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Three Perfect Days: Finger Lakes

Author Rohan Kamicheril Illustration Ben Rosenzweig

The True Love Schooner on Seneca Lake

Picture 1 of 15

Seen from above, the Finger Lakes look like claw marks on the landscape. The 11 glacial trenches occupy a relatively narrow corridor of central upstate New York, yet they have a far wider significance. The Iroquois believed they were of divine provenance. Farmers and loggers flocked to the area for the fertile land around their shores. The lakes are central to the region’s identity and its economy. Everything here leads back to water.

The forces that shaped the Finger Lakes also endowed the region with a fierce natural beauty. The surrounding hills are split into innumerable gorges, with hidden waterfalls, secret swimming holes and enough scenic outcrops to keep a landscape painter occupied for a lifetime. The lakes themselves, some of the deepest in the U.S., are enchanting—made more so, perhaps, by the lush vineyards that surround them.

And there are plenty of rewards away from the water’s edge, too. In addition to top-notch wineries, orchards dot the countryside, whose meadows burst with cattails, goldenrod and chicory. In summertime farmers markets abound, reflecting a resurgent interest in the bounty of the region. You can’t throw a peach pit without hitting a local cheese maker, bread maker or small-batch seed-oil producer.

The region is also home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a fact that lends its towns a youthful energy and ensures that the area’s cultural attractions are as varied and impressive as its landscapes. It is this variety that makes the Finger Lakes such a wonderful place to be. There’s always a sense that you’re discovering something new, even if that something has been two million years in the making.

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6 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Finger Lakes”

  1. Pat Vanderbrook Says:
    April 11th, 2014 at 3:58 am

    I had the good fortune to grow up on Skaneateles lake- one of the clearest lakes in the world. Live in SoCal now but go home every September- there’s always something happening- the biggest is the antique boat show with boats from all over the NE.

  2. John Pettimore Says:
    April 11th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I have no idea how this article overlooked this, but one of the most incredible tourist attractions in New York State is right in the middle of the Finger Lakes region, and wasn’t mentioned at all, although it gets 400,000 visitors every year.


  3. Jordan Engel Says:
    April 16th, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    In the first paragraph, Rohan writes, “The Iroquois believed they [the Finger Lakes] were of divine provenance.” It’s a common mistake to refer to Native Americans in the past tense, but the fact is that Iroquois, who call themselves the Haudenosaunee, are very much a living culture today. There are still Haudenosaunee communities in the Finger Lakes, so the sentence should read “The Iroquois believe they are of divine provenance.”

  4. Catherine Ramirez Says:
    April 24th, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    It is insulting to mention the Iroquois Nation in the past tense, as if they are dead and gone. (“The Iroquois believed…”) The Iroquois are alive, they exist! Please do your research and think about all people as human beings, rather than just an exotic and mysterious phenomenon to pump up your story.

  5. Reginald Russell Says:
    April 24th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    What does “divine provenance” mean? Do you have proofreaders?

  6. Joshua Steiner Says:
    April 27th, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Great article about my adopted home-town. We love going back for Cornell reunion or any of the other events. Don’t forget about Gimmie! Coffee in Ithaca… One of the best espressos in North America

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