November 13, 2013

Finger Lakes in 48 Part 2: Ithaca is Gorges

After an awesome morning at the farmer's market, we were off to Cornell to visit the Lab of Ornithology and the sanctuary onsite called Sapsucker Woods.

Sapsucker Woods was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. The following pictures are unadulterated and taken with my phone. It was that beautiful. I felt like I was plucked out of the real world and dropped right in the middle of an impressionist landscape painting.

My dad loves bird-watching, so we were filled with anticipation when we picked up the extensive checklist of birds in the area. Although we did see one very interesting bird (that we've yet to identify), the woods that day were quiet except for the occasional chatter of goldfinches, the telltale knock-knock of the woodpecker, and pitter-patter of tiny chipmunk feet darting through the leaves. The entertaining chipmunks, fall foliage, and total tranquility more than made up for the fact that we didn't see many new birds.

One of the main tourist draws in Ithaca is all of its gorges and waterfalls. And their town motto, "Ithaca is Gorges", is one of the coolest I've heard. Because we had such a short time in Ithaca, we weren't able to go to some of the more famous falls like Lucifer Falls and Taughannock Falls. We told ourselves, "Next time. Next time we'll have a day just for hiking the gorges!" Fortunately, there is no shortage of spectacular scenery there, and we were able to find some easily accessible waterfalls right in town.

The first was Ithaca Falls. You could see it from the road, and it took only a few minutes to walk to the base of it. There was a lot of flat rocky space near the water which would make a great picnicking spot.

Our final stop before dinner was Cascadilla Falls. The entry is right off of a residential road in town and would be easy to miss. The trail, which is mostly stairs, winds up the steep hill and passes nine waterfalls before reaching the end at Cornell University. Half of the trail was closed for renovation, but we were tired and totally ok with that.

After all the hiking and sightseeing, we were famished. We stopped at Viva! Taqueria and Cantina for a bite to eat. I had scoped out vegan-friendly restaurants before we left home, and this was a place that had gotten a lot of good reviews. People loved the food, the vegan options were plentiful, and the prices were really affordable. I was expecting your run of the mill Mexican joint, but this place was so much more than that.

I was really impressed by their clear labeling of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu as well as their commitment to homemade and locally sourced ingredients. Being in a college town certainly has its perks.

Close up of the menu

We started off the meal with chips (freshly made, not overly oily either) with salsa and guacamole. It's so easy for restaurants to cut corners by using bagged chips and jarred salsa and guacamole, but it is so, so worth it to make everything fresh. This was a great starter.

For our main dishes, my dad got a vegan burrito, which was stuffed with rice, beans, zucchini, and corn and then smothered with an amazing tomato sauce. It was served with slaw, guacamole, and pickled vegetables on the side.

I got vegan enchiladas with mole sauce which was served with rice and black beans as well as pickled vegetables and guacamole on the side.

The seasonings stood out without overpowering the food, which was (again) so fresh and satisfying. For the quality of the meal we got, I would have been happy paying double what the actual bill was. It was worth it. If you're ever in Ithaca, check out Viva! Taqueria and Cantina. You won't be disappointed.

Our bellies full, we drove back to Watkins Glen and tucked ourselves into bed, giddy with anticipation for the next day's trip to Farm Sanctuary and visit with out sponsor goat, Jake.

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