All of the seemingly unrelenting rain over the past week or so has had one positive result unique to Ithaca: the rivers have swelled and our waterfalls have become torrents of powerful and turbulent white water. For a few days last week, the falls off of Bebe Lake actually produced a cloud of mist that rose into the sky.
Anyone who walks over the footbridge to North Campus has had to pass through that mist, but the view of the swelled waters of the falls (plus the shorter walk) makes it worth it.
It is still hard for me to believe that such awesome spectacles are set all around us. Here, the waterfalls and gorges sometimes go unnoticed amongst our daily lives and we tend to forget how many people would be in awe by taking our daily commutes.
As you can see, all of the rain put waterfalls on my mind this week, so I decided to go visit one that is a little bit more removed from downtown Ithaca than the ones we get to view on a daily basis.
When I visited Cornell as a prospective student, what stuck in my memory the most was my trip to Robert H. Treman State Park after my walk around campus. As my family and I walked through the winding gorge past numerous waterfalls, I knew that Cornell was the place to be. (This was also my reaction after walking out of the Dairy Bar with a carton of chocolate milk and huge ice cream in my hands. Luckily, gorges are more permanent than eating establishments).
Therefore, last week I returned to Robert Treman to see if my time living in Ithaca had made it any less exciting than my first visit had been. While there is an amazing swimming area at the far east end of the park (105 Enfield Falls Rd), I went back to where I had taken the walk as a prospective student.
To get there, drive down Elmira Road past Buttermilk Falls, turn onto Enfield Falls Road, and eventually turn right onto Upper Park Road. The parking lot at the end of the road is only seven and a half miles from Ithaca Commons.
After parking, I walked to the far end of the lot and took the Gorge Trail into Truman Gorge, also know as Enfield Glen. The trail goes over a stone bridge, and then after a few hundred feet enters the gorge. The trail is amazing, as it seemingly juts right out of the side of the gorge.
Turning a corner, I was met with an amazing view. As the walls of the gorge suddenly towered above me, the stream on my right dropped down into a narrow trough, after going over some small falls. The water flowed away down the gorge then turned a corner, where an incredible stone footbridge spanned the gap from one gorge wall to the other.
I wound my way along the gorge walls with the trail, then crossed the narrow bridge and walked around another corner. The river again dropped down, but now it got wider and the gorge opened up a little. Ahead, I again saw the trail ahead of me disappear around another bend, so I eagerly pressed onward. Around that bend, the gorge opened up even more, and the river flowed down a step-like waterfall and into a pool at the bottom.
When I looked into the clear water in the pool, I could make out fish swimming around at the bottom. It is incredible to think that the fish somehow got there, considering they are caged in by a series of waterfalls; maybe they are prisoners there. If so, I can speak for them and say that it is hard to think of a more beautiful place to be stuck.
Walking away from this pool, I rounded another bend in the gorge and was in awe. I had been there before as a prospective student, but the spectacle that awaited still took my breath away.
It was just like I had remembered. The river shot out into a huge widening of the gorge, where its cliff walls were more than a hundred feet across and its bottom dropped far below. The ensuing waterfall, Lucifer Falls, is the result of water traveling the full 115 feet from the river coming from the pool I had just walked from, to the flatter river that flowed away into the smaller gorge beyond.
It is one the highest waterfalls in the area, and one of the most spectacular. The best part is that the walk from the parking lot to where I was standing on the cliff path was only a ten or fifteen minute walk.
After I had had my fill of the waterfall, I decided to walk back a different way than I had arrived. Robert Treman has a nice trail system, and if I had wanted to, I could have walked all the way to the other side of the park where the swimming area is, a modest two miles passed six or so more waterfalls.
Since my transportation was waiting back at the lot, I instead decided to keep following the Gorge Trail.I hiked back up those 115 feet of elevation change, and eventually made it to an overlook that let me see Lucifer Falls from the cliff edge above it. The huge empty space it dropped into was almost more impressive from a more distant viewing point.
Afterwards, I finished the short walk through the woods on the south rim of the gorge and returned to the parking lot. As I got into the car, I was glad that some things can still be as amazing the second time around.