Spring break in Ithaca

Granddaughter Emalyn with our son Jordan at breakfast in Ithaca, New York.

Earlier this month, I reached the midpoint of the spring semester at WSU Vancouver. Along with a break from classes, this meant the opportunity had finally arrived to travel back east to see our youngest son and his family.

A six-day visit to Ithaca, New York, and its surroundings went by quickly and smoothly. Lori and I got to spend time with Jordan and Jamie, but also with our beautiful, whip-smart granddaughter, Emalyn.

Emmy is a golden-haired, blue-eyed bundle of energy, talking at the top of her voice out of sheer excitement to be alive, awake and in the same room as her Noni Lori or Papa George. She loves books, animals, insects, walking, talking, hiking, playing with dolls or toys, playing make-believe — heck, just about anything.

During our time there, we got hugs and smiles, giggles and belly laughs. Emmy turns 3 in July and it’s wonderful to see her growing up in such a healthy, wholesome home. That’s due to the wonderful parenting of our daughter-in-law Jamie and youngest son Jordan.

They’ve made a lovely home for the three of them in a small but cozy two-bedroom rental in a rural area south of Ithaca, the college town in Central New York that is home to Cornell University, where Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D in microbiology. Ithaca, with about 30,000 residents is about four hours northwest of New York City.

They moved there last summer. Lori and I flew back for a few days to help them move in, and Lori paid a solo return visit in November. The Finger Lakes region of New York is known for its cold climate, so we packed our warmest clothes on this trip, anticipating we might deal with late-season snowfall.

The weather gods cut us a break. We had light snow on the first morning after we arrived and brief snow flurries on the day we left. In between, it was mostly temps in the low 30s, dropping into the teens at night; one day, it even warmed up to the high 50s, allowing Emmy and me to take a sunny afternoon walk on the property.

Ithaca is located on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, one of 11 long, narrow, roughly north-south lakes that resemble outstretched fingers. We went into the city a couple times for meals and another time for errands and grocery shopping. On one of those days, we also visited the Sciencenter, a wonderful place to explore for kids and adults.

Otherwise, we hung out at home, warmed by a woodstove fire while trying our best to keep up with Emalyn and enjoying the company of their well-behaved dog, Jax, and their cat, Sage, a gray furball who makes herself at home on any and all laps.

We made time for an outing one day while Jordan was at the lab. It was a half-hour drive to Watkins Glen State Park, a scenic wonder that was still encased in snow. According to the tourism website, “An almost two mile hike will take you past 19 waterfalls and up over 800 stone steps.”

The main Gorge trail was closed but we still had great views of frozen waterfalls and the icy-blue water snaking through the middle of everything.

Later that day brought unexpected sunshine. I had a choice — get my running gear on to jog along a country road or take a walk with my granddaughter toward a wooded area with a creek and small waterfall. I chose Emmy. She’s a good hiker, very agile and determined to scale a small slope on her own rather than take a helping hand.

The evening before we left, I picked up Jordan from campus and we had father-son time at the Ithaca Beer Co. brewpub. Two pizzas and a couple of frosty mugs later, it was time to wrap up our conversation and head back to join everyone for some TV.

We ended the visit Saturday morning with breakfast at a place with a view of Cayuga Lake, said our goodbyes, then headed to the airport. It was a nice visit, long enough to settle in but not long enough to not overstay our welcome. Already looking forward to our next visit.

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