Dan and Hannah Hike the Taughannock Falls Trails near Ithaca, New York

For the first time since June 2020, Hannah and I have come to central New York to see our eleven-month identical twin granddaughters, Reese and Charlotte, and their nearly three year-old big brother Brooks.  Due to Covid, we have not been able to support in person our son Will and his wife Laurel in caring for their brood.

Reese, Brooks, and Charlotte

But this last weekend in April 2021 we have come to Ithaca to be of some modest support.  Bringing Hannah’s homemade chili and cornbread and treating them to Mexican take-out with, listen to this, take-out pitchers of margaritas, as well as treating us all to Wegman’s monster subs for lunches, we hope to feed their bodies and souls. 

Brooks flying on the Omi Airlines

Raising our game, each afternoon we watch the kids while Will and Laurel go for a drive, take a long walk, or shop for garden supplies.  Taking Brooks for the morning to the South Hill Elementary School playground and wheeling Reese and Charlotte in their stroller around the neighborhood, we are giving it our best to support them in dealing with the exhaustion of parenting young’uns.

Charlotte and Reese

Like father like son

Heading out of town after four nights in Ithaca early Sunday on Will and Laurel’s sixth anniversary, we drive north on route 89 on the westside of Cayuga Lake (pronounced Cue-ga) for the roaring falls trails of Taughannock (pronounced Ta-gon-ick) Falls State Park eight miles from town.

Let the hiking begin

Parking for free before the season starts, we hike the South Rim Trail with few others.  Master craftsmen from the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) of the 1930s built the stairs that we take to the upper reaches of the gorge.

(The white spots are from the rain the previous night.)

With 400’ feet of elevation gain, the South Rim Trail and its sibling the North Rim Trail are high above the flowing gorge river that is wide enough for two to walk the walk and talk the talk.

It’s Gorge-ous

The Upper Falls

Crossing over the river above the Upper Falls, we follow the well-marked North Rim trail back to the trailhead.  Again, the trail is wide and easy on the feet.  The North Rim has the one view of the falls from high above.

The Taughannock Falls from the North Rim

Roughly two and half miles later, Hannah and I complete the Rim loop trails in 70 minutes.  Fact is, we are just not stop-and-smell-the-rose hikers, we move and we groove. 

Upon completion of the Rim trails, we take the level Gorge Trail to the falls that is filled today with hikers ready to break out after their Covid winter of isolation.  With a trail wide enough for fifteen people, we easily skirt the masked and unmasked as well as the washed and unwashed.

The Taughannock Creek through the gorge

With more people vaccinated, we abide by the park rule and easily maintain six feet of separation with other hikers. See above. 

The thundering Taughannock Falls

The falls are roaring like we’ve never experienced before due to the winter run-off and recent heavy rains of spring. 

Known for being unable to take a successful selfie, I give it my all at Taughannock Falls.  It’s a start.  Let’s try to find something positive to say or say nothing at all.

In less than two hours, we crush our 10,000 Fitbit step goal. Do I hear 20K?

Dan and Hannah Hike to Taughannock Falls near Ithaca, New York

Tau map of falls

Two things before I begin this blog.

First, a pronounciation quiz

Try correctly to pronounce the name of these local falls – Taughannock.

Now give the local Finger Lake a shot – Cayuga.

Check out the bottom of the page for the locals’ pronunciation.

Tau Fitbit

Second, Hannah and I are new Fitbit owners.  These sleek wrist watches primarily calculate how many steps one takes.  Typically, 10,000 steps is the daily goal.  We LOVE ’em.  We never thought of ourselves as Fitbit folks since we get plenty of exercise anyway.  But we do love the affirmation of our exercising life and the reminder to move rather than sit for long periods of time.

As you might have already guessed, my Fitbit reinforces my shallowness and the pathetic measuring of my self-worth by how many steps I get each day AND whether I beat my brother Richard (which I haven’t yet).

Tau map of Ithaca

After a morning of babysitting our ten-month old grandson Brooks, we know that though the forecast is raw with rain, we are going to find a hike and step, step, step to our Fitbit content.  With gorges aplenty here in central New York, we choose the Taughannock Falls, ten miles north of Ithaca, for our chilly willy hike with layers of clothes, gloves, and ski caps this mid-April Thursday.

Tau 2 south rim steps

The initial stone steps to the South Rim

With many of the local falls’ trails still closed this spring day because of ice on the stone walkways, Taughannock is ice- and snow-free.  Soon we are climbing the stone steps to the South Rim trail, hundreds of feet above the gorge below.

Tau 2AA above the gorge

The gorge

Having the trail mostly to ourselves, we, as exercise-first hikers, appreciate that there are no roses to smell or crowds to get in the way of our mission for 10,000 steps!

The south rim offers views into the gorge, but, as yet, we don’t see the waterfalls themselves.  After crossing over a century old bridge above the falls, we descend on the fenced-off north rim trail where waterfall viewing awaits.

Tau 3B D and H at overlook falls

Taughannock Falls, photographed by a Canadian

Arriving at the stone work overlook, we ask two folks to take our picture.  We soon learn that they are among the nicest people in the world (by that I mean, they are Canadians).

Tau 3C D above north rim gorge to lake

From the north rim out to Cayuga Lake

Once completing the rim loop in just over an hour, we have part deux – the popular gorge trail for our hiking pleasure.  Twenty feet wide, bordering the Taughannock Creek, the trail is ¾ of mile of levelness to the base of the falls.

Tau D and H at falls

The Taughannock Falls from the Gorge Trail

At the end of the trail, we ask another couple to take our picture.  In turn, Hannah asks if their family would like one as well.  Mom demurs.  And then this is where Hannah’s persistence and understanding of the human condition shines brightly.  Three minutes later, Hannah sweetly asks one more time.  They agree, I shoot, and they are so damn pleased with the result.

Fact is, “Yes” has been our go-to answer when someone offers us something.  It’s amazing what doors that affirmation opens.

Tau 1B B and H

10 month old Brooks and his Omi

Two hours after we start, we are back at the trailhead ready to hang out with Brooks pleased that our Fitbit step goal has been destroyed.

 

Pronunciations:

Taughannock – Ta-GAN-ick.

Cayuga – CUE-ga.

How’d you do?

 

Additional photos from Taughannock Falls

Tau 2 sign at start of falls

Tau 2A falls above the falls

Tau 4A rapids on gorge river

Tau 4B gorge walls

Looking up to the North Rim Trail

Dan and Hannah Hike to Taughannock Falls in Ithaca, New York

Tau Ithaca map

Hannah and I have come to New York to spend the weekend in Ithaca with our son Will and his wife Laurel.  While the others sleep in this Saturday morning in late April, I awake to begin my Daily Morning Routine: an hour of stretching and meditating.   Ommmmm.   You see, at the age of 68, years of casual inattention to my posture and overall poor body flexibility have finally caught up with me.

tau max and owen

Owen (3 5/6) supporting Max as Max turns 2

You see, four weeks ago, I picked up our grandsons Owen and Max while they stayed with us for four days while Molly and Tip went hiking in Zion National Park.  By the fourth day I awoke with a stiff neck.  Unable to move my neck right or left without pain, I sought out my friend/physical therapist, Corky Thomson, for some relief.

While reasonably healthy with decent cardio fitness, I have the flexibility of a dining room chair.  It seems that my lack of flexibility was an accident waiting to happen; it wasn’t just lifting the boys but years of neglect to maintaining my flexibility.   Amazing how the pain and the possibility of not being able to be physical active (especially to play Pickleball) gets my attention and calls me to wake up and smell the coffee.

Tau Sadie

Sadie supporting me during my morning stretching

After learning stretching exercises with Corky, I begin each day with neck and shoulder stretches, arms and legs stretches.  Amazingly within a week of her instruction and my commitment, I am indeed more flexible.  It’s becoming my yoga, my California Mellow.  I get it that I have a lifetime of such morning stretching ahead.

ATM 8A  W and L at falls

Will and Laurel at Taughannock Falls

Tau trail map

Ithaca, New York is blessed with fantastic waterfall hiking at its doorstep.  On previous trips to central New York, with Will and Laurel, Hannah and I have hiked the Buttermilk Falls and Treman State Park Trails right in town.  (Go to the categories link to the left of this blog, then click on New York Ithaca area to read those blogs.)

Tau 1AA H at TF sign

It’s a twenty-minute drive from their place to the southern reaches of their own personal Finger Lake, Cayuga. Today we’ll hike in Taughannock Falls State Park (pronounced Ta-gan-ick).  On this last day of April, we have two distinct hiking advantages.  One, the park is happy with people but not mobbed.  Two, the trees have not leafed out so we can see views from above to the Taughannock River and later to the Taughannock Falls themselves that we wouldn’t see in May.

Tau 1A  steps up as trail begins

Parking at the trailhead is limited to 30 cars, but across the street there are many more spaces.  Beginning the climb to the gorge rim on granite steps, we find the climbing easy and invigorating.  Pairing off, Hannah talks with Will in front while I talk up our daughter-in-law Laurel.  We’ve hiked and spent so much time with Laurel over the past few years that the conversation flows and life is good when your child marries well.

 

Very shortly, we are at the top of the gorge on the South Rim Trail, paralleling the cliff to our right.   At the rim the hike is on level, hard packed dirt, such that our nearly four-year-old grandson Owen could hike most of it while his two-year-old brother Max would not be far behind.

ATM 2B  D and H at falls with blue elephant

Rocking along the wide trail we come to an overlook to check out the Taughannock River below.  The 52F morning of bright sun makes it shorts weather.  The South Rim goes past the 215 foot falls nearly two miles from the trailhead to a walking bridge that crosses to the other side.   At the turnaround we are at a country road parking area that allows folks a full view of the waterfall, no matter how little or much they want to hike.

ATM 5 H looking out to Cayuga Lake

Hannah on the Rim Trail looking out to Cayuga Lake

Hikers are protected at the steep sides of the gorge by four-foot fencing on a trail that today can only be described as delightful.  At the falls, we descend some 30 feet to a full frontal view of the Taughannock Falls.   Here at the falls, there is again ample parking for folks who just want to take in the view.

 

Paired off again, we four descend the descending trail back to the trailhead. Nearly four miles after our start, we arrive back at the river bottom.

Tau 1  H W L at sign at start of trail

From this point at the trailhead, we now head on the nearly level twenty-foot-wide Gorge Trail along the river to the base of the Taughannock Falls.   The Gorge Trail is far busier than the Rim Trails but in an early spring way.  Walking three quarters of a mile to the falls we are dwarfed by the high slate and shale cliffs above us.

ATM 8C  D H W at falls

Crossing the river, we are within 200 yards of the end of the trail.  There we are happily rinsed by the mist from the falls.  This video captures the falls in action.

The gentle walk back to the trailhead ¾ of a mile away gives us a six-mile morning of hiking joy.

By the way, you may have noticed a blue elephant in some of our pictures.  Having forgotten Owen’s stuffed animal Woodstock, we have at least brought Max’s Blue Elephant to travel with us as our Flat Stanley (click on this link to learn more about the young man of children’s literature) to document our travels.

tau flat stanley

Parents with school age children will know Flat Stanley (a cardboard cutout) as a young man who sees the world and has his picture taken at the various spots when his handlers (anyone who travels) see the world.  We plan to take Woodstock and Blue Elephant to the waterfalls, mountaintops, and bluffs of these our United States to take a part of Owen and Max with us when we travel.