Category Archives: Ithaca

Salt Point Brewery, Purity Ice Cream, Coyglen Airbnb, Tompkins County International Airport – Ithaca, NY

Before we landed in Ithaca, I alerted Dirck that the airport was little more than a Quonset hut so imagine my surprise when it looked completely different. Still small but more like an airport. The rental car agent fillled me in that since my last visit 2 years ago the airport has been overhauled. And of course it’s the little things that impress me including a vending machine in the women’s bathroom with free tampons and sanitary pads. I’ve never seen that before. The world as it should be!

Coyglen Airbnb

We arrived on a crisp fall day and Ithaca never looked better, with the trees starting to turn red, yellow and orange, the sun shining intensely through fast moving clouds, making the pastures a dazzling green and Cayuga’s waters shimmer. I was instantly happy in this place that I have loved since my parents took me here as a child.

Our Airbnb (Coyglen) is as lovely as the photos. An upstairs apartment in a pretty old white farmhouse with a curving wrap around porch. It sits high atop a green pasture that looks out across the hills at a slit in the woods that is Buttermilk Falls. A sweet yellow lab not unlike ours came over to greet us as we sat near a weathered wooden barn in plastic Adirondack chairs, marveling at the view. We are just south of downtown off of 13A, near my other favorite state park, Treman.

The owner told us the house was part of a dairy farm and the gravel road that runs past the house and old weathered bar is Coyglen road and leads to Coyglen, a very rugged hike with no paved trail. Hikers get very wet but the scenery is worth it, I’m told.

Madigan Mint please

Dinner was in Lansing, at Salt Point Brewery where we met our friends whose wedding we are attending. Dear, dear Myra, my friend of 40 years who I haven’t seen in two years. She came rushing over with arms outstretched and I did the same. A long overdue hug and we were off to races, catching up, meeting members of the wedding party from Kansas City, Wichita and Des Moines (believe it or not.) This is the bride’s family. The groom, Myra’s son, is from Connecticut. They met as students at Cornell. Lovely people all and we had a great time, sitting outside on a lawn around the fire pit, with the lake in the distance, drinking beer and cider and eating very good pizza.

Dirck and I couldn’t resist stopping at Purity Ice cream, an old haunt downtown, which we passed on our way back to the Airbnb. Love this place!!

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Taughanock Falls, Ithaca Commons, Cornell, Forest Home, Aurora— exploring old Ithaca haunts

Late post: I set out on a gorgeous morning for the gorges…where else? They have always been my favorite landscape feature here. After a short drive down around the lake past downtown Ithaca, I was at the grand daddy of falls, high-falling Taughanock. It was an easy 20 minute there and 20 minutes back walk on the wide dirt path through the woods lining the flat rocks of the gorge, lined by high canyon walls. Lots of water crashing down on them there falls. I noticed that the beautiful old Taughanock Farms Inn, which I used to go to for a splurge dinner with my parents as a kid, is now the Inn at Taughanock. Still there, as is the Glenwood Pines, an old roadhouse along Route 89. Last time we went there about 20 years ago, the restaurant review I did of the Pines in 1980 was still tacked up on the knotty pine wall.

Nut ridge road (to the cottage @ the lake❤️)

As forewarned, the Ithaca Commons is rapidly being dwarfed by modern high-rise apartments which I gather are designed for wealthy foreign students and remote-location tech workers. Not good. There are still some old brick buildings along what was once a street, some with good little shops, including an excellent craft gallery with some very good local ceramics. Just south of the commons, I chanced upon an amazing shop that sells “not quite perfect” (NQP) Eileen Fisher clothing for a fraction of the original cost. We are talking dresses and jackets for $29, shirts and pants for $19. I cleaned up!

Myra at their cottage!

I did a quick drive through Collegetown, at the foot of the Cornell campus and saw that our old house at the bottom of steep Williams street is still standing, still beating the odds (and gravity). The suspension bridge over the gorge was closed (boo) so went onto the little hidden hamlet of Forest Home north of North Campus and sat on a flat rock, dipping my feet in the surprisingly warm water and watched somewhat wistfully the young kids riding the gently rushing water over the slippery flat rocks. Those days are over for me. Don’t need a third broken arm. I stopped briefly for a late light lunch (chicken soup) at the new general store in an old building in King Ferry and then drove a little further past lovely old white farmhouses and dairy farms high above Cayuga’s waters to check out Aurora, a sweet little town with some well-maintained old buildings (thanks to a philanthropist who went to Wells College there). Some businesses have closed sadly but still a pretty place. Didn’t make it to Mackenzie Child’s, the pricey home goods company based a mile north of Aurora.

Forest Home

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Robert Treman State Park, Ithaca Bakery, Bright Leaf Vineyard – Ithaca

Upper Treman gorge trail ❤️

(Late post…)

Fortunately I had my friend Tom to lend a hand, literally, when the gorge trail along the rushing waters between Upper and Lower Treman State Park got a little scary. After tripping on a tree root during a hike in the woods a year ago in Norway and breaking my arm, it is taking awhile to regain my confidence as a hiker.

Ithaca Bakery downtown

After our two-mile hike, we plunged into the ice cold water of the swimming hole at the base of a waterfall with white water crashing down the mossy rocks. So many memories of this place from childhood summers and college summers and summers with our kids. We almost didn’t get to swim because of inhospitable water conditions that closed the swimming area yesterday.

Blue green algae is the scare de jour on Cayuga Lake but no one has been able to adequately explain what the health risks are. And I have thoroughly enjoyed my late afternoons swimming in the lake which is warmer than the gorge pools but still very refreshing. Tonight myra and I went to a wine tasting at a new winery, Bright Leaf, just up the road. We listened to live music, sipped wine, nibbled on crostini and couscous,and admired the sunset over the lake, an orange fireball slowing dropping into the pale blue water.

I also stopped for late lunch at the Ithaca Bakery downtown – the T-burg twist rules! (Tuna with avocado on brown bread,)

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sapsucker Woods/Ithaca and Francesca’s/Syracuse”

Maybe it’s because I am old enough to aspire to be a birder or maybe it’s that I never realized what a cool place an ornithology lab can be, but I was pleasantly surprised by my visit yesterday to The Cornell Ornithology lab at Sapsucker Woods. I arrived as a free lab tour was starting and it was great, about 18 visitors from all over (including a guy from Wales who mentioned living for a few years in Ottumwa, Iowa and loving it) and a very engaging guide who led us into the areas normally off bounds for visitors. We saw some very interesting stuffed birds, bird feet and bird wings in the specimens lab (or some such) and learned all kinds of interesting tidbits about the life and study of birds. (See Notes below) I also walked on one of the sawdust paths in the woods around the attractive modern lab building with a borrowed pair of binoculars (which an 8 year old girl tried to show me how to use) to try to find some noteworthy birds. Next trip I’d like to go on one of their early morning free guided bird walks on Saturday or Sunday.

Sapsucker Woods birding

We had another nice late afternoon by the lake, dinner at the picnic table and a last trip to Cream at the Top for Ice cream (bittersweet symphony and dark chocolate chip!) . Myra and I took a last (for me, this year) morning walk along the lake with her nice neighbor Heather and then it was time to say goodbye. No tears this time. Loved being with some of my favorite people in one of my favorite places and I’ll be back!

My friend Tom picked me up for a pleasant 1 hour 10 minute drive to a good restaurant in Syracuse called Francesca’s where I had lunch with my friend Cynthia. Great time catching up after two years of not seeing each other and good food too (antipasto salad, Italian wedding soup). Now at the Syracuse airport with what I hope is only a briefly delayed flight to DC.

Notes from Lab Tour:
ebirds, merlyn bird id
How to draw blood of a bird- from under wing
How to trap raptors (put live prey in trap)
If you heard the bird you saw it (ID by song/sound)
Mallard duck teeth (skull) to tear meat
Red tail hawk foot. Intense grip.
Grey hound hawk eats 30 rodents/rabbits per night…more during mating season?
Owls fly silently so rodent prey can’t hear them.
Other birds have amazing eyes to detect fish in water.
Sheer water hawk spends 90 percent of Time soaring in air. Land to eat and sit on water. Migrating birds sleep while flying.
Reynolds game farm In Ithaca breeds pheasants (game farm rd)
Can bring bird found hit by car on road to lab.
Bird net app to try to Id sounds. In beta. Hear bird sounds in wild and Id by phone. Swift recording box and record sounds and then grad students ID.
Ebird to crowd source population studies.
Technology to record bird sounds. First done at Stewart park. Hollywood. Macaulay library – crazy equipment to record rare bird songs and old field journals
Humans can make Pshishimg noise to communicate and lure curious birds 
lab motto: keep common birds common
Bird of prey movie

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Cascadilla Gorge, Fall Creek neighborhood, Gimme Coffee, collegetown bagels, cream at the top (again) — Ithaca

Continuing my Golden Oldies tour, I drove on another spectacular weather day to Ithaca’s Fall Creek neighborhood, with pretty old wooden houses sporting open porches, riotous gardens and shades of a hippie past. After a cuppa at Gimme Coffee (a visit to the bathroom to read the flyers tacked on the burlap covered bulletin board is a must) I walked up the stone path and steps lining the water falls and rushing water over flat rocks of Casadilla Gorge from downtown to Collegetown, where I stopped for lunch at the venerable (and still hopping) Collegetown Bagels for lunch and then next door Bear Necessities which sells Cornell and Ithaca gear.

I walked the trail further than I have in the past, into the woods behind the Engineering college. Less spectacular water features but more relaxing too. (No steep winding stone staircase.) I did notice nets under some gorge bridges, presumably to catch jumpers.

On the way back to the lake, I stopped at the Ithaca Bakery outpost in the odd Triphammer mall for bread for dinner. Nice to have. And I drove through the hidden hamlet of Ludlowville to see if anything was going on and was pleased to see that nothing was.

With my GPS turned off, yes off, I drove a lovely backroad north, over a few one lane metal bridges spanning creeks (salmon creek rd) and then west (the aptly named Hill Road, that turned into the now-familiar Atwater Road, just north of “the cottage.”)

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Ithaca, my Ithaca

I am so thrilled to be back in my favorite place in the world, certainly my sentimental favorite. Ithaca is so full of memories that go back to my childhood when my parents– who met in Ithaca in college and loved this place — took my siblings and me here as kids to Cornell alumni university for a week each summer during the 1970s.

Then there were my own college years here (1977-1981) and then the wonderful summers I spent in the 1990s and early 2000’s with my husband and kids and my dear former college roommates.

After a 10 year absence, I’m back in a sweet cottage high above Cayuga’s waters that our dear friends now own, near the cottages we rented for several summers. Love it! We went to some of my touchstones- the Ithaca Farmers Market, Wegmans (best super market) and cream at the top (best ice cream stand cut into a cornfield: tonight’s flavors White lightening; Guatemalan Ripple).

And I feel particularly fortunate to be here because I almost ended up in Buffalo, a last minute possible diversion after fog hampered our initial landing at Tompkins County airport. our flight almost got diverted to Buffalo at the last minute.

Cayuga Lake sunset

As we were preparing to land the plane suddenly seemed to be on the slowest landing possible . The pilot finally told us the fog had reached a level that did not permit landing so we were circling the airport in hopes it would clear. If it didn’t clear in 15 minutes we would be diverted to buffalo. (Why buffalo and not somewhere closer like Syracuse?) anyway we finally landed in the dark and still foggy night. Couldn’t be happier to see my old pals!!!

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For future reference: how to go glamping in Moab

I used to love to camp – but my bad back makes sleeping in a tent on the ground, even with a pad, out of the question. So glamping – which presumably mixes glamour and camping but most importantly, offers the promise of a firm bed inside a tent – seems like the way to go. Our friends Denise and David went glamping in Moab and report that: “It was just great! Love sleeping in a tent, AND in a bed ;)”  Denise’s photo (above) of the tent at sunrise has me in heavy daydream mode…

For future reference, here’s the appropriately-named glamping outfit they went with: Under Canvas

More information on how to glamp (including in my beloved Ithaca) is here.

The NYTimes is also on it….

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No more “Ithaca”?

Trying to find time when our family – including three young adult children – can all get away for a summer vacation is becoming increasingly difficult. Too many conflicting schedules, especially with two kids soon to be in college and one a newbie  in the work world.

So finding a time when two families can get away together for a summer vacation is even harder.

The net result is that this summer, it doesn’t look like my Iowa family will be able to continue a cherished tradition of sharing a vacation and cottage on Cayuga Lake north of Ithaca, N.Y. with our dear friends, a Connecticut family whose parents are old friends of mine from college (Cornell U. in Ithaca.)

We’ve managed to do this every other year – seven times I think – since our kids (three of theirs, two of ours) were really young. And try as we did last weekend – talking over the phone between Iowa and Connecticut, with our respective calendars in front of us, comparing our kids’ college schedules and possible summer jobs, plus other family obligations from parent’s birthday celebrations to family reunions – we just can’t find a week that works for us all to get away together.

Actually, the biggest problem is the kids’ unpredictable schedules. So we parents are now considering a new option – the four of us sharing a summer vacation, sans kids. It’s better than nothing – we figure. And maybe in a few years, some of the kids will be able to join us again. Here’s hoping. But it still feels like the end of the era – and that’s sad.

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