The Finger Lakes Trail/North Country National Scenic Trail follows the rim of the gorge for 2.5 miles. We walked that distance up and out and then returned by the same route. Our access to this private property (no camping allowed) was at a field of grapevines at the crossroad known as Pleasant Valley. From there we crossed Cold Brook on a wooden bridge and made the gentle climb into a forest of white pine and hemlock trees.
I had heard of this gorge before, but in all my years of living within an hour’s drive, I had never seen it. I didn’t feel so bad about this negligence when I considered that a friend of mine, a work associate who had grown up in nearby Hammondsport, had never even known of its existence.
For the people living in the Finger Lakes region, the long trail winding through the glaciated hills and lake country has a way of making their backyards come alive.
Before we knew it, we were looking down steep rock walls into an impressive glacial cut. The depth at which Mitchellsville Creek appeared to be flowing was two to three hundred feet below. Uncertainties about this hanging valley seemed to shroud it in a veil of mystery. The gorge lay perpendicular to the great valley of Keuka Lake. It was somewhat shielded from our eyes by overhanging trees and rocky twists and turns.
Cascades and waterfalls are a main feature of the gorge but it’s difficult to get more than
a glimpse of them at any given point. You stand on a spur trail that seems highly eroded, a path that lowers itself toward the falls. You’re tempted to ease your way out there for a look. The path is so narrow, however, you might have to straddle it. But the drop-offs are shear; your reason prevails. You stay behind.
Recalling a news event from several years ago, in which two or three college students, attempting to brave the elements of this gorge, were drowned, I was satisfied to hang back on the trail where I belonged.
It was a great morning for a walk. The wind in the trees produced a lot of “tree talk,” the groaning and creaking of trunks and branches interlocked above. A red-shouldered hawk flew up from a clearing nearby. Catherine pointed out a tree trunk shaped like a giraffe. Brent suggested that a wavering tree’s tattoo upon another resembled the hammering of a pileated woodpecker.
At an overlook close to the end of our trail, we enjoyed some moments with a northern view. We decided that the Mitchellsville Gorge made an excellent hike along the Finger Lake and North Country Scenic trails. The brisk walk downhill to Cold Brook and the grapevine acreage was accomplished in half an hour.