As we head into winter, some experts are warning Covid is going to get worse in the county. So we’re going to keep a close eye on the local health data. But we’ll continue to welcome new hikers into the group for now. So if you want to hike with us, contact our coordinator, Jim (email@example.com). He’ll add you to the mailing list he uses to announce upcoming hikes, so you’ll know where we’re meeting up.
4 hikers met on Braley Hill Rd for a walk in the area
Prior to arriving on the hike morning I was not entirely certain what trail conditions would be like. I was prepared to lead a road walk if trail conditions were entirely uncooperative to hiking on those.
I walked a short ways into the blue trails on the East side of the road and the yellow trails on the West side of Braley Hill Rd.
Due to recent bicycle and ski use I found the yellow trails to be somewhat more compacted and an easier walking surface, so when the group set out we reversed our normal direction of travel for this hike and set out on a Westerly direction.
It was a relatively warm day, feeling like the temperatures were hoovering somewhere around freezing. As we climbed the hill in the bright sunlight, which reflected well off the surface layer of fresh snow, we quickly warmed up.
My initial investigation of the trails had found that straying even a slight amount off the compacted trail surface had you up over your knees in soft snow. While the yellow trail surface itself was compacted, it was a narrow track that had accommodated skiers and bicyclists but which forced the hikers to walk in a very narrow single file.
Forced to take the route previously used by other users and not one of our own choosing, we soon found ourselves hiking over a route that the group doesn’t normally take in the summer months. Even so, we were commenting on what an attractive section of woods we were travelling through.
The yellow trails soon turned into a red system of trails, which eventually led to a road lane-wide and well-used snowmobile trail. Able to finally spread out somewhat, the hikers followed the snowmobile trail down the hillside to Braley Hill Rd. Crossing Braley Hill Rd we continued on the snowmobile trail in an Easterly direction. A couple of times we passed blue hiking trails, but quick checks of the trail surface there had me nearly to my hips in snow on one such little-used footpath.
Reaching an apparent significant downhill section of the snowmobile trail I decided that it was a good time to turn around. We re-traced our path to Braley Hill Rd; a quick road walk brought us back to our cars with near-perfect timing.
Thee was minimal vehicle traffic and we sighted only a single dog walker and pedestrian on the road for the time we were there.
Sat Feb 27
Hike report by Jim. Photos by Cian
Fisher Settlement Road, snowmobile trail, Danby SF
Nine hikers and two dogs met on Fisher Settlement RD where the FLT crosses that road.
Since the group had a good experience hiking the snowmobile trails on Wednesday, I hoped that this location would give us a third option if the FLT and a road walk of Fisher Settlement Rd were not viable options. Hikers found Fisher Settlement RD to be a muddy mess, and the FLT in that area had a significant amount of snowpack still on the trail, making a hike there impossible.
By comparison, the snowmobile trail was well compacted and a good walking surface.
Hikers walked Westerly on the snowmobile trail, towards South Danby RD. Walking through the forests in this area was quite pleasing to the hiking group. Crossing South Danby RD hikers climbed the small hills in that area, travelling through forests of evergreens. Eventually the snowmobile trail came out onto Travor RD, and I chose a direction on that seasonal road after a brief conference with other hikers.. We soon found that Travor RD had a much less compacted snowpack surface, and as temperatures continued to rise during the hike, hikers soon began to posthole regularly as we proceeded on the Travor Rd snowpack.
Hikers reached Peter Rd at exactly the one hour mark. Turning around at Peter Rd, hikers retraced our steps to Fisher Settlement RD. Overall it was a very enjoyable hike, even with the posthole issues towards the end of the hike.
Woods roads, Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area
Twelve hikers met on Carter Creek Rd for a hike of the area seasonal roads.
Hikers set off, finding the initial portion of Carter Creek Rd to be fairly churned by a car or two that had driven through the area. Upon reaching Lloyd Stark Rd we found that Lloyd Starks RD was untouched by vehicles and had a well-packed snow base to walk on. Climbing Lloyd Starks RD we soon came to the fairly extensive portion of that road that is being actively logged, with large piles of logs stacked by the road waiting for removal. The logged portion of Lloyd Starks extends all the way to Connecticut Hill Rd, or about a third of the length of the road
The group reached Connecticut Hill Rd and turned left to climb Boylan Rd in order to make a loop out of the days hike. About half of the group chose to turn around and re-trace their route on Lloyd Starks because the loop route would have taken longer than the usual two hours.
Soon enough those of us doing the loop reached Hulford Rd, which also had a well-compacted snow base. Multiple other people were in the area enjoying the beautiful day, including several dog walkers, skiers and even an equestrian who we stopped to talk to for a while.
Hulford RD led us back to Carter Creek RD which we took back to the cars. The loop hike, with the various delays and somewhat longer hike due to snow and ice conditions, came in at just under three hours.
Bald Hill Road to Michigan Hollow Road on the FLT, Danby SF
Five Ithaca Hikers met in the parking lot at the corner of Comfort and Bald Hill Rd for a hike of the area.
Because of recent trail and weather conditions I had not formulated a specific plan as to our hike route.
Upon arrival I found that the recent sleets had formed a hard crust on the snow cover, including the near-by Finger Lakes Trail.
Hikers set off down the Trail; unless a hiker strayed off the beaten path into soft snow along the trail shoulder, the hiking was fairly pleasant. The trail showed signs of recent snowshoe activity, which made the trail surface even better to hike on. At one point along the route the previous snowshoers had left the FLT to make their own route, and after that the footpath was a little harder to walk on.
The weather was clear, and the skies mostly overcast on the outbound leg of the hike. The hike to Michigan Hollow RD was uneventful; upon crossing the bridge and coming to the roadway we had to crest a six foot high mound of hardened snow, which is an unusual thing for us at that particular trail crossing.
After a few minutes of rest the group returned to the trail for the return leg of the hike. The skies opened up somewhat, giving us a brilliant field of white to walk through in the more open areas. Hikers stopped often to observe the animal prints and other trail-side evidence of forest life that we were passing.
Soon enough we found ourselves back at Comfort RD and the vehicles; a good hike for all involved.
Sat Feb 20
Hike report by Jim— Photos by Cian
Cornell arboretum, Mundy Wildflower Garden and nearby areas, Forest Home
8 hikers met in the Forest Home neighborhood near the FR Newman Arboretum, for a hike of the area.
It was an overcast day with snow falling in moderate amounts early in the morning.
Because overall weather and trail conditions have been so variable in recent days, I had no set route in mind for todays hike. I figured that we would “wing it” and roll with any changes we had to make as the hike progressed.
The group walked through the lower areas of the Cornell Botanic Gardens/ Newman Arboretum, pausing briefly at various overlook points to admire the surrounding areas before proceeding onwards. Portions of the arboretum roads had been plowed, but even the unplowed portions had a firm snowpack base to walk on, making the hike much more enjoyable.
Completing our circuit through the Arboretum, we moved across Caldwell Rd and walked through some of the Mundy Wildflower Garden paths that skirt the creek in that area. There was a good amount of water flowing today, and between the fresh snow, the sun reflecting off ice in the creek, etc, this portion of the walk was very visually appealing.
The group continued westerly, climbing the stairs and crossing Judd Falls RD towards Beebe Lake. Walking the footpath along the lake we proceeded towards the Forest Home community. This hasn’t part of our previous hikes of the area, but it seemed to work out well today.
After passing through the Forest Home Community we crossed the bridges and returned to Arboretum property.
Once back in the Arboretum we took some of the side trails back towards the parking area and our cars.
There were a fair number of other small hiking groups and dog walkers sharing the roads and trails with us today, but we had no problems.
Hike report and three photos by Nancy L — Panoramic photos by Cian
Taughannock Falls SP, areas north of the overlook
10 hikers and 1 dog showed up across from the Taughannock overlook for the hike on a sunny mild winter morning. Seven of us (not the dog) headed North through the woods. The trail soon headed down hill. The snow was deep and pristine but the trail itself was walkable. We crossed over a nice creek bridge , Rice road and then another Creek bridge before reaching the base of the huge sledding hill accessible from rice road. Since the trails in the woods beside the sledding hill were too deep with snow, we climbed straight up the hill on the edge of the sledding area. We crossed rice road and took another trail back through the woods to the park road. From there we headed up the rim trail for some spectacular views of the snowy gorge. The other 3 hikers took different hikes though we were able to join one at the top of the gorge
Three hikers met on Level Green Rd where the FLT crosses
The snowpack on the trail was relatively fresh and un-compacted, which would have made for a difficult hike without skis or snowshoes. Instead, we did a road walk of the surrounding area.
Hikers headed Southerly on Level Green Rd before turning Easterly onto Goodrich Hill Rd
It was a clear and sunny day, and as we walked down Goodrich Hill Rd the view of the valley below and the opposite hillside was quite enjoyable.
At the bottom of the hill Goodrich Hill Rd merges onto Blackman Hill Rd. The group followed this to the bridge that crosses into Tioga County.
Once in Tioga County the group crossed West Creek Rd and began climbing Jewett Hill Rd until it was time to turn around and return to the cars.
There were a few other people out enjoying the beautiful day, including Lucy G and a friend snowshoeing, another small group of hikers and a wagon train of snowmobilers who passed us at one point as they raced up Goodrich Hill RD.
Other than a short period of chilling wind it was a beautiful day to be out for a walk.
Sat Feb 13
Hike report and five photos by Jim
Upper Treman SP — park trails and nearby roads
Eight hikers and two dogs met in the parking lot of Upper Robert Treman State Park.
I had done some preliminary exploration and found that trailheads on Woodard and elsewhere appeared to be untrodden.
I did find that the Rim Trail was open and had a well-compacted footpath through the snow.
The group set off up the Rim Trail, enjoying the play of light and shadows through the trees over the fresh snow. Eventually the group arrived at the Lucifer Falls overlook, where we found further progress impeded by the locked gate at the head of the staircase.
We enjoyed the view of the frozen falls with barely a hit of flowing water still visible under a sheath of ice that could be seen extending far up the footpath on the opposite side of the creek.
After posing for an obligatory Stephen-esque group shot, the group turned around and began making our way back up the Rim Trail.
We soon found a late arriving 9th Ithaca Hiker who had followed the group up the trail.
Returning to the parking lot, the group jumped onto the CCC trail, which was slightly less compacted than the Rim Trail, but not terribly less so. Making our way to the other end of that trail the group passed over the new Fishkill Creek bridge to arrive at Butternut Creek RD. The group followed that road to where the FLT veers off into the woods again, which led us back to Thomas Rd
Taking Thomas Rd back to the Rim Trail, the group retraced our earlier steps back to the parking lot.
Finding ourselves back at the cars a little early, a couple of us chose to walk Woodard Rd to near Stone House Rd to make up the allotted hiking time.
Eight hikers and three dogs met on Springhouse Rd in the Town of Dryden, for a walk of the Dryden-Freeville Rail Trail.
Hikers set off towards Freeville under a sullen sky that sent a few random snowflakes our way. Much different than the clear blue skies with wisps of clouds on Saturdays hike.
As with the Saturday hike at Robert Treman, the walkable trail consisted of a single narrow beaten track through the snow, flanked in some areas by snowshoe or ski tracks and the occasional tracks of some animal or brave hardy solitary walker. Stepping off this narrow track of compacted snow resulted in a quick shift of the hikers balance as they would sink into the softer snow along the trail.
Hikers crossed George Rd, paused briefly to admire the view across the valley, and continued on towards Freeville past the lands of the William George Agency.
It was a relief to me to finally reach the paved portion of the road that services the near-by sewage treatment plant. The group walked the paved road to Railroad Street ( Rte 38 ) in the Village of Freeville, before returning to the single width track through the snow to re-trace our steps to our vehicles.
I found on the return trip that temperatures seemed to have warmed up just enough to start loosening up the compacted snow and make it slightly slushy under-foot, as if we were walking through a sandy beach.
The group passed at various times a couple of cross-country skiers and dog walkers. Overall I was disappointed that a fairly nice fitness trail of this caliber that is so closely situated to many Town residents has seemingly been used as little as this one has since the snowfall of ten days ago.
If you look at the photos that illustrate our weekly hike reports, it’s hard to miss noticing our dogs. They’re there almost every time, scurrying around at ground level. But of course the photos give no indication of their personalities.
For those who hike with the group regularly, it’s a different story. The regular dogs have distinct and vivid personalities. I won’t say all the regular hikers appreciate the dogs to an equal degree, but everyone is certainly aware of them.
Boomer didn’t hike with us that often, but he was famous in our group. He was certainly our luckiest dog ever. Perhaps our most adventurous dog — or maybe just our least observant dog.
That’s not Boomer in the photo — I don’t have a shot of him at hand — but the photo illustrates the Varna Cliffs along Fall Creek in the Monkey Run Natural Area. Unfortunately, the shot doesn’t show the full height of the cliffs — it’s very high. Boomer was hiking one day on the opposite side of the creek, atop the cliffs, with Eva B, the hiker he lived with, when he went over the cliff. Eva looked over and realized he was alive — she called the rescue squad — they got Boomer out of the gorge and he lived for quite a few more years. He recently did a long stretch of the Appalachian Trail on a solo hike with Eva.
Late last week I got the following e-mail from Eva:
I know a lot of the hikers know my dog Boomer. The one who is famous for falling off the cliff at Monkey Run. He was doing very well until about a week ago when he stopped eating and lost weight. And slowed way down. I took him to my vet this morning who recommended that I take him to Cornell. He’s been at Cornell all day and it turns out that his heart disease has finally reached the end stage. He has an abnormal rhythm called atrial fibrillation, causing his heart to beat 250 beats per minute. His atrium (upper heart chamber) is dilated and torn, leaking blood into the sac surrounding his heart. So we are on our way to Cornell to say goodby before he is euthanized. Eva **********
Hike report — Sun Feb 7
Report by Jim. Photos by Cian
Road Walk in rural Newfield
Eight hikers and 2 dogs met at the junction of Seely Hill and Tupper Rds in the town of Newfield
After the snow this week I anticipated that trails would remain mostly impassible, so this was a planned road walk.
The surrounding snow had lost its pristine appearance and had that “dirty snow” look that it acquires after a few days of laying around.
The wind was moving at a brisk pace, encouraging me to quickly move the group in any direction likely to diminish the wind intensity.
I opted to lead the group down Seely Hill Rd, a route that initially gave us a decent view across the valley through the trees. The route has hikers passing between banks with towering trees on either side. Soon enough we reached the junction with Vanbuskirk Rd, where we took a right turn. Walking through residential areas, the lack of leaf cover offered us views of the hills across the valley. Those views were still largely obscured by residential development as well as truncated trees wrapped in shrouds of grapevine, victims of the utility company pruning back the undergrowth around the power lines.
Vanbuskirk Rd reaches a point beyond the residential section where the road starts a sharp descent towards Bower RD. The group descended this hill, shortly after which it was time to turn around and return to our cars.
As we climbed the hill up Vanbuskirk Rd the wind returned, along with a decent amount of snow flurries. Soon my fleece coat was shrouded in a layer of fresh snow. Passing through the residential area again, I found the previously observed view across the valley now obscured by a hazy shroud of falling snow.
Reaching Seely Hill Rd the climb continued, at which time we encountered a late arrival ninth hiker who had opted to walk their own hike after not discerning our route out of the many available options from the parking area.
As a road walk this was somewhat acceptable, although I will always prefer trail hikes.
Thanks to all who participated, and hope to see the rest of you on the trail soon!
Jim cancelled last Wednesday’s hike, and Saturday’s hike, because of the snow. But he wanted to give everyone who follows our adventures something to read, so he urged the hikers who are on our active-hiker list to send in a report of any individual hikes they did during the aftermath of the storm. Here’s what they sent in:
I have one to add, snowshoeing with the Cayuga Trails Club Saturday on the Van Lone Hill Loop, but in the opposite direction as described by Hank Spencer. We parked at the Gulf Rd parking area and walked 1/4 mile up the road to begin on the orange blazed trail up Connecticut Hill to Todd Rd to meet the white-blazed FLT. We returned back down the hill via the FLT along Cayuta Creek. We took turns leading, creating some of the tamped down trail Hank experienced the next day. The six-mile loop took almost five hours. It was a beautiful sunny blue-sky day!
Jim asked us to send you our adventures for the week, since two of the hikes were cancelled.
I stayed firmly tucked in at home on Wednesday, but had a fantastic day skiing at Greek Peak on Thursday.
Yesterday (Saturday) I had signed up for the CTC snowshoeing trip on the Van Lone Hill Loop. I should have read the description more carefully as it was described as 6 miles on strenuous terrain, but I was beguiled by the moderate pace! As predicted it turned out to be a pretty strenuous 5 hours of hiking on snowshoes in deep snow, but with excellent company. I showed up without water or sustenance, but was kindly provided for. At several points I wasn’t sure that I would make it but I did and it was a fantastic day for my first foray on snowshoes (apart from up and down to my house)!
That was partly why I didn’t make it to this morning’s road walk!
HI All, Twas disappointing that no one stepped up to lead a Saturday hike, I should have done so. I had a great hike with Rubie and Diego, Parked at Upper Treman, then to left on Woodard, to left on Stonehouse, past that grand, seemingly, uninhabited, monument. Then to left on Van Osstrand. Then left on Thomas, almost to dead end, and back. A few ups and downs, fews cars.
I’ve got one!
Sunday: Two Hikers met up at The Van Lone Loop Trailhead @ 10:30 and hiked the entire somewhat snowshoe packed loop. We traveled in a counter clockwise direction, beginning on the white marked FLT trail and ended following the orange blazes. Total distance came to 7.2 miles, time 4 hours.
Along the way we encountered many tracks. Why, there were weasel tracks, raccoon tracks, fischer, deer, and coyote tracks, yak tracks, snowshoe, snowmobile, backcountry ski tracks, and human foot tracks.
Only saw two other people on entire loop, heading in the clockwise direction. A very nice hike and excellent cardio workout for sure.
…. and more Hank
Here is another: On Friday,I played hookie from workie and under overcast skies with a temperature of 34 degrees, treated myself to a backcountry ski at Onondaga County’s Highland Forest. Conditions were decent, except sticky in a few places due to the warmer weather over the previous day. The downhills weren’t as fast as I would have liked, the uphills definitely had more resistance than I am use to.
As far as distance, I skied a 7 mile loop. I brought lunch and stopped at a lean to eat at about the halfway point. I was able to sit down on a bench inside the lean to w/o taking my ski’s off. After about 20 minutes of rest, I got up to continue on and the sun came out, the skies cleared and stayed that way for the duration of my ski run.
Highland forest is an amazing place, with many different outdoor recreational opportunities. It was a very enjoyable day, well worth the hour and ten minute drive to get here. I will definitely return another day.
Nancy and Randy
I’m sending you this update in response to Jim’ suggestion. Over the past week I’ve been practicing cross country skiing. It’s a struggle after letting them languish in the garage for so many years. Randy and I went skiing several times in Connecticut Hill. Doll Hill is perfect if you take the trails around the top of the hill. The slight ups and downs are gentle. I also explored right across from my house straight across the corn field or in the wood lot across the way. Finally Saturday I did several miles in the black diamond. Skiing conditions are not ideal. Tracks are crusty because of freezing and thawing. And breaking trail is tough because the snow is deep and heavy but hey it was fun to be out in the snow.
Since there was no club hike on Saturday , I ended up hiking around Ithaca with my sister.
I started around Stewart park, but turned around when I saw the condition of renwick trail – we ended up going to Ithaca falls (not all the way in ) , up gun shot hill , up libe slope , across campus to top of cascadilla gorge , since the gorge trail is closed, we went along the rim in the neighborhood above cascadilla gorge , took some pictures at the base of the gorge, and followed cascadilla creek across town, then worked our way back across town past the old clockworks building which houses hickeys music.
My sister Aidan said that when she saw my pictures from our Halloween hike last October, she laughed because she visited pretty much every place I had photographed, but later in the day, and following a different route. I am hoping that she will be able to come on some of the hikes, but she generally prefers to go out a little later in the day then our club hikes.
Six Mile Creek, south side trails from Crescent Place toward Burns Road
9 hikers met on Crescent Place on South Hill for a hike of the South Hill Rec Way and the foot trails that run between the Rec Way and Second Dam. Norm, long absent from the group these many months, was able to join us again for this particular hike.
There was not an excessive amount of snow or ice on the hike route, which made the hike more enjoyable for everyone
As is our normal practice, the group started Easterly on the Rec Way before soon detouring over the blue blazed trails that lead to the hills above Second Dam. The group turned away from Second Dam and followed the ridgeline above the small lake that formed behind the dam, continuing to work our way Easterly along the foot trails.
Eventually the group came out on the Rec Way again. After a quick survey of hikers preferences about half the group opted to return to their cars via the direct Rec Way route, while the other half retraced our steps back along the foot paths.
Sat Jan 30
Hike report by Jim. Photos by Cian
Monkey Run Natural Area, south side of Fall Creek (Varna)
14 hikers and 3 dogs met on Monkey Run Rd on the southern side of Fall Creek. There was a slow but steady snowfall that would accompany us throughout the hike.
Hikers left the parking area, quickly climbing and descending through the surrounding hills of the Monkey Run Natural Area on the orange blazed trails.
Soon we were crossing open fields, which gave us the most difficulty of the hike as far as snow accumulation and a discomforting wind.
We quickly found our way back under the cover of trees on the red blazed trails and walking along the creek, which was a deep emerald green and flowing with quite a bit of force. Later in the hike along a slower section of the creek, the creek had frozen over, its ice a similar hue of green and the uneven surface appearing as if the waves had frozen in place as the water flowed.
The air was clear, and the vistas from some of the higher elevation promontories was quite beautiful.
For most of the hike the trail surface was quite manageable, with just a few well-trodden inches of compacted snow and very little ice underfoot. Some hikers commented that some foot traction was good on the steeper parts of trails
Towards the end of the hike we entered a patch of evergreens that had a similar coating of snow as I had observed on other recent hikes. That combined with the stillness that always seems to accompany walking through stands of pines are always attractive to me.
Soon enough it was time to turn around and re-trace our steps to the side trail leading to the parking lot. We arrived there with a Hesse degree of punctuality, to find that the street was lined with probably double the number of cars we ad arrived in. Clearly that locale was a popular destination this day, although we’d only encountered a couple of trail runners or hikers during our own hike.
Marsh Road to Coddington Road on Deputron Hollow Road, Danby
Six hikers and two dogs initially met on Marsh Rd on what was a cold but not uncomfortable morning
The hikers set off down Marsh RD towards Deputron Hollow Rd.
Upon reaching Deputron Hollow Rd the hikers found that the plowed portion of the road ended, but that a tractor recently passing through on Deputron Hollow Rd has broken up the snow pack enough for the hikers to be able to hike comfortably in a single file.
The hikers were soon met by a seventh hiker who had hiked up from Coddington RD to join the group.
The group continued down Deputron Hollow Rd at a steady pace, admiring the wintery scenery around us.
Soon afterwards we were joined by an eighth hiker who had arrived on Marsh Rd a few minutes late.
The group continued on Deputron Hollow as it followed the gorge.
Upon reaching the maintained lower portion of Deputron Hollow RD, the group opted to walk a few minutes longer and go all the way to Coddington Rd before turning around for the uphill trek back to our vehicles. This was motivated in part by the fact that the side road we often explore for a few minutes of the return leg of the hike was entirely snowed in.
When I joined this group in 2004, after living in NYC for many years, I found that I liked hiking in winter better than in other seasons. You can see the lively post-glacial terrain really clearly — you get a sense of openness and spaciousness which I prefer to the closed-in sense when the leaves are out — it’s fun to go up and down the hills on a layer of snow — and I personally love the bleak, stark quality of the woods in winter; you can really only get the full effect when you’re out in the midst of the scenery. Also, you don’t get hot and there are no bugs, no mud and no puddles. And it’s probably the best way to get aerobic exercise outdoors short of vigorous X-country skiing or speed skating or ice hockey.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get out onto the trail myself much in the past month. I have a rare nerve disorder that began to affect my balance some years ago. Then, in 2018, I fell down onto my head on a hike and got a bad concussion. I still haven’t fully recovered from that, and I’ve been having even worse balance problems recently — temporary, I hope. So for now I have to follow along online like almost everyone else in the group. But I’m extremely eager to get back out there ASAP.