Ruth's Waterfalls
of the Finger Lakes, Rochester, and Ithaca, NY.

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Muted Sunlight

In Praise of Muted Sunlight Days….(some spent in waterfall gullies)

If it weren’t for those infamous March days in Rochester…drizzly…gray…damp…cold piercing winds… icy and muddy… we would never have discovered the wonderful pastime of waterfall hiking.

Try it. Try calling one of those depressing gray days a "muted sunlight day." If that doesn’t give you a pick-up try a little harder…perhaps a "Silvery Daylight Day" or a "Bright Translucent Day." You may simply need to go outside and look at the sky until you find the phrase you would use if your total income depended on attracting visitors to upstate New York in March. Health minded folks might call it a "Skin Saver Day," ecologists might call it a "Tree Saver Day." Whatever phrase you like best, use it. Use it until you’ve convinced yourself that it’s a great day to go for an adventure.

We took advantage of one of those bitterly cold muted sunlight days in

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March a few years ago and headed south. We had a vague notion about finding a running stream and some tall side falls in a gully near Geneseo. The urge was to get outside even though the outside was telling us to stay inside. Just two months earlier we had taken some winter pictures of Irondequoit Creek in Linear Park so we were prompted to go in search of more falling water and ice to photograph.

Dressing for the occasion meant putting on warm hats, gloves, hiking boots, wind pants, and water-repellent coats. We threw in some ski poles for hiking sticks.

It didn’t take long to find where the stream crossed the road and to find a suitable place to park the car. By following the remnants of an old grassy road we soon converged with the stream. As we continued,  the path gradually faded and the stream led us further into a gully with steep slopes covered with trees growing tall on both sides. We moved forward carefully on the frozen tufted ground trying carefully to keep our feet out of the fast moving water. The stream was too wide to jump but we found some rocks to bridge. It was soon apparent that we would need additional equipment for this hike… better boots (see equipment list) and some grippers (in-step crampons). BUT what we discovered on this day was the pure pleasure of hiking on "muted sunlight days."

Deep in that magical gully we were safe from the bitter winds, in fact there was no wind in the gully even though it was howling above. So engrossed in the beauty beneath our feet and surrounding us in the woods we barely had time to think about the weather. Yes, the sky was gray but down in the gully one only sees a brightly-lit silver sky up above serving as the perfect contrast to the naked tree limbs. In the gully, that silvery sky appears as muted sunlight.

It feels like a secret pleasure, knowing that we can take a gray day and make it a beautiful "Muted Sunlight Day."