Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FLT Day 43: PA, 7.2 miles

One last day, and only a short day at that. I woke up to a bit of rain, so I waited that out at the shelter. No reason to get wet if you don't have to, and only have 7 miles to go.

After the morning rain stopped I took off and finished off the last couple of miles of the FLT, crossing the Pennsylvania border into the National Forest. Unfortunately around that time it started raining again, and there was still a mile or so left to the road. I donned my rain gear, and kept going through it. It wasn't too bad, being an off and on sort of rain.


When I got to the first road crossing in Pennsylvania I was hoping to hitch a ride into Bradford, but there wasn't really any traffic on the road, so I started walking, roughly 18 miles to town. It started to pour more often than not, which severely limits the potential kindness towards hitchhikers. After probably two hours of walking through the rain a pickup pulled over and asked where I was headed. Even though he was going the other way, he offered to head back the way he came, since he described himself as a "hitch hiker wanna be." Apparently he had planned a grand trip 20 years back that never came to fruition.

On the ride into town I found out that he actually lived less than a quarter mile from the trailhead, and had gone on several day hikes with his kids on the North Country National Scenic Trail. He was also planning that when his oldest son finished high school he would hike the Appalachian Trail with his entire family. Not sure how well that will work out, but at least he was thinking about it.

Once we got into town he even let me into the YMCA to get a shower before I went to the bus station. While I was soaking wet already, it was still nice to get relatively clean as well. Unfortunately the bus didn't leave until the next morning, so I spent some time drying off in the library, then walked the 2 miles to the gas station where the bus stopped. After buying a ticket I started looking around for a place to camp for the night, and ended up right next door to the gas station. There was a fruit stand/garden store that wasn't open yet for the season. It had a large front porch area that was well sheltered from the unending rain, so I was dry for the night, and slept well for my last night of the FLT.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FLT Day 42: Willis Creek leanto, 19 miles

The last full day of the trip, and probably one of the nicest too. It didn't start off very well though. With the reroute through Salamanca, the new trail is not blazed very well, if at all. The first couple of miles were through an Indian reservation on old logging roads. Since there weren't any blazes I had to just wing a couple of the branches. Since I had an interstate downhill from me I decided to err on the downhill side when given a choice. That way I could always just follow the road if need be. It ended up working out pretty well until the end of that section, where the old road I was on just ended, but I just cut through some woods until I got to another side road, and followed that.

After that I was in the Allegheny State Park, so there was lots of nice woods, and a couple of leantos that I passed throughout the day. In the park I ran into an older man who wanted to know where the trail went. He seemed pretty impressed that there was a trail all across the state, but was  a bit annoyed because he was severely lost. Apparently he had been bushwhacking around the park checking out the plants. The park is supposed to be spraying for Gypsy Moths within the month, so he had wanted to see what it looked like before that. When he hit the FLT he decided to just follow it to a road and go from there, except he was going in the wrong direction to get back to his car. I showed him on my maps, and he wandered off grumbling.

The last leanto of the trip was at Willis Creek, complete with a nice series of waterfalls. I really like the long exposure effect, but I can really only do it around dusk, since I don't have a filter to cut out enough light for the middle of the day.


Monday, April 22, 2013

FLT Day 41: Seneca Casino, 22 miles

I got another early start today, since I was just in my tent for the night. A couple miles into the day there was a couple of interesting rock formations. There were large boxy boulders, covered in moss and ferns. The trail actually went right in between two of them, and came out on top.



After that it was a very roundabout day. Based on the maps it seems like there has been a major re-route through the town of Salamanca. My guess is that the original trail went around to the west, but some of the land access was closed off, causing the re-route. In any case by the time I got back into any woods I was beat.

I ended up camping almost within sight of the giant casino, which sticks out like a sore thumb. It had a nice waterfall out front, complete with a couple of goldfish.



Sunday, April 21, 2013

FLT Day 40: McCarthy Hill Tower, 21 miles

After the past couple of days of weather today was relatively nice. I woke up to more snow on the ground, but at least it was sunny out. It never really warmed up, but there was very little wind today, which was a welcomed change.


Towards the end of the day I made my last real town stop, in Ellicottville, to resupply. It was only a half mile off of the trail, so not too bad. The town was a very nice little ski town, but still with enough people in it in the off season. There were all sorts of little shops along the main road, with people walking around town.

I stopped off at the library, which was closed. The wifi was still active, and there was an electrical outlet outside, so I was still able to take care of everything. The only real issue there was that it was in a little alcove, very well shaded, so I got pretty cold sitting there and not moving.

After town I got back to the trail and proceeded to get lost. It wasn't really getting lost. I knew where I was, and I knew where the trail went, but I didn't know where the trail was. This was in the Holiday Valley Ski Area, where there was still more than a foot of snow. The trail circled through several ski slopes, where I lost the track, but I knew that I just had to get to the top of the slope, and then follow the access roads.

I was originally planning on taking a short side trip to an old leanto, but decided to just set up my tent where the trail branched off. The weather was supposed to be nice, so that wasn't an issue. There was even a small rock fire ring at the branch, so it was obvious other people had done the same thing before.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

FLT Day 39: Boyce Hill leanto, 18 miles

After a cold night I woke up to a snow covered tent. Definitely not what I expected toward the end of April.

All day was really windy, with scattered snow and hail throughout. The few times I got into a relatively sheltered area it felt like I was falling sideways since I was so used to leaning into the wind.

At one point I was walking down a forest service road in a state forest when a pickup pulled up along side me and asked if I was hiking the North Country Trail. It definitely caught me off guard. Most locals don't even seem to know about the trail. This hunter actually knew about the longer version, and by name. He still seemed impressed when I told him I had hiked there from the Catskills.

The leanto for the night is brand new, just built last year. There are still a bunch of leftover scraps of lumber around from construction. I would have helped clean up some of the scraps with a fire, but it was cold enough I just wanted to get into my sleeping bag.

Friday, April 19, 2013

FLT Day 38: Farmersville campsite, 12 miles

I woke up to an early start, partially since I wasn't in a leanto, and partially because of roosters and dogs. The joys of camping near civilization.

After going around a few more farm fields I got back into some state forest, where I met two Amish men, with what basically amounted to Amish ATVs. Essentially horse drawn carts with extra big wheels, intended for off road travel. Soon after I heard them start up chainsaws. Not quite in keeping with the traditional stereotypes.

Most of the middle of the day was roadwalking on more backcountry roads. Part way through it started raining, then kept getting worse and worse, in addition to an already windy day. By the time I got to a good camping spot it was pouring pretty good, so I called it quits there and set up camp, even though there was still plenty of time left in the day. Rained for the rest of the day, and progressively colder as well.

Somewhere along the way I managed to lose my sunglasses as well. I went back a bit to try to find them, but no luck.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FLT Day 37: Sixtown creek campsite, 20 miles

Well, today was a rollercoaster of a day, at least emotionally. I had originally planned a shorter day, to the Sam Wood shelter, roughly 10 miles into the day. Given that, I didn't rush in the morning, and had a leisurely start.

The morning was incredibly windy, and a couple of times I got sandblasted by loose gravel and grit spinning in dust devils. It was made worse by the fact that there was some road walk between large open fields, so no wind block. When I ducked back into the woods right before the shelter I was thinking it would be a great break from the wind. The wind was definitely blocked, but there wasn't any actual trail. Seemed like very little maintenance was done in the mile or so before the shelter. There was no tread, and the blazes were several years old. Pretty annoying and depressing, especially when the guidebook lists it as a really nice section of trail through lovely woods.
When I got to the shelter I was relieved to be done for the day. There was a nice view of a pond in front of the shelter, but the wind was blowing directly across the pond into the shelter. After taking a break for a while I began to look at my maps, and consider possibly pushing on. When I finally felt like that would be a good idea I packed up and left, feeling pretty good about pushing onward.

The next section of trail just ruined that feeling. about a mile after the shelter the trail disappeared again. There was some flagging tape in some areas, possibly indicating a temporary re-route, but based on the age of the tape it was several years of 'temporary'. Combined with poor and misleading blazes, this section again really depressed the good feelings I had built up about pushing onward.


It started getting dark just as I was reaching the campsite, which was on donated property directly on a dead end road. The campsite wasn't much, and was in the direct path of the strong wind blowing across  fields, but it was a welcomed stop at the end of the day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

FLT Day 36: Hesse leanto, 21 miles

After a restful sleep in the cabin I set out for a full day of hiking, and in nice weather to top it off.

The 'trail' (notice the blaze on the fallen tree), after a bunch of erosion.

Probably the most significant thing that happened today was a bit of reverse trail magic. Last week I had met two day hikers out on a rainy day. One of them was almost finished with hiking the entire trail. After parting ways with them I soon found a Leki hiking pole on the side of the trail, maybe two miles later. Since it was nicer than my walmart poles, I started carrying and using it.

Today I met a trail maintenance crew of four working on the trail. I started talking to the first two guys, who then yelled back to the rear two that I was a thru hiker. One of the back two was one of the hikers I had met last week. Once I recognized him I offered him the pole. It wasn't his, but the other guys, so he offered to return it for me. Usually thru hikers are on the receiving end of trail magic, so it was nice to surprise another hiker like that.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

FLT Day 35: Bossards cabin, 18 miles

More light rain for most of the day. It was warm enough to hike in without a rain jacket on, so I probably got cleaner from the rain. Most of the day was in and out of farmers fields, or roadwalking next to farms. It makes for some nice views, but isn't the same as a good woods walk.

About a mile from the end of the day I knew there was a stream coming up that I was supposed to fill up water at. When I got there not only was it flowing through a cow field, but the entire field was ankle deep sucking mud. I had to ford the river, so I just left my boots on. They needed the washing from the mud, and it wasn't a good spot to go barefoot in anyways. Since the water was flowing through piles of manure I decided not to fill up there, and just go thirsty instead.

The shelter for the night was actually a private hunting cabin. When I first got there it definitely seemed like the kind of place that a horror movie starts. A rickety old cabin, with no one around. I was actually thinking about sleeping outside instead, until more rain set in. I ended up inside, and even rigged up a rainwater system to catch drinking water. After a while the cabin started seeming nicer and nicer. It had a wood stove, so I cooked and dried gear out. By the end of the evening I was glad I had stayed there.

Monday, April 15, 2013

FLT Day 34: Kanakadea leanto, 15 miles

Today was more of a town day than anything else. The weather finally cleared off for a bit, and about 10 miles into the day I stopped at the town of Hornell, right on the trail. As soon as I got into town there was a Dollar General right across the street where I was able to resupply for the next week. Next to that was an abandoned store that still had power, so I hung outside to charge my electronics a bit.

Then there was an Aldi's as I continued through town, and a nice park on the way out of town that I hung out at. The weather was much nicer, so I actually felt like stopping for quite a while to enjoy the sun.

For the night I went to the Kanakadea leanto, which is a ways off from the trail, but seemed worth it to fend off the predicted rain, which never showed up. IMG_3143

Sunday, April 14, 2013

FLT Day 33: Burt Hill leanto: 19 miles

I woke up to a snowy morning. In the middle of April fortunately none of it was sticking, but the air was still cold enough for snow.

Most of the day was uneventful, maybe with more roadwalk than other days. On one of the roadwalks a local called to me, asking if I was hiking that Appalachian Trail. I told him it was actually the Finger Lakes Trail, but yes, I was hiking it. He warned me that I was off the trail, but that it started a few miles down the road, and gave me directions. It seemed like one of those smile and nod situations. I knew where I was based on the map, and where the trail was. He also warned me about bears and coyotes before I managed to find a nice way to leave.

My backpack is really showing it's age. My left hip stabilizer snapped. I wasn't even turning or twisting. It seems like that would have happened after a full resupply, rather than now when my bag is empty. I'll have to look into a replacement after this hike.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

FLT Day 32: Hickory Hill leanto, 12 miles

An early start today, since I wasn't at a leanto last night. There were some nicer views today, but still the overhanging sense of impending rain. Fortunately given the early start and short day I got to the leanto earlier. There was a nice view out the front, and a large supply of wet firewood from building the leanto. No water supply at the leanto, and the recommendation was to go to the campsite, roughly .7 miles away. Instead I was able to hunt around the area and found some runoff trickles from all the rain.

In the afternoon the rain set in again, and this time it was accompanied by hail as well. Definitely a good day to be in a leanto rather than a tent.

Friday, April 12, 2013

FLT Day 31: June Bug Campsite, 18 miles

Another day of semi rain. I waited out the worst of it in the early morning. By around 11 it seemed to be getting better, based on the color of the clouds, so I took off. I got lucky, and most of the afternoon was clear.
Given my crash yesterday I was much more careful about breaks and snacks today, especially since I knew there wasn't going to be a leanto at the end of the day to dry off in.

There is definitely a major mental difference in hiking on rainy days. I know there were some views today, but I didn't get my camera out because of the rain. It seemed like I was rushing the entire day, much more goal oriented rather than just hiking for enjoyment.

I did meet two hiking along the way, from Rochester. One of them was only a fee miles away from finishing an end to end hike of the FLT. It seems like that is a much more common term, rather than thru hiker. Most people only hike it in sections, so end to ender is the normal term.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

FLT Day 30: Moss Hill leanto, 14 miles

More rain in the morning, but not as late in the day. I packed up and set off on a damp cold day, hoping to make it to the next leanto before another storm hit. Given the past couple of days I figured rain was likely in the early evening, so I had a cutoff.

Given to cold and the likely rain I wanted to finish as quick as possible, so I did the entire 14 miles without a break, even to eat a snack. It ended up working, since I got into the leanto about an hour before another rainstorm hit. However I'm not sure it was such a good idea. Once I got into the shelter and stopped moving I pretty much crashed. Shivering and cold, even wearing all my layers for below freezing weather.

After eating a few snacks and huddling in my sleeping bag for a while I was able to quickly recover enough to make dinner and get officially set up for the night.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

FLT Day 29: Parks Hollow leanto, 5 miles

An interesting rainy day. It rained all morning, so I stayed put for a while. After lunch it started clearing off, so I packed up and left. About an hour later it started pouring again, but I was about a minute away from the sugar hill fire tower leanto, so I ran for it.

The downpour lasted about half an hour, so I had a snack and waited it out. Once it stopped I took off again. Half an hour later it stared pouring again. But again I was almost at a leanto so I ran for it. This time the rain seemed more permanent, and accompanied by lightning, so I decided to stay put.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FLT Day 28: Buck Settlement leanto: 17 miles

A little bit of rain in the early morning, but then things cleared off.

I had about ten miles to start off with into the town of Watkins Glen, and a walmart right on the trail. Most of that mileage was on side roads, but about a mile outside town a lady pulled over and offered me a ride. I declined, explaining about the trail, and she looked relieved. Apparently she had offered me the ride because she thought I was a friend of hers, rather than a hiker.

On the way into walmart one guy stopped me an asked how far I was going, to which I gave the usual reply of "all the way". He said he was glad to see people were still out doing things like that.

After town and resupply I passed through the state park of Watkins Glen. The park is famous for it's gorge and waterfalls, but the FLT doesn't go near any of the falls.

I got back outside the park on the far end, and a few more miles took me to the leanto for the night. It is built on top of an old farm from the 1800s, but everything has reverted back to woods already.

Just a bit of rain after I got my fire going, enough to remind me to be thankful for the shelter.


Monday, April 8, 2013

FLT Day 27: Dunham leanto, 15 miles

I woke up earlier than usual, since I was camping in the WMA area, instead of at a leanto. A bit of a chilly morning, but nice weather to walk in. The first couple of miles followed rivers, which was nice. One area was particularly still dark water which reminded me of the Suwannee river in Florida on the Florida Trail.

After leaving the rivers I ended up in a veterans memorial park, where I took a nice long break. I ended up filling up on water and charging my camera battery and kindle. Not wanting to upset the locals I left after that.

A few more ups and downs later and I'm at the Finger Lakes National Forest. I think it's one of the smallest national forests, but I figured it was important to mention given the name.

The leanto for the night is decent, with a pretty good view going in on way. I was able to get a fire going just with the scrap wood left behind in the firepit, so I didn't even have to find my own firewood for the night.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

FLT Day 26: Connecticut Hill campsite, 17 miles

A pretty good day overall. I'm not sure if it was an area of nicer trails, or my pack getting lighter, or maybe I'm in better shape now. Whatever the case, today I started to feel more like I was actually hiking, instead of just trudging along. There is definitely a difference with being able to walk along and enjoy the trip without having to constantly be aware of every footstep and every movement.
It also helped that things are still staying pretty warm. I think I saw the last of the snow on top of Connecticut Hill. It's a high point in the area, and only the top sections still had any accumulation of snow.

I ended the day in the WMA area, where I'm pretty sure there is no one else around again. I had just set my tent up and was cooking dinner when I got caught in a brief sprinkle. Not enough to worry about, but enough to duck into the tent for.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

FLT Day 25: Sierra Shelter, 11 miles

A bit of a shorter day today, but excellent weather. I passed a few really nice waterfalls on the Lick Brook gorge, which still had a bunch of ice around the edges.
Since it is the weekend, and it's nice weather, and I'm close to Ithaca, I've been seeing a lot of day hikers out. Especially in the state park areas.

I ended the day at the Sierra shelter in the Robert H. Treman State Park. It's a nice shelter, but it's built directly on a park access road, which gives it a really weird feel. It's also really close to an actual highway, so lots of car noise.

I ended up doing maybe an extra mile or so of walking to find water. There was a sign at the shelter indicating the direction, but no distance. That direction ended up at the car camping area, but all the water spigots were still off for the season. Instead I had to find the park office that had a bathroom with running water. They had a sign up saying camping wasn't open until the 16th, so I think I'll have the entire park to myself for the night. Not sure if I'm actually allowed to be there, but the leanto is reserved for thru hikers and there weren't any restrictions in the guidebooks.

Again, a nice evening fire after a warmer day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

FLT Day 24: Chestnut leanto, 17 miles

Well, today wasn't quite the day I was expecting. The weather has been warming up bit by bit, which is nice.

My original plan for the day was to stop at Tamarack leanto, about 6 miles earlier than I did. On the way there I met a father and two kids who were out enjoying the weather. They said there was still a bunch of snow up there. I figured it wouldn't be too bad, although ice was a bit of an issue.

The main thing once I got to the leanto was that there was still 6 inches of snow, and it was really windy near the top of the ridge. It was only around 4:00 anyway, and I got pretty cold even just sitting there for a few minutes. So instead I just kept going.

It worked out to my advantage quite a bit. The next shelter was in much worse condition, but much better location. There was a stream flowing right in front of the shelter, no snow on the ground, and located in a very sheltered spot. I ended up having a nice fire for the evening and staying plenty warm.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

FLT Day 23: Shindago leanto, 10 miles

I didn't sleep very well last night, and I'm not sure why. Up all night tossing and turning. When I finally woke up I seemed fine, but after I got going it felt like I was moving in slow motion. My feet were raw after the longer day yesterday in the snow. My muscles ached, especially my Achilles tendon. All in all, not a good start to the day.

The major saving grace for the day was the temperature. It was mostly sunny all day, and got up to at least 50. At one point I was hiking in a tshirt and still getting hot. I hope the snow dies a painful death, but also a very quick one. I think the next couple of days are supposed to be similar temperature, so I can only hope.

The leanto tonight is quite nice. It's located on a slight rise, with a river curving around it on three sides. There is a nice waterfall in the river that I will get to listen to all night long. It's even in the middle of a pine forest. The pines made everything a bit colder, but still a nice place for the night.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

FLT Day 22: Kimmie leanto, 16 miles

A relatively rough day, more so mentally than physically. I keep waiting for no snow, but it doesn't seem to be happening. A few more flurries today, to add to the depths that are already on the ground.

Today did warm up a bit around mid day when the sun broke through now and again. Unfortunately that only meant that the snow got mushy and I postholed for a while.

The good news is that tomorrow is supposed to be in the 50's. That will still leave snow on the ground, but it's a start.

I also met my first hiker on the trail today, besides Chenango. One of the local maintainers was out for a day hike to check his section. I thanked him for his work and shared a bit about my hike. The best part of the meeting was that after that there were fresh footprints for me to follow. They stopped at the next road crossing, but it was still nice while it lasted. I also got to follow some cross country ski tracks got a little while, which was a change of pace. IMG_3070

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FLT Day 21: Foxfire leanto, 9 miles

Today was a pretty good day to be back on the trail. I don't think it ever got above freezing, but there was some sun. For the most part it was just windy.

Most of the day was hiking through snow, but two things made it better than the past couple of weeks. First, there were footprints most of the way, so I didn't have to watch blazes as carefully. Second, since the weather has been getting into more of a freeze and thaw cycle, I wasn't postholing at all. That made a huge difference in the speed for the day.

Partway through the day I was hiking through the Greek Peak ski area, and started hearing some strange noises, almost like a whooshing sound. A bit later on the trail I crossed an actual downhill ski trail, and realized that the noises were skiers flying by. I guess they are trying to stretch the season out as much as possible.

The forecast is for one more cold day, and then starting to get into the 40's and 50's, still below freezing at night. It will be nice to thaw out during the day, especially as the rest of the snow disappears.

Monday, April 1, 2013

FLT Day 20: Blodgett Mills to Woodchuck Hollow leanto, 6.6 miles

First day back on the trail.

On the drive from NYC to Cortland we had some really nasty weather for a bit. Freezing rain, sleet, downpour, wind, everything. Fortunately by the time we got to the Coryland area everything had cleared off, and it was a sunny 40 degrees out.

I finished up a few miles of roadwalk from Blodgett Mills, and then got back into the woods. Initially the snow was all gone, but as I got higher up there was more and more. Especially on the north faces of the ridges there is still plenty of snow.

Since it was warmer out all the snow is a wet heavy layer, that soaks your feet as you sink into it. I was happy to get to the shelter after just a few miles of walking through the snow. It also didn't help that I was carrying 8-9 days of food, plus all the little extras that my relatives had loaded me down with. It's hard to turn down the granola bars that they bought especially for you. IMG_3067