I found myself with an afternoon to myself today while in Ithaca, New York.  Ithaca is a great college town with plenty of restaurants to choose from and enough shopping to occupy those who are inclined to spend their lives in retail environments.  I’m not one of those people.

I decided to make the waterfall circuit.  Now, Ithaca has a lot of waterfalls and I only had half a day of daylight to work with, so I tried to choose wisely.  You can’t go to Ithaca and not view Ithaca Falls, so that was on the list.  But so was Buttermilk Falls, Taughanock Falls and Lucifer Falls.

I started with Taughanock Falls.  This was the furthest away but one I really wanted to hike to.  I drove out to Ulysses and changed into my winter boots for the hike.  I’d contemplated this hike before I drove out here so I also put on micro spikes, as I expected the conditions to be icy.  My expectations were met.  The path to the falls was about a mile long with a mix of ice, snow and mud.  I passed 50 or 60 people on this walk and I was the only one wearing micro spikes.  A few people pointed to them and said they wished they’d thought to bring them too.  Taughanock Falls on a mild February day were spectacular.

Next on the list was Buttermilk Falls.  This one was right down the street from my hotel and easy to get to.  No hiking boots required, just park and walk over to take a picture.  Buttermilk Falls are beautiful, but there’s no real effort required to see them.  I like to earn my scenic vistas.

Third waterfall was Ithaca Falls.  This is another easy one right off the road.  In fact, you can technically see the falls from the road, which is how we first discovered them.  But I put on my boots again and walked out to the falls for another picture.  Quick walk but well worth the effort to get closer.

Finally, I drove out to the Robert H. Treman State Park to see Lucifer Falls.  Waze sent me past the state park parking lot to the service road on the other side of the Enfield Creek.  This ended up working out really well as there was a nice path down to the creek on that side.  This was another hike where micro spikes were invaluable.  I’m not sure I would have chanced the hike without them.  This hike reminded me of New Hampshire.  There were hemlock trees shading the path, and with the icy conditions I was one of the only people out on the trail. 

There’s a bumper sticker available in many of the stores in Ithaca that says “Ithaca is Gorges”.  It’s a nice play on words of course, but right on point; Ithaca’s Gorges are indeed gorgeous.  When you get off the city streets Ithaca offers plenty of views that are well worth the effort to find.  I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see these four waterfalls today.  I’ll definitely go back to each one again, and especially Lucifer Falls.