Trail Overview:

The Black Diamond Trail

The Black Diamond Trail (BDT) starts in Ithaca, near the inlet of Cayuga Lake, parallels the lake for a few miles, meanders through farmland and rolling hills, and ends at Taughannock Falls State Park, an easy ten mile hike. More than a dozen rivulets and waterfalls criss-cross the trail and you'll be rewarded at the end of your hike with the spectacular Taughannock (pronounced Tuck-han-uck) Falls, a 215 foot drop-higher than Niagara Falls). The Black Diamond Trail is a work in progress and the city of Ithaca has applied for federal funding for Part 2 which will connect 4 major state parks in Tompkins County and 226 acres of public land. The part we will be hiking is a rail to trail segment once used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Black Diamond Express that ran between Buffalo and New York City.

Reward at the End of the Trail

Culinary Aside:

If I were a first-time visitor to Ithaca, I would stay in the city for a few days (at the William Henry Miller Inn!), have brunch at the DeWitt Café, lunch at the Moosewood, tapas and a local flight of wine at Just a Taste, and dessert at Madeline's. But wait, we're about to start our hike….so, get directions to the Inlet from your favorite hotel or innkeeper on your way out the door. You might want to stop by Ithaca Bakery to pick up a lunch. Next to the Farmer's Market (Saturday & Sun mornings), Ithaca Bakery has the best selection of local cheeses, including my hometown Bier Meck or the exotic smoky but local, Lapsang Souchong or the creamy Bianco from the Kenton Cheese Co. But, if you forgot your gorp or dried fruit, stock up at Greenstar Market, an excellent cooperative that is less than ¼ mile from the start of the trail.

My last minute stop is at Ports of New York (815 Taber Street) to pick up my after-dinner drink. Frederic Bouche just happens to sell the perfect backpack size (50 ml) bottle of Meleau, "uniquely mellow but spirited fine wine using traditional Port vinification methods." Housed in a narrow framed building close to the Cayuga Inlet, Ports of New York manages to pack in layers of oak casks, a tasting room, and even a museum. The yeast is grown in honey, the grapes are all New York, and the "ports" are aged for 4+ years. If you're lucky, your tasting will be conducted by Frederic Bouche, a scion of La Maison Bouche which was founded in France in 1919. He'll pour his white and then his red Meleau into delicately etched liquor glasses, tell you family stories, explain the Port vinification method, and you'll be compelled to buy a couple to appreciate after dinner.

Food & Lodging:

If you have time when you get to Trumansburg, linger at Taughannock Falls State Park and stay at the lovely Taughannock Farms Inn, a Victorian mansion overlooking Cayuga Lake and adjacent to the State Park. An overnight stay in the Inn will give you time to enjoy a swim in the lake, hikes in the park, a ranger-led program on the geology of the area, or a concert on the lawn on a star-lit Saturday night. But, if you can't linger at the Park, we'll head into the village of Trumansburg. Follow Taughannock Falls Rd. to Rt. 96. the closest B&B (other than the TF Inn) is the stately Halsey House on the corner of Rt. 96 and Taughannock Falls Rd. Several other lovely B&B's are within walking distance. Rather than walk on the highway, cross Rt 96 and follow Rabbit Run Rd to South St (1 mile). Turn R and take South St for another mile til you get back to Rt. 96 where you'll turn R. Walk down Main St. til you get to Gothic Eves, classic Gothic Revival buildings in a village that is filled with beautifully restored homes.

Dining at Hazelnut Kitchen

If you come to T-burg on a Wednesday in the summer, you'll be able to catch the Farmer's Market, local produce and local talent-from purveyors of good grub to talented musicians. Thursday-Monday, you can enjoy dinner at the Hazelnut Kitchen where farm-to-table is a value and the food is superb. If you want the best pizza in the area, try New York Pizzeria, a place that Ithacans will drive 10 miles to enjoy.

I choose to arrive on a Tuesday in order to pick up my Wide Awake Bakery bread for our hike the next day. Wide Awake Bakery is a CSA and my weekly pick-up of poppyseed or pain au Levain is one of the highlights of my week. With my loaf of Wide Awake Bakery bread, some local cheeses, Julie Jordon's neat balls for my vegan husband all of which I can pick up at Good to Go Market on Main St, I'm all set for tomorrow's trek in the Finger Lakes Forest where amenities (other than the B&B) are nil.