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!
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. 🙂
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.
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!