While my Grandma and Grandpa Wheeler were still around they would both tell me that they continued to find the Finger Lakes Region the most beautiful of the entire country, though they had traveled to all 50 states and beyond. As I was driving east on Route 96 in Candor this past week, I contemplated how extraordinary the scenery was and how lucky I am to be able to walk out of my house and make a mere twenty-minute drive to either of the two lakes I live between. Much of the rest of the world does not have that option available.
Like my grandparents, I’ve traveled much, though I can’t claim having visited all 50 states yet. While I lived overseas as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I found that my longing for the area followed me around more than I had expected. Since returning, my travel has been more localized – which isn’t a bad thing. In the past few years, I’ve visited or traveled around all of the Finger Lakes. As I think back on it, specific memories come into sharp focus in my mind.
With detail, I recall taking solitary hikes through Watkins Glen State Park and encountering water that had flowed from the western lakes cascading through the gorge en route to the Atlantic. I was lucky enough to view my #1 bucket list bird – the snowy owl – flapping silently past the lighthouse museum at Sodus Point one January. I cooked the region’s bounty with my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, turning it into world-inspired meals. The kids and I enjoyed the Thanksgiving parade in Elmira, filled with music and colorful costumes. I hiked the gorges of Ithaca and encountered two deer that watched me with quiet eyes until I moved on. Recently, I witnessed a farmer tilling his field with a six-horse team outside of Lodi. Best of all, my kids spend their days feeding chickens and playing with lambs at the sitter’s. She is an Old Order Mennonite and offers a rich and safe environment for growing.
The Finger Lakes Region inspires artists, photographers and writers alike with its lush and unique beauty. Many business owners continue to operate with the atmosphere of small and friendly. Communities are full of the culture of growing and tending locally produced goods, and small-scale farming utilizes the land to produce the region’s bounty in a sustainable manner. Even with all of its charm, I won’t deny that, like many others, I have traveled far away at times. I bet though that many people that have ventured off can still relate to me when I say that there’s just no place like home in the Finger Lakes.