The Black Diamond Trail is for walkers and bikers in the Finger Lakes, near Cayuga Lake. It’s a new railroad bed conversion, running eight miles between Cass Park in Ithaca, NY and Taughannock Falls Park, in Trumansburg. Eventually it will continue south to Treman Park, another eight miles or so.
The trail’s name refers to coal – – the north-south railroads in the Finger Lakes generally ran coal from Pennsylvania, to ships on Lake Ontario, and thence to sooty places around the world. This particular route of the Lehigh Valley RR also had a luxurious “Black Diamond” passenger service from NYC to Ithaca, and then on to Niagara Falls.
The south (Ithaca) end of the trail is a bit dull. Some tiny rivulet-size waterfalls, blackberries, raspberries, Joe Pye Weed, and sumac alongside. A powerline is overhead for a mile, and the cars on Route 89 are visible through the trees.
Serious bikers streak past, unsmiling, bug-eyed goggles, spandex and sinew, their tee-shirts advertising an obscure microbrewery in Rochester. The beers and ales are a bit too hopped-up, and the cyclists too – – pretty much oblivious to the waterfalls, wildflowers and views of Cayuga Lake.
The aged hippies from Trumansburg glide by at a more sedate pace, on recumbent bikes or ancient Schwinns, “Uncle John’s Band” and “Jack Straw” audible from their headphones. They wave, stop to look at the little streams, comb a few bugs out of their gray beards, and offer you a sip of homemade kombucha. They’re nice, but I don’t drink, afraid I might wake up under a tree, like Rip Van Winkle, a few decades in the future, a rusty peace medallion around my neck, wearing mossy old bellbottoms, and “California Dreamin” running through my head.
A mile or so north of Ithaca, the trail becomes nicer. Most of the pastel-jumpsuit-joggers turn back toward the city. The powerline decides to head west, and it’s just trees overhead. The trail moves farther and farther from the highway. An unmarked but well-beaten footpath goes up the hill, alongside a nice stream with lots of little falls.
After a while, as we go up the hill, a sound like passing trains or traffic starts coming through the trees. Past an old picnic area with stone tables, and we’ve come out behind the county hospital. Huge air conditioners are making the rushing sound.