“Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.”
from “Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist, Writings from the Ozarks” edited by Stephen W. Hines”
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.
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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.
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