As summers passed, I learned these
glacier-formed lakes and hills, and the wildlife inhabiting them, were a New World
Eden that drew native peoples from afar to hunt and fish their peaceful shores.
the Iroquois Nation evolved. Their main east-west trail (now state Route 20) stretched
out on the map like a long piece of rawhide, just north of the lakes, with the
lakes, themselves, "hanging" down in a row like so many eagle feathers.
These freshwater havens carry the names given them by the Iroquois: names like
Conesus, Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga.
geologist nor historian. My obsession with the Finger Lakes draws its energy from
indelible impressions of childhood summers on Keuka: arriving in June to the smell
of musty furniture; feeling the hot, sun-baked wooden float against my wet cheek
as I lay my soaked and shivering body down to dry; working tirelessly at pulling
every stone out of the lake, then throwing it back in; the peacefulness of falling
asleep-often in a bathing suit-to the soft lapping of waves against the breakwall.
My mother's passion for hiking provided the childhood building blocks
of my adult infatuation with these lakes. She took us on hikes up the steep glens
and gorges that rose from the lake into the woods and farmlands.
might collect wild flowers as a souvenir of a day in the woods; my mother collected
My grandmother sold "our" cottage when I was 10. One
summer, as an adult, I decided to connect all those summer childhood sorties.
With tent and sleeping bag, I backpacked 59 miles around the lake. In that three-day
trek, I ferreted out glens and gorges conquered as a child, and located three
of the four cottages my family once owned.