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  • Writer's pictureKathy Stockbridge

Solo Doesn't Always Mean Alone

If you were to look up the definition of "alone" you will find it's described as "unaccompanied, companionless, unescorted, solitary, and then my personal favorites; single-handed, unattended, unchaperoned, and independent.  All seem very dismal. Well, do you know what happens when a companionless solitary adventurer is left unattended and unchaperoned? She becomes more single handedly independent! Yes, yes I do! Solo travel is a little intimidating to some, and even to me at times. But the alternative, not to go explore is way more fearful for me. This summer I made a conscious decision to go do a few more solo trips. Inspired by Joe Hawley, a fellow adventurer, I am living life for me. If you haven't read his story, check him out. His story is unique, inspirational, and all about living your best life.

As much as I love traveling with my friends and family, sometimes I just need to get my head back in the right place and this weekend was one of those times.  Missing my friends who were over in Arklow, Ireland, for the opening of the Asgard Theatre, and wishing I could be there too, I needed to clear my mind.  I couldn't sit around moping all weekend wishing I was somewhere else. It's been a pretty stressful time for me as of late, and when that happens, I loose myself a few ways; through the outdoors, through music, and of course through my photography.  Making a plan earlier this year to hit the road for some more solo trips, it was time to put the pedal to the metal. When a fellow NYSMusic'er messaged me to see if I wanted to cover a show with him in Ithaca at The Haunt, I thought..that's the perfect way to keep busy. Plus it's right where I have been wanting to go explore for awhile.

For those of you not from New York, I want to implant a few new photos in your mind of our beautiful state.  Although New York City is amazing, there is so much more to our state, despite what Homer Simpson thinks.  What does he know? We are so much more than the decline of industry in our area.  Heck, that describes many communities all over our nation. That's not exclusive to just Upstate New York. We are strong, hard working, creative folks who take a bad situation and make it a positive one.  Our natural beauty includes many National Parks, State Parks, breweries and wineries, art, theatre, music, etc. The growth recently in the Mohawk Valley area alone blows my mind.  We are coming back stronger and better than ever.  This change begins with positivity. This positivity begins with showing you what New York has to offer.  My destination? Taughannock Falls located in Ithaca, New York!!

An easy drive down Route 96, I passed by a few places I was familiar with growing up, such as the Seneca Army Depot. Home to one of the largest populations of albino deer, I strained to see if I could spot one. Regrettably I didn't. Continuing through the countryside I also spied a few Amish homes with laundry hanging on the line and children playing in and around the barns. It was a quiet peaceful drive, with many small towns along the way. You could take Route 81, but this way I was able to stop and see my father and get a nice drive in at the same time.

This was the perfect time to visit Taughannock Falls State Park.  It was an overcast day with a 20% chance of rain and the temperature was about 50 degrees.  With leggings, a dri-fit top, boots, rain jacket tied around my waist, my 25 pounds of camera gear, and too many pounds of winter weight, I set out to conquer the hike into the gorge. It was the perfect day.  Not to hot, not too cold, and happily before the black fly season!!

Starting at the North Rim of the Gorge, I stopped at the rest area to capture a view of the falls. With the melting of the snow and the abundance of rain we've had recently, the falls were flowing freely. Inside the Visitor Center I collected a map and gave them my zip code so they can track visitors, I headed off down the gorge. The views were spectacular. Carved out of glacier formations, this area is breathtaking. At several spots along the north rim you can stop and look over to grab a few photos and just marvel at the magic nature has created. A nice hike down into the gorge, I crossed over the bridge at the bottom to hike the southern rim.

It is here you can drive down into, park, and then hike in. I chose to park at the top and walk in to save the fees for parking, but even still it's only $8 or if you invest in an Empire Pass, you can travel all summer to all the parks; a great way to see our amazing state! Beginning my journey into the gorge I ran into a wedding party taking group photos in front of a small waterfall area. Learning as I spoke with them, the ceremony was to be held very soon down under the falls. I thought what an amazing memory that will be for all!

Hiking the southern rim of the gorge gave me an entirely different perspective as well as areas to stop and learn about the development of the gorge, vegetation, and animal life within. Making my way to the bottom of the falls I found the area crowded with wedding attendees and other visitors. Spanning the north and south rim is a small pedestrian bridge that allows you another great shot of the falls. But it's the area right beneath that falls that makes you really feel a part of the experience. Protecting my camera from the mist and splash off of the falls, I was able to grab a few more shots as well as a selfie, standing there in awe just for a moment before heading back.

Coming out of the gorge is just as beautiful I think as hiking in. Areas not yet covered with water flow allowed visitors a closer view as well as becoming part of the scenery. Making my way back over to the north rim I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked ahead at the laborious trek in front of me. Heck, I'm a great hiker I thought, but stairs, they are a whole other muscle group! Thank goodness for the landings at the top of each set. At first I saw a group resting there and thought to myself, 'sissies, I'll end up passing them'. Well color me embarrassed as I ascended and found myself out of breath at the first landing and by the top, in need of medical attention. Well, okay not that bad, but heck had anyone passed me at that moment they would have thought so. So please be forewarned, should you want to hike both, please make sure you are capable of the hike back up for it's not for the faint of heart. Literally!! Oh, and bring water, lots of water!!!

As I made my way back up the gorge, I came across a group of turkey vultures congregating in a nearby tree atop the gorge. Taking off and landing every minute, it seemed fitting that these would be the birds of prey I found as I trudged back up the hill almost as red faced as them.

Taking just one more moment at the top area to appreciate my journey for the day, I thought to myself how well worth it the day had been.

A short ride later I found myself down into Ithaca in search of a place to eat. Parking off of the Ithaca Commons in a parking garage, you enjoy the free downtown parking on the weekends and after the work day ends. So please take advantage.

Perhaps because it wasn't a weekday or perhaps because it was just later on a Saturday, the Commons were not as populated and bustling as I had hoped. My journey did find me the perfect place to eat though. An Irish pub called Kilpatrick's! No matter where I go, I always seem to end back up at an Irish Pub somehow!!! Seated at a tall pub table, I found myself facing the Cardinals vs. Cubs game!!

It couldn't be more perfect. It seemed almost fateful. One of the reasons I wasn't over in Ireland was because I will be visiting my Mom, who is a lifetime fan of the Cardinals, soon in Illinois. So to be sitting in an Irish pub watching the game solidified my decision to stay home and do my solo venturing instead. Ordering myself a reuben, I found the food absolutely delicious and generous in portion size. The price, the ambiance, and the service was impeccable and just what I needed to relax before the gig.

Never shooting a show at The Haunt in Ithaca, I wanted to get there early to check out the setting and scope out the best possible vantage points. Set up similar to most music venues, I found that being immediately stage front would be best because this sold out show was not going to allow me any movement during the show.

First up as Kacy and Clayton, a group from Saskatchewan Canada. I enjoyed them and would categorize them as Americana for certain. They were extremely melodic and their music very well written. But it was the main act, Colter Wall, that everyone was there to see.

I honestly had never heard of him, but as attendees arrived early and began lining up, I knew I was probably in for a treat. Pulling up a few cars over from me, Colter and the band (also from Saskatchewan), who I must add had way better hair than most girls do, exited their van and began unloading from their trailer. Fans noticing Colter came in droves for photos and signatures. I sat in my truck just smiling to myself enjoying the pre show. I love when artists aren't full of themselves and take the time to connect with their audiences. This 23 year old up and comer truly impressed me as he patiently spoke with, posed, and signed for a good ten minutes before heading into the venue.

Watching Colter watch the opening act for most of the set, I could see he was a down to earth musician that just loved his craft and appreciated the experience. Then he began the show; by himself. Just a man, a guitar, and a baritone voice that resonated to your soul, he played and sang like one of the country greats. Talking with a few show attendees ahead of time I learned what a great musician he was. Labeling him "the next Johnny Cash", I was a bit leery of such a title. But as he sang, and then was joined after three songs by his band, I knew this was true. Colter and his band brought me back to a time in country music that all you wanted was great lyrics, a steel guitar, a harmonica, and the sultry voice of a country artist singing to you as you two stepped your way around a dance floor. Mickey Gilley would hire these guys in a second if he still had his club!! That's exactly where it brought me, right back to Urban Cowboy days. Colter and his band were amazing! I love country music, but what I didn't realize was how much I missed the old sound of country music. The original honky tonk sound that made you appreciate the roots of the genre. Well played Colter, well played!!! You are an amazing artist with a very bright future, stay the course!! Check him out on tour...and if you are in Colorado...check him out at Red Rocks!!!! He plays there May 24th with The Devil Makes Three and Lucero!! I can only imagine how awesome he'll sound in that venue!!

Heading out before show end, I made my way back home the east side of the lake this time, and reflected on my day. Yes, I was missing my friends and wishing I was over in Ireland with them, but I knew I had done the right thing by staying home. This weekend was about home; seeing my Dad, saving for my trip home to see my momma, enjoying my home state, and enjoying my musical roots. I was alone, but at no time did I ever feel alone. I felt independent and fortified as I single-handedly tackled that gorge. I felt satiated as I did what I loved most and that's capture the beauty of my state and the music that I love. When it comes down to it, those three things I mentioned before always bring me the inner peace I need, and did so for me this past weekend. OUTDOORS. MUSIC. PHOTOGRAPHY. With those, I'm never alone.

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