The crashing falls beckon me, as they do each year. I need escape, centering, grounding. I need to breathe deep and relax fully as my body has zoomed into the outer limits with adrenaline and anxiety. We discovered these gorges over 20 years ago when the boys were young, a place in upstate New York, the Finger Lakes, dug out by glaciers that took some giant scoops when moving over Ithaca.
Walking back to the falls through the dark woods with squirrels scampering, I hear the thunder of the water, then feel its spray long before I jump up on the rock wall next to it, allowing the rush of water breaking on the rocks to soothe my wrangled nerves.
Robert H. Treman State Park, is our favorite spot to set up camp, though only minutes away there’s also Buttermilk, and a bit further, Taughannock which is said to be higher than Niagara Falls. The falls at Treeman are full after the heavy rains, pounding into a swimming area deep enough to dive in, the water so spring fed cold that once in, your body numbs and you no longer feel the cold, or your body. Kicking around on my back I can look up the steep gorge walls a long way until the sun and blue sky beyond come into view.
After a charcoal fire of veggie burgers, grilled broccoli and corn, we stare at the campfire until well past dark. I read in the camper till sleep comes. By morning it is unusually cold but our new little camper is equipped with heat, so before getting up, I reach over flicking it on. Getting up quietly, I light the gas stove to start the coffee perking trying not to wake Samuel.
After breakfast we hike upper Treman which leads through beautiful stonework paths cut into the gorge down to Lucifer Falls. I call it the witch’s castle from the scene in OZ because it looks exactly like it. We still have one more day to hike upper Buttermilk then on the drive back we stop at Taughannock. We call it the moon walk and when younger, and more sure footed, we’d hike right up the river bed, resembling what the moon surface looks like, and rivulets of water gushing here and there all the way to the falls.
Coming here in the past, not long after both boys had grown and left home, felt like half of me was present, the other half cut off at the knees, the empty next leaving me vulnerable, hollow and lost. Now only remnants of that dull ache remained. It’s hard not to picture them laughing, splashing in each little span of falls, or skipping rocks. But I enjoy watching others families doing exactly the same and am warmed by memories rather than overcome by them.
We break camp on day three and head home along the lake. As always, it’s good to come home.