By Janet McCue
It’s January. The holiday parties are over and the last morsel of sticky toffee pudding is gone. You can either sit in the house and moan about the cold or you can embrace January. I can be virtuous—up to a point—but I like to be rewarded for the effort. I stepped into my skis and hit the Black Diamond Trail near the Ithaca Children’s Garden, heading for Glenwood Pines restaurant. The trail is flat but not at all boring. To the east is the lake, looking like a Susan Booth Titus landscape with winter-wheat colored willows and marsh grasses, slate grey lake, and a blue sky. Flocks of ducks and geese huddle together forming pixelated islands in Cayuga. The western landscape is no less interesting. Around every bend is a gorge or a frozen cascade; listen carefully and you can still hear the gurgle of flowing water even in January.
The ski (or hike or snowshoe) to the Pines is less than 5 miles. If you don’t feel like doing the return hike, have a friend meet you at the restaurant for a local brew, a cup of homemade soup and a game of pool. The Pines is as much an institution on the lake as the State Diner is to downtown Ithaca. For the past 30 years, I’ve ordered nothing but a Pinesburger (“the world famous Pinesburger”) and I’ve never regretted my decision. The Pines even has a poem named after it. Steve Hermanos (Cornell, Class of 1984) captured the ambience of this institution where kids clamor for quarters to play on the “skee-ball bowling machine” across from “the dented, cigarette-scarred bar.” Hermanos also memorialized the menu in “The Glenwood Pines”:Grilled halibut Thick burgers and sandwiches Made to the same recipes Since Nixon’s Checkers speech, Where windows slide open, Mixing the smell of French fries And damp carpet, With pine trees Older than anyone alive…
On a cold winter day, you might not be able to slide open the windows but you will find the same warmth that Hermanos captured in this “feasting house” that he speculated Zeus arranged above this “pewter-colored lake.”
P.S. the Black Diamond Trail is still a work in progress. When I skied, there was a work crew cutting trees along the border of the trail. Soon it will be resurfaced—making for easier hiking, skiing and biking.
Next ski: the Catharine Valley Trail to Montour Falls to check out the new tapas offerings at Montour House Café & Tapas Bar.
Janet McCue is an avid hiker who enjoys both the beauty and the bounty of the Finger Lakes. Her website follows her 6-day culinary trek through the Finger Lakes, a journey that Edible covered in its July/August 2014 issue (“Hike to Eat”).
Photo by Michael Welch