Commentary by Rick Rodriguez
Discovering three great waterfalls in a state as big as New York is not too difficult. Doing it in less than a week's time is a story within itself.
Of course, one of the Grand Daddy of all waterfalls in North America is Niagara Falls and for me it was a bucket list item. The other two I chose on this trip were unplanned and I happened to cross just by sheer luck and a tip from a friend.
Niagara Falls was what I thought it would be, an amazing spectacle, a deluge of beautiful thundering water roaring down its descent; cascades mimicking the currents of time, different, at each moment. 'This never stops,' I thought! 'This water continues to flow every waking minute of my life and has since I came to be.' The fact that it's an ever constant flow of water that has moved incessantly for hundreds if not thousands of years is, to me, a fascinating and prodigious thought. It was a rich thoroughly invigorating experience and unambiguously a day to remember.
On that day, I walked the length of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, hop scotching around so many others accompanying me that day, and also focusing on the phenomenon I had longed to see all the years of my life. I had come here to see this wonder of the world and now, before me, it was mine. Yes, the memory of it, is mine! I had captured it as all should!
A few days later, on a drive toward the Finger Lakes region near Ithaca, New York, I crossed paths with Taughannock Falls. The juncture appeared like a fork in the road as I drove along one of the five Finger Lakes, so named for their hand like appearance when viewed from a satellite, and like so many of life junctures, something beckoned me to explore this region as it was totally unplanned.
Pulling off the road, I glanced a path and began a descent into a slate cut cavity formed from ages of flowing water. I followed a trail adjacent to the cavernous river bed below me walking until I came upon the falls. A lighter stream of water flowed than those I had viewed in Canada, yet, its subtle beauty engaged me. Some thirty or so minutes passed before I contemplated leaving. In fact, I headed back up the trail only to return, an instinct admonishing me that I would only come this way once and I needed to absorb this moment as much as possible. The entire excursion took up about three hours of my lifespan so it was well worth it!
After a well deserved lunch in Ithaca, New York, I asked the bartender, "How far to the University?" she replied "oh its right up the hill just turn left," failing to mention how steep the site of the prestigious place of learning that is Cornell University is situated. I walked briskly passing typical collegiate housing until I walked onto the grounds of the Ivy League School. Students and faculty settled around the campus as I wandered around marveling at the structures and the view of the town below. Satisfied, I headed back down the hill continuing my journey.
I kept moving through New York, mostly on two lane highways and through small towns. After resting over night in Cooperstown, I set my sights on the Adirondacks but fortune found me in Glen Falls, New York where I stopped at St. Mary's Cathedral for a moment of thankful blessings. Shortly thereafter, I lunched at Lake George before embarking on a 153-mile road trip through the Adirondacks. With little time to engage the varying terrain, I climbed toward Blue Mountain Lake, Inlet, and Old Forge admiring the scenic country only briefly. I was on a cursory mission and the drive through these mountains served as an introductory chapter to this 10,000 square mile expanse. The Adirondack Park is greater in size than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined!
Days later, unable to resist the lure of Letchworth State Park, I drove south from Rochester into the park for a glance at what is called "The Grand Canyon of the East," a gesture to the likeness of the southwest cavity known as the Grand Canyon. I hiked from the Lower Falls to Middle Falls, and finally reaching Upper Falls, after a 4.0 mile trip on dirt and rock strewn trails. Hiking silently along the trail, sounds of the flowing falls below, I yearned for something that would make this trek worthwhile, and I found it at Middle Falls admiring a rainbow that appeared suddenly to share the afternoon with me. It was a signal that the scene was destined for me. I captured it here, photographed, as evidence that I had passed this way, as many before me have and will.
It was a short week and a lot of driving! Seeing these three waterfalls was remarkably special for me! I can't wait to see three more!!!
Rick Rodriguez is a San Francisco Bay Area native, graduate of Saint Mary's College, and an avid blogger. His numerous interests include golf, travel, trail running, hiking, reading, politics, and writing. He lives in Danville, California with his two children.
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