Taughannock Gorge Trail late winter hike

sights during a 4 mile hike on icy trails around Taughannock Gorge

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Wednesday afternoon this week my exercise was a 4 mile hike around the Taughannock Falls Gorge on the north and south rim trail. I parked at the Overlook and took in a view of Taughannock Falls in the gorge below.

The video and pics are from my Apple IPhone.

I then headed south on the North Rim Trail. It was slow going because the trail was solid ice in many places. Throughout the walk was evidence of the great work of the park maintence crew preparing for spring.

A bridge over the creek transitions from the North to South Rim trails. Here is an overview of the dramatic site below this bridge.

The trail ice forced me off onto the Gorge Road that parallels the trail. Even without the ice, a portion of the trail is closed for the winter due to dangerous conditions. There are interesting sites along this road.

Click any photograph for a larger image


Walking downhill only this medium-sized bark is visible, the road curves around to bring into view a tiny farmhouse, now abondoned, dwarfed by the barn.

I took a detour to explore a small cemetery just off Gorge Road on a shelf above the Taughannock Farms Inn.

Overview of this small cemetery overlooking Cayuga Lake

The lower falls is another worthy detour before I rejoined the Rim trail to climb up the north side of the gorge.

One of many Rim Trail overlooks. That is the Gorge Trail, below.

In this approximate 4 miles there is a 2088 foot change in altitude (1044 up and down). I took my time for an enjoyable 2 hours.

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Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek

Explore a remote location of the eastern Superstition Wilderness

….continued from the chapter “Two Meetings.”

The spring gales persisted through my late afternoon arrival in Pine Creek, into the night and next morning. Protected from the west wind by the rising land, the tent was not buffeted like I described in the chapter “A Dry Piece of Paradise.” The song of soughing pines was my last impression of the evening and the first of the next morning.

Where the Arizona trail crosses, Pine Creek flows at 4,600 foot elevation through a canyon of broadly sloping sides. The flow originates at the foot of Mound Mountain to the southwest, at 6,253 feet the highest elevation in the Superstitions. There are 5,500 foot peaks to the east and west. The land falls away to the north giving great views of the Four Peaks Wilderness.

I chose a flat site to camp above the creek among Arizona White Oak, Arizona Sycamore, Ponderosa Pine and Manzanita. Of these, it’s Manzanita fruit for which the bears come in the summer. Manzanita thickets made approach to the camp site difficult from all directions but the path. Bear sign was thick among this growth. Go to my chapter, “Racing the Sun,” to see the red barked Manzanita and pink blossoms from which grow tiny green fruits that ripen summertime into a bright red, like tiny apples. Indians used this bland tasting fruit containing five hard seeds for food and a cider beverage.

Well before dawn I grabbed warm clothes, hat, camera to head out for a full day of leisure.

On a shallow rise above Pine Creek I took the two shots of agave (Century Plant) stalks in dawn light. These start the chapter, “A Dry Piece of Paradise.” One dry agave flower is to the left in this North view, looking down the creek not far from the creek crossing.

Click any photograph for a larger view
North View from Pine Creek, early morning

In the photograph notice how the canyon narrows as the creek flows north, the walls rising above it for hundreds of feet.

When I climbed about 200 feet above the creek to a ledge that provided great views, the protective canyon walls fell away and wind gusts threatened to up end the light tripod. It was necessary to anchor it with the daypack and I tied down my hat as well.

Shadows of night lie below, dominated by Four Peaks Wilderness. A unique long flat ridge is behind the near dramatic ridge above Pine Creek. This view leads me to daydreams. The long ridge is clearly visible in two photographs titled “Nameless Canyon in the Dawn” and “Nameless Canyon Morning” of my post “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”  A view from the west is available in my post “Racing the Sun.” Look at the photograph captioned, “Overview of my path to the Nameless Canyon behind Two Bar Mountain,” the flat ridge is just above the shadow of Castle Dome. The view from that spot must be incredible across the lower Reavis Creek valley. From here it is a day trip 4+ mile roundtrip bushwhack over the cliffs above Pine Creek.

North View from Pine Creek

Those evergreens in the following photograph are Oneseed Juniper (“Shagbark Juniper”) of the three species common to the Superstitions, this has this spherical, bushy appearance. Here the elevation is just high enough for junipers because there are none down below. The trail crosses Pine Creek to ascend the lower slopes of these red cliffs, following it around to the west and over to the next valley, Reavis Ranch, a distance of 3.5 miles. In my “Two Meetings” blog is a sweeping view of Pine Creek Canyon, from the southern approach.

For most people a 400+ foot climb over these steep cliffs is impossible. Fortunately, a saddle to the right of this photograph is a possible route.

Southwest View from the Arizona Trail above Pine Creek

The saddle is 100 feet lower without cliffs. Still, this entrance to remote, fascinating locations is a steep 300+ climb.

A Saddle breaks a line of cliffs

“The Searcher” arrived around this time riding the buckskin gelding and leading a pinto. He saw me and my camera equipment and stopped for a chat. His plan was to follow the trail I came up yesterday to find a rumored camp with good water. The howling wind made conversation difficult. I wondered where his camp of last night was located, since there was no sign of him. Before I could ask, his cowboy hat flew away with a wind gust. He hopped off the gelding, “That’s my best beaver hat.” After a quick brush and tie-down they were off.

Heading back down to the creek, here is a macro of lichen that covered the crumbling surfaces of boulders that littered the slope.

Nature’s Abstract

During the previous night fresh primrose blossoms opened, this one flourishing in the earth of a south facing slope. There is a reddish spent blossom at lower left. The soil here formed over eons by the action of the creek water, atmosphere and plant life. I have more about the Primrose and these yellow flowers in the background in my “Two Meetings” blog.

Pine Creek of the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness hosts this wild Tufted Evening Primrose.

Turn left (up stream) where the Arizona Trail crosses Pine Creek and jump boulder to boulder for a hundred feet or so and you come to this view. The creek bank, covered by vegetation, rises on both sides and makes it difficult to leave the creek. Those are Arizona White Oak leaves floating along the large foreground boulder.

Pine Creek Pool with Young Arizona Sycamores

This is a very young Arizona White Oak, common species growing along the creek. The leaves are not what you’d expect from an oak, being 2 – 3 inches long in the shape of a lance blade and without obvious lobes Mature Arizona White Oak has a rough bark and, at most, 24 inch trunks.

Arizona White Oak

There are better examples of grand Arizona Sycamores along the perennial Reavis Creek. Pine Creek does not flow in the driest seasons, this tree sloughed its branches in order to survive. You can see from the many young Sycamores in the Pine Creek Pool photograph the previous photo the sycamores are successful in this environment.

I spent some time with this Sycamore, capturing abstract patters of the bark.

The abundance of Ponderosa Pines here demonstrate the species thrives at this altitude and dry environment. This specimen grows on the creek bank. Those are shrubby Arizona Oaks around the trunk.

Abstract patterns in the bark of this Ponderosa. The popular and scientific name (Pinus ponderosa) for this species is from the dense weight of the wood.

The tree is over 100 feet tall. I patched together four shots for this view.

In the afternoon I explored the Arizona Trail to Reavis Ranch. It crosses the creek to ascend the cliff in broad switchbacks. Eventually it follows a contour below a cliff with fine views of Pine Creek Canyon. I turned back to leave the hike to Reavis Ranch for another day.

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Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Reveal

SONY DSC

The elements come into focus, revealing Ludlowville Falls, near Lansing, New York.  On the eastern side of Cayuga Lake, Salmon Creek plunges 35 feet over this limestone shelf.  Pioneers constructed a grist mill at this site.  

Here we see The Fang hanging over the entrance to The Cave.  There is falling water overall, but especially the center section (can you see it?).  The weight of accumulated ice fractured a portion of the frozen cascade. 

The Cave?

The Object Comes Into View

Flowing water eroded away until this durable limestone strata.  The majority of sedimentary rock is shale, only 6% is limestone.  Throughout the Finger Lakes and elsewhere, this is why when flowing water exposed the edge of a limestone strata, the underlying, soft shales are worn away to reveal a waterfall, ever deepening.  Eventually, the support of the limestone washes away to form this ledge.  Here it is an ephemeral cave behind a curtain of ice.

See “The Fang?” for the first post of this series.

Keuka Terroir

a vineyard in context

Here is a fourth post from a trip Pam and I enjoyed to the Dr. Frank Winery on the west side of Keuka Lake.  The previous posts are “Keuka Lake Winter I”, “Iron Grace”, “Keuka Lake Fall Winter”.  Let’s talk about the environment of these vineyards.

For this photograph I came down from the overlook building, right next to the vines, where it all starts, each plant growing from and clinging to the soil.  Genetics play an important role, particularly the epigenetics, the expression of a crop’s genetic traits as affected by the context of the local environment.  Here we see row after row of vines on the west side of Keuka Lake, the land sloping enough so the lake is clearly visible below.  On the other side the land is clearly forested with few, if any, vines, on a steeper slope.  There is more sunlight on the west side, the land tilts a bit to the southeast and northwest on the east side.  In the northern hemisphere, a southern exposure means more sunlight.    

There is a geological reason for this topography.  In this part of New York State sequential, long plates of land aligned on a general north-south axis each sloping to the east causing longer, more gradual slopes on the east side and, one the west shorter, steeper slopes as we see in this photograph.  The crease where the plates meet is where each of the Finger Lakes formed.  It is the combination of the lake water holding of warmth and the long slope exposure to sunlight that creates a microclimate favorable to the vines.  

Click this link for another posting about the Finger Lakes.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Keuka Lake Fall Winter

We visited Keuka Lake on a December day for my last two posts,
“Keuka Lake Winter” and “Iron Grace”.  October 5, 2014 found Pam and I at the same overlook after my son completed the Wine Glass Marathon.  Here we are at the finish line in Corning, home of the Corning Glass Factory.  You may know it from your set of Correlle dinnerware.

Marathoner and his proud father

Afterwards, Pam and I made it up to the Dr. Frank Winery for a tasting followed by dinner at a local restaurant.  Here is a photograph from the same viewpoint, using the “zoom” setting of my Sony DSLR A700.  The view is more interesting than the winter shot of “Keuka Lake Winter I”  from the autumn clouds and the burst of late day sun on the eastern lake shore.

This is the juncture of the “Y” shaped lake where the two arms joint the long foot.  The pointed high headland is the point where the two arms meet.  We are looking north here.  The western arm, on the right, is unique in that the water is flowing down into the juncture.  In Keuka Lake the water flows in two directions.  The flow of lake foot and eastern arm is in the opposite direction, Keuka Lake empties at the top of the eastern arm, eventually reaching Lake Ontario.  

North View from Overlook using “Zoom” lens

Here is the eastern view, from the overlook, looking over a vineyard ready for harvest, covered with fruit and leaves.  Every once in awhile there is a loud “bang” from a noisemaker used to discourage birds from feasting on grapes.  The buildings along the shore are summer cottages, Keuka is lined with them.

East View on an autumn afternoon

The same view, from our December 2018 visit.  The vines are bare, the fallen leaves cleared, the vine roots covered under banked earth to protect them from the cold.

Pam and I, enjoying wine after the 2014 Wine Glass Marathon.  Cheers!!

Click this link for my Fine Art Photography Gallery.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Sandfall

explore a slot canyon

Here the red rock of the northwestern corner of the Navajo Nation was pulverized into sand by the action of wind, water, sun and cold.  The red sand flows here over a water-shaped bench, having blown into the darkness of a narrow canyon, called a slot.

I waited in the dry darkness of upper Antelope Canyon for the perfect moment to capture the spirit of the place.

Click this link for my Fine Art Photography gallery.

Click this link for another Arizona post, “A Dry Piece of Paradise.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills