Gorge Trail, Buttermilk Falls State Park
I had not been back to the Ithaca gorges since my amazing trip last October. Once the leaves had started to bud on the trees this Spring I have been waiting for the right opportunity. Although the state parks have been open, most of the trails I hike for pictures have been closed. Not this weekend!
I actually have been planning to make this trip for a couple of weeks but circumstances had prevented me from being able to go. Not this weekend! I kept checking the weather app all week monitoring the conditions. Sunday appeared to be the day and as the weekend crept closing, the odds kept increasing in my favor. Everything was a go!
I planned on being at the first park by 7am so I was determined to leave the apartment on time. Alarm set, no snooze, get up and feed the boys (3 cats!). Pack everything I would need cause it was going to be a hot one. Extra clothes, extra socks, a second pair of hiking shoes, water, snacks, and anything else I would need to stay mobile and capturing pictures. I was going to make a day of it and visit as many of the gorges as possible.
Buttermilk Falls State Park was first on my list. It had to be. It is my favorite destination in Ithaca. I was the first car in the upper parking lot. The lower section of the park is the preferred destination for most families, but for me the upper gorge trail is where all the images are located. The trail was empty. I only saw one other person the hour and a half I was in the gorge.
This image is the first stopping point on the gorge trail. You can spot a small section of stairs along the ridge above the small waterfall in the back of the image. The trail loops around to the right of the image and there is a landing area before the stairs continue down deeper into the gorge. This is usually a tricky image to capture due to the high contrast of the dark gorge walls and the morning sun on the trees. I believe it rained a little the night before as the walls were still wet causing a lot of reflections. Even with the circular polarizer I could not remove all of the light reflections.
After Buttermilk Falls I drove to Robert H. Treman State Park. I should have checked the state park website better. The swimming area was undergoing repairs due to flooding and any photo opportunities of the lower falls were lost. I drove to the upper section of the park and hiked to Lucifer Falls. Again, very few people in the park early in the morning but by 9:30am the trails were starting to get crowded.
My next stop was to be Mulholland Wildflower Preserve which has Wells Falls across the road. The parking area was full! I was a little disappointed but there are plenty of opportunities in Ithaca. I tried Cascadilla Gorge but again, there was no parking near the start of the trail and when I drove by it appeared to be getting crowded as well. OK, still not an issue…
Maybe I stop at a few places as I work my way back home. I typed in Tinker’s Falls in the GPS and headed out. The parking area was not very crowded yet, that was a good sign. What I didn’t plan for was the volume of water. Tinker’s Falls doesn’t normally have a lot of water and yesterday it was almost non-existent. No worries. I used the opportunity to hike to the overlook area and was rewarded with a spectacular view of the Labrador Hollow area (picture to follow). I thought going up the 2 mile trail was tough, coming back down is actually harder.
OK, a lot of choices for my next stop but based on the water flow I was seeing in the parks I thought Chittenango Falls would be perfect. I had to stop at a friends house in Cazenovia to deliver a picture to him and it was already 1pm, this plan made sense. Except everyone was at the park! No big deal, I’ll have to wait for an opportunity to capture my photograph but it would be manageable. And then I read the sign when I stopped to get my ticket, the gorge trail was closed for renovations. Again, I should have read the park website better…
Maybe it was time to go back home. I had walked about 13,000 steps already and I knew I was going to feel this the next day. Plus, I could feel my frustration level rising and I didn’t want to ruin the good adventures I already experienced. There will be more weekends…