Like so many other interesting places in the area, Buttermilk Falls is not exactly mobbed, or at least not very often. If you go there, even on a day as nice as yesterday, you’re just as likely to find yourself alone. Still, after doing the 100 mile drive, I was surprised to find that I had the place essentially to myself. Not that I minded, though.
Buttermilk Falls lies just on the southern end of Ithaca. Heck, you can see the “main” 165 foot waterfall from the road. People go there in the summer to swim in the large, deep pool at its base. But most people don’t venture any further than that. And up until yesterday, I’d never gone much beyond that point, either. You can chalk that up to ignorance. I simply didn’t know what was further upstream.
In actuality, the gorge that Buttermilk Creek runs through rises some 600 feet in about 3/4 of a mile. That may not sound like much, but it’s a steep climb. Just try it sometime. The good news, I guess, is that along the way you’re going to encounter a whole mess of amazing stuff. There are at least 2 unique glens in the gorge and something like 8 to 10 major waterfalls. All of this is through what’s known as the Ithaca Formation, shale and igneous rock that’s roughly 300 million years old. Not exactly Grand Canyon vintage, but still pretty damn old.
I find this eternal battle between water and rock just fascinating. You can see how the water has cut through the rock at angles that are sometimes close to 90 degrees. Or you can see where it’s carved nearly perfectly circular plunge pools – like the one in the foreground of this image. If you look closely at the gorge walls, you can see (and hear and feel) water seeping through from above. It’s constant. It makes the path you’re walking on always muddy and always slippery. The water, as I’ve said before, always wins. Eventually, there will be no 600 foot rise up the gorge. There will be no gorge. It’ll all be flat.
But you and I won’t see it. Nor will my granchildren’s grandchildren. I just hope that they find the time to spend a few hours in these places, like I did yesterday. It’s got to be better than playing video games, right?