Weekend Window: The Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes offer a great view of nature.

Oct. 26, 2008 — -- Since the 1970s, Ithaca, N.Y., has been known for its clever slogan, "Ithaca is Gorges."

"These gorges are really characteristic of the region," said Andrew Zepp, executive director of The Finger Lakes Trust. "In fact, there are over 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of Ithaca."

Ithaca is part of the Finger Lakes region, an area approximately the size of Vermont located in central New York State.

"They are called Finger Lakes because the last time the glaciers receded from this area they gouged out these long, linear [lakes], the longest of which is 40 miles long. There are 11 lakes that are extended like the fingers on one's hands," Zepp said.

In addition to the lakes' natural beauty, they allow for an added bonus -- wineries. The lakes are blessed with a moderate climate, allowing for a longer growing season and making the region home to more than 100 wineries.

"It reminds you of Tuscany. It's a beautiful landscape, and it's a great, lush area," said Michelle Courtney Berry, poet laureate emeritus of Tompkins County. "The wineries are diverse. There's a variety of grapes you find this time of year, and this is really the heart of the season in the fall."

For many residents of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region, autumn is the most beautiful and inspiring time of year.

"From burnished gold to rusted red and all the colors of the foliage, you certainly get a sense of hopefulness about what you can do," said Berry. "I feel inspired, and many people who live here feel creative based on the colors."

Ithaca is also a college town, home to Ithaca College and Cornell University, which gives this rural area a rich cultural tradition and a diversity of experiences found in few places.

"What I appreciate is that on a given day, I can start out with a hike through these wonderful gorges, spend time sailing on a beautiful lake, visit a winery in the afternoon, and through one of the institutions of higher learning, hear a world leader speak at night, " said Zepp.