From France on Foot…

Lunchtime in Provence.

A decade ago my husband Boj & I set off on an adventure with two friends, Martha & Mitch. We were inspired by the book “France on Foot” by Bruce LeFavour to set off on a hiking adventure abroad. For twelve glorious days we trekked through Provence—leaving from Gordes and ending at Forcalcquier. The trip was magical--beautiful countryside, fields of poppies, local wines, cheeses, breads, and great dinners that we could walk off the next day. We didn’t need a guide since the book and websites provided good directions and hints—although we soon learned that the Grande Randonnee (GR) trail-markers might be on a faded splotch on an errant rock just as often as clearly delineated stripes on a tree. None of us wanted the burden of carrying tents and cooking gear so we packed light (clothes, rain gear, toiletries and first aid, and the day’s lunch) and stayed at family-run gites or small hotels. Every village had an excellent restaurant (and even Mitch, the vegetarian, had great meals—sometimes a rarity in Paris).

The Marketplace

We could always buy a good lunch for the trail and we didn’t make reservations for the entire trip so we could keep our schedule flexible. Instead we called ahead (or often asked our gite owner since her/his French was much better than ours!) from that day’s lodging to make the next reservation. That worked out well when I had a foot problem and needed to see a doctor in Saturnin and equally well when we had to stay in Oppedette for an extra day when the next village had only 4 beds in its one guest house and they were all booked.

to the Finger Lakes on Foot

I live in paradise in the heart of the Finger Lakes. As I began to plan my retirement, I realized that I (and others) could have a Finger Lakes on Foot adventure. We, too, have great wines, local cheeses, our own superb bakers.

Nancy, our Mecklenburg Cheesemaker.

Our unofficial motto is “Ithaca is Gorges” and we are surrounded by waterfalls, glacial lakes, and beautiful trail systems. We don’t have local olives like they do in Provence but you’ll find our Farmer’s Markets have everything you need for your picnic. We don’t have poppies but you’ll find the woods in spring filled with trillium and trout lilies or the fields in summer painted with a palate of purple ironweed and periwinkle chicory and the shoulders of the roads trimmed with bright yellow trefoils.

My retirement walk started in Ithaca, NY at Cornell University where I’ve been a librarian for the past 34 years. Like Horace Kephart, I believe that “librarianship provides a better field for mental gymnastics than any other profession” and I’ve had a wonderful career. Walking away from Cornell and into retirement seemed like a good way to transition into my next adventures. My retirement walk took a week but you can easily linger at any one of these stops and enjoy twice as much as I did. We ended our walk in the village of Horseheads where the Catherine Valley Trail ends. You can take a bus back to Ithaca or rent a car to visit some of the wineries we missed on the walk. Call Bill’s cab service and have them take you to Corning and enjoy one of the finest glass museums in the world or stroll along the historic Market St. district. If you flew into Ithaca, you even could depart from the Elmira/Corning airport which is about 10 miles from the terminus of the Catherine Valley Trail.

Hiking Buddies

Getting to Ithaca

It’s easy to get to Ithaca via plane, bus, or car and there are plenty of accommodations. You can stay at the upscale hotel on the Cornell campus—the Statler; an elegant B&B, the William Henry Miller Inn; or any number of chain hotels—from the downtown Hilton Garden Inn to a Super 8 on Rt 13.

Trails between the Lakes

In this Finger Lakes on Foot trek, we’ll begin with the Black Diamond Trail which parallels Cayuga Lake for several miles, then continue on the Finger Lakes Trail system in the National Forest, and end on the Catherine Valley Trail which we’ll pick up on the shores of Seneca Lake. I am grateful to the advocates and trailblazers who created each of these trail systems, to the volunteers who maintain many of the trails, and to the local, state, and federal employees who manage the parks and forests that have protected this beauty.

I'm also grateful to my hiking buddies who've explore the beautiful Finger Lakes area with me every month; to my sister, Sheila, who patiently explored chunks of the Finger Lakes Trail on our weekly Sunday hikes, my Provencal buddies, Martha & Mitch who were willing to test my hypothesis that we could have an equally enchanting adventure in the Finger Lakes; and to my husband, the mapmaker and website guru, who has always encouraged my exploring. I hope others will help me find new culinary treks in different parts of the Finger Lakes and post suggestions on the blog. Depending on how you count, there are eleven Finger Lakes and we've only explored two in this week-long hike.

The bioregion of the Finger Lakes is special--accented with deep glacial lakes, tumbling waterfalls, and stunning vistas--but it's also a comnmunity that values sustainability, local products, and good food and wine. Poet, novelist, and Cornell professor, Robert Morgan uses "terroir" to describe the particular aspect of a place.

"That quality that seems unique,
as thriving from a special spot
of soil, air flow and light specific
and also frost and winter sleep..."
Robert Morgan, "Terroir" in Terroir, Penguin: NY 2011

Enjoy your Finger Lakes on Foot adventure!