Upstate New York is home to rolling hills and buccolic small towns. Corn fields are everywhere, and roadside stands offer vegetables for sale on the ‘honor’ system (you take what you want and leave money in a can).
This area is also home to the Finger Lakes, eleven narrow, deep lakes clawed out by ancient glaciers, as they fought the recession into the cold lands of the north. Cayuga Lake, where Ithaca is located on the southern shore, is 435 feet deep, forty miles long and no more than three miles wide.
As we drove by the western shoreline, we passed quite a few wineries, successful along the shores of these lakes due to the moderating effect of temperature caused by the great depth of the lakes. Cooling in the summer, with a somewhat warming effect in the spring. Still, surprising to see so many wineries in this part of the country (although, we did not take the time to sample any of the tasting rooms).
Ithaca is home to Cornell University. Set on a series of hills overlooking wooded acreage and Cayuaga Lake, it certainly ranks as one of the more appealing that we have visited. Founded in 1865, it supports a student population approaching 20,000.
Hiking, bicycling, even wine tasting in the countryside, this area was inspiring, and seemed like a great place to live – if it wasn’t for the bitterly cold winters that descend early and prolong even later.
Just on the outskirts of Ithaca is Treham Park, famous for a series of waterfalls that trundle through a slate-lined gorge. You don’t need to travel far to get into some spectacular scenery in Ithaca.
Another day we drove two hours over to Cooperstown, site of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why Cooperstown? Evidently, this is where Abner Doubleday invented the game back in 1839, on a dusty cow pasture.
This is even better than Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I’m not much of a baseball fan. Everyone has heard of Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Cy Young. Like Canton, the early years of baseball are displayed, with rare movie footage of your favorite players. Peer into the locker of Stan Musial, watch an unassisted triple play, marvel at the wealth of baseball records – baseball is America’s pastime. Stand in a memorial to Babe Ruth, which includes his uniform, movie clips, and memorabilia from his career.
The Hall itself contains brass plaques honoring the game’s greatest players, chosen annually by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The first class of 1936 included Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. Since then, almost three hundred individuals have been added to this hall – although the hall itself feels more like a mausoleum than an enshrinement. My only question was why wasn’t the great Cy Young – winner of 511 games – not included in the first group of players?
The town of Cooperstown is by itself, cute, and obviously baseball themed, its three blocks are packed with stores selling autographed balls, bats, and jerseys. Set beside another narrow lake, with a population of under two thousand, it is an entertaining and historic destination, whether you are a baseball fan or not.
We could have spent more time in this area, since there is quite a bit to see and do. Upstate New York, especially the area around Ithaca is well worth a visit.