Guess we’re a little nerdy here 🙂

    Reply

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