Under a crystal blue September sky, my wife and I climbed into the gorge of Bear Swamp Creek to the foot of this waterfall past the site of a distillery where, years ago, locals used to frequent using a “jug path.”
The creek is strictly protected as part of the water source for Syracuse, flowing from the Skaneateles Highlands past historical villages such as “New Hope.” Before merging with Skaneateles Lake, the creek traverses this 90 foot fall, call Carpenter Falls.
You need to climb the steep slopes of the gorge for this unobstructed view.
It is even possible to climb to the ledge behind the water. Standing on the ledge, the stream passes 50 feet overhead. It is a lovely view down the gorge in all seasons.
Each year I make a point of walking Cascadilla Gorge at least once in the fall. This week on a 84 degree October 9th afternoon Pam was too busy with chores, I parked in “downtown” Ithaca and stopped by the grandchildren’s. They were hanging out with Mom and were “just too tired” after school to do anything. Well the middle child, 4 years old, was open to visiting the skate board park and ,for me, that was not going to happen. I ambled from there, up Court Street, past the Buddhist monk residence at the entrance to Cascadilla Gorge.
The gorge is part of Cornell Botanic Gardens (until recently it was called the Plantations), the organization of the university bureaucracy responsible for elements of the campus. Cascadilla Gorge, running from Ithaca and through the campus, is one of those elements. Today, the traffic of people going into and out of the gorge was light and a sign provided the reason: the path was closed at Stewart Avenue, there the bridge crosses above the gorge. Instead to passed by the Christian Scientist Church on the north side of the gorge and walk up the winding Cascadilla Park Road to the gorge rim trail that climbs East Hill to the Cornell Campus.
The trail is lined with homes, porches on the gorge side where the sounds of creek and falls can be enjoyed. I was not feeling ambitious, so took a few snapshots with my phone. Here is path approaches a porch build from the “bluestone”, a type of feldspathic sandstone, native to this area.
Click the photographs for my OnLine Gallery “Finger Lakes Memories.”
This pot is visible in the previous shot, here is a closer view of the bluestone.
The fall to the gorge floor is steep, several hundred feet in places. The barrier fence here appears solid, in places it barely exists. A few years ago a recent Cornell graduate, coming home late from a bar on this path, was found dead in the gorge the following day from a fall. I continued along the trail until the path fork over to the Ithaca City Cemetery where it is possible to climb West Hill to Stewart Avenue. Turn right to reach the bridge over Cascadilla Gorge, another right onto the Gorge Rim Trail and back down to Ithaca. I noticed at the bridge part of the work that closed the gorge was a repainting of the bridge and the suicide prevention fence below the bridge. On September 24, 15 days before, a senior year Cornell student jumped off the bridge into the fence and was rescued by the fire department.
It is possible to stand next to the concrete barrier of the above snapshot to see this view into the gorge. I enjoy the beautiful view, the sound of the water and leave the dark stuff where it belongs, at least until I notice the bridge and net are freshly painted.
Last year Pam and I walked Cascadilla with our granddaughter, here she is on that walk next to Cascadilla Creek. There are large and small waterfalls the length of the gorge trail.
I took this photograph in 2005, the September before my previous post, “Autumn Stroll in Sapsucker Woods” with the Kodak DSC pro slr-c, an ND filter, 50 mm lens and a tripod. It was a planned session, I work waterproof boots and was able to stand in the creek after a series of rain-free days. At this time of the year the gorge opens to the setting sun. I waited, taking a series of photographs for the perfect amount of light on the footbridge. The feature photograph (the header to this posting) is a detail from a shot with the bridge more fully lit.
We have this photograph print framed, I had it mounted as a gift to Pam on our first Valentine’s day. It will make an excellent Christmas or Birthday gift.
Click the photograph for this offering in my OnLine Gallery “Finger Lakes Memories”
Yesterday afternoon was bright, sunny enough for me to break out of the winter exercise routine for a walk around Taughannock Falls, a New York State Park 7.5 miles from the front door through farmland and small villages with views of Cayuga Lake.
The route around the gorge, following the North and South Rim trails with a side trip to the edge of Cayuga Lake is 3 miles with a modest elevation change of about 500 feet.
My route began at the top with a cell phone, from the Falls Overlook, there is a gradual slope, until the end where flights of steep stone steps end at the gorge floor. The steps were free of ice and snow.
These photographs are from the cell phone. Here is the lake and a portion of the gorge. Yes, the lake is a dark blue on sunny days and is ice free this year. Another trail follows the gorge floor to below the falls, I opted out of the additional 1.5 miles today in the interest of finishing well before sunset.
Click any photograph to visit my Fine Art version of Taughannock Falls.
I have a few versions of these South Rim Trail stone steps taken at this perfect time of day, the low sun through the trees. Built in the 1930s by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corp, the steps and the entire trail are a work of art.
The far view of Taughannock Falls always fascinated me. I’ve never done it justice. There are several view points from the South Rim, overlooking the gorge were it bends to the south with only the upper third of the falls visible. The flow today was photogenic. I used the cell phone zoom to catch the view between the trunks of two trees.
The top of the south rim was the only ice. It is there through April some years. Here is the closest, full view of Taughannock Falls from the North Rim. It is the same view you will find in my Fine Art version of the falls.
And a cell phone video of the falls for the full effect.
Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
A reader’s comment to this blog, thank you “Urban Liaisons” prompted me to explore the word, Lucifer. “Lucifer”, in Christian tradition, refers to the devil as it was in a time of glory before the fall from grace. The original, ancient meaning of Lucifer is the planet Venus as it rises just before the sun at dawn. In this sense, the name refers to the bright beauty of the spot. The effect is heightened at midday when the hiker passes from the relative gloom of Devils Kitchen to the full light and sweep of the waterfall chasm.
Standing next to the falls on the Gorge Trail, the stone wall of the Rim Trail Overlook is overpowered by the grandeur of the 300+ foot cliff. The falls photographs were taken from behind the wall.
Occasionally, we have experienced individuals climbing over the wall to stand on the other side. “Why?”
Summertime thick stands of tiger lilies flourish on the cliff face. Can you find the withered leaves?
This session I finally “cracked” the puzzle of the Devil’s Kitchen Waterfall. I posted the results to the online gallery yesterday, for your enjoyment. Click the link to go there.
In this third part, we continue hiking Treman gorge, approaching Lucifer Falls, viewing another waterfall further downstream and returning to the trailhead.
Tiny Trumpet, unknown
I have never achieved a satisfactory capture of the waterfall in the Devil’s Kitchen, a place where the creek flow is diverted south by a projecting ridge. Less than 100 feet later the easterly direction is regained where the water plummets over Lucifer Falls.
The annual in fall of rock in Devil’s Kitchen uproots and crushes plants growing there. There is scant soil, the roots of this shiny purple trumpet bloom took hold in a microscopic crack. The plant is so thin, the flower so tiny it is lucky my gaze found it.
As trail winds around the ridge a stone wall rises on the right and for good reason. The stream shortly reaches the brink of Lucifer Falls, 115 feet high. Gorge walls fall away, the trail steepens. Here is the view from the trail next to the brink.
At hand, on the right, a growth of ferns has survived many seasons. Flowering plants are, in geological time (across billions of years), a relatively recent development compared to these non-flowering ferns. The first flowering plants appears 120 million years ago compared to the first ferns, 360 million years ago. Oddly enough, the spread of flowering plants affected evolution of ferns, an increase of fern speciation in parallel to the rise of flower plants.
While descending the stairs next to the falls brink, look to the right to see this ecosystem, a result of water seeping from the sedimentary rock stratification.
Here you can see how, at lower flow levels, the inactive sections of the fall lip become a garden. In our climate, the entire brink is active for rare and brief intervals during spring thaws. Note how, closer to the active brink, the grasses give way to mosses. Where grasses grow the brink is almost never active.
The trail wall is a lighter color than the cliff, this is how you can see, on the right, the steep trail descent.
Pam and I turned around here. This is some work I did August 2014 of a notable fall downstream from Lucifer. I used the 24 mm Canon lens here, cropping the image. My goal was to include the stair, for interest, with sunlight on the upper stairs; the water in shade.
In part 2 of this series, we return to the starting point. Siting of a water mill requires immediate access to the potential energy of falling water, something called “head.” Upper Treman Park was once a prosperous hamlet with the mill as the kernel. Today, the head that drove the mill is a lovely cascade behind the substantial and intact mill building. Easy walking distance from parking, this is a well known park feature.
Here are three versions of a portrait of Mill Falls using different lenses for varying effects. All were taken in the same season and approximate time of day, being early evening.
My composition emphasizes the mass of rock wall above the bench and into which it is placed. The limestone slabs are from a different source, they are not built from the material removed from the cliff.
Seeds and Flowers
A dandelion on steroids. If you can help with identification of this plant, please post a comment.
The are like people, sitting there. Kenneth Graham’s genius, in writing “Wind in the Willows”, was to recognize the likable characteristics of the toad. I find myself concerned about their survival, although they must survive. Earlier in the season they are pea sized. I resist an inclination to move them to what may be a more promising location, preferably with a stone house and chrome brilliant motor car.
Over the weekend the handle of our 60 year old Delta brand kitchen faucet broke off, since we moved here I rebuilt it once and replaced the stainless steel sphere, the central control of the mechanism. The stem of the sphere must have been faulty because it snapped. Monday, I visited Lowes and the sphere was not in stock. Just wanting to fix the faucet, I skipped the usual vetting of a new product and grabbed the exact same Delta faucet which was, just like the sphere that broke, made in China. The next step up in (questionable) quality was three times the price.
Yesterday I installed a new faucet in the kitchen sink, a straightforward and unpleasant task that took most of the day. Late afternoon, while resting up, I brought up the idea of a hike and Pam reminded me we had another clear September day. Last week, I headed out to capture the Mill Creek waterfall of upper Treman Park at the perfect time of day. It was a day such as this, warm, a cloudless sky, minimal breeze.
I need to get in place a bit earlier. Previously, I used a 24 mm wide angle lens and, today, mounted the EF 70-300mm f/4 – 5.6L USM lens on the Canon EOS 1DS MarkIII. Did not have time to sort through the ND filters, so left the UV on. The waterfall is in a glen, shaded from direct light at this time of day, sun low in the west. Given the low light, to save time, I decided to set ISO to a low value (125), set lens to the widest angle (70 mm), and frame the shot using the heavy Manfrotto tripod with ball head.
Needed to crop the image for the above result, still not perfect. I am seeking to full the entire pool in that glow.
Instead of putting the gear away, I carried that heavy setup on the hike. The strap around the neck is a lot of stress if it hangs. With the gear cradled in the crook of my arm it is bearable.
Needless to say, the pace was sedate. Pam spent most of the time walking ahead and refusing to be in any shots. These past weeks, rainfall was light, so the creek is low. This low flow is a necessary element to a perfect waterfall image.
I get some great macro shots with that lens. With just the UV filter, it is quite fast.
In the Gallery
A memorable feature of upper Treman Park is the dramatic gorge entrance. When the glaciers melted, 10,000+ years ago, enough water flowed through this watercourse to wear away several hundred feed of sedimentary rock to form a gallery, or hall, with towering, crumbling, walls on either side.
This evening the light was low, the water seemed dead in that it was clear and did not glisten or ripple. I used these conditions in the above shot to emphasize the structure this pool. Located at the foot of a waterfall, at high water, the falls fill channel and this pool is carved by river stones carried in the current. At lower water, the pool is exposed.