Special report to Hikers — Part 2, A solo backpacking hike on the FLT

By Jim R

When Part 1 of this report ended yesterday, Jim had settled down at a campsite next to a rushing stream prepared for a good night’s sleep after a hot tiring day on the trail. Then he heard car doors slamming and music blaring nearby.

The people from the cars came down the trail, passing my campsite and  apologizing that they hadn’t seen my tent when they pulled in from the road. They set up a few feet further downstream and spent a good portion of the night partying. Thankfully the noise of the water behind me drowned out most of the partiers noise and music.

The next morning ( Tuesday )  dawned and I found myself alone, the partiers having departed at some unknown point during the night. Having had negative interactions with partiers at campsites two years in a row, I suspect that in the future I will do my best to avoid camping in shelters or bivouac sites close to roads.

I had breakfast, broke camp and walked to the near-by Todd Rd. I followed that back to where the FLT crosses Todd, and I continued my Westward trek on the FLT. It was here, as I got closer to Gulf Rd, that I found the most activity of anywhere on the Trail in my time hiking this section. I encountered two day-hiking gentlemen who were climbing the hills up from Gulf Rd; I stopped and had a great conversation with them about many topics. Reaching the part of the FLT where the other end of the Van Loane Hill Loop rejoins the trail, I encountered many day hikers, dog walkers, and even some other section hikers who were setting out on the first day of their own section hike towards Ithaca. I hope that they were successful in their journey. It was here that I saw the only wildlife I observed along the Trail.

Crossing the dilapidated bridge in that area, I stopped for lunch and refilled my water supplies. Reaching Gulf Rd, I turned left where the FLT makes a quick jog on Route 6 before it crosses a bridge and plunges back into the wood line in its Northerly journey.

This stretch of Trail is a bit odd compared to what we are used to traversing here in Tompkins County; its more like a walk through peoples grassy mowed back yards and lightly wooded lands. In some places I think that’s exactly what I was doing.

After a mile or so of this the trail pops out in Odessa at the Schuyler County Veterans Park, a nicely done public space with pavilions, a veteran’s memorial and a public water supply that on this day was not functioning.

Crossing over Route 228, a hiker is soon facing a section of the FLT that is all of a 500 foot elevation gain as the Trail follows a logging road straight up Rogers Hill. My goal was to reach Roger’s shelter, located near the summit of the hill. I’d been there in the past with Ithaca Hikers, but had come into the shelter from the other direction. As I climbed the hill I found myself second guessing my exact location on the map. There is some active logging going on around the road, with several trees right next to the road being cut down and the blazes in many places disappearing for long stretches or being poorly maintained. Despite the route being intuitive due to its straight-as-an-arrow nature, the longer I climbed and the long stretches of road with no discernable blazes eventually had me thinking that I’d somehow walked right past the shelter. The eventual appearance of private dwellings along the road reinforced this idea to me.

Eventually I found a grassy shaded area along the road. I stopped for a late lunch and refilled my water supply from the fast-racing water in the road-side ditch I was sitting next to. That’s not as bad as it sounds, as the water was collecting in some fairly large pools being refreshed with a large volume of water briskly flowing down from higher elevations along the steep grade.

Returning to climbing the hill, I soon found the side road that led to the lean-to. The shelter is a nice set-up, with a decently sized pond and near-by privies that don’t require the hiker to dig a cathole to do their business in the woods. Other than some near-by kids racing around on their ATVs, I found myself alone in the shelter for the evening.

I had dinner, set up my sleeping gear and went to sleep. I knew that the next day was supposed to be warm, and I wanted an early start.

Waking up early Wednesday I had breakfast, packed up and set off down the hill, away from the shelter and towards Carley Rd. I knew from driving this section just the previous weekend ( when the group hiked the FLT West from Logan Rd ) that this stretch of Carley Rd would be another uninteresting stretch of road walk. Crossing over Steam Mill Rd, I plunged into the Southerly portion of Texas Hollow State Forest. Crossing some well-flowing streams I started to soak a towel to keep it around my neck, as temperatures were starting to climb.

The Trail here is not particularly unique in my mind; I stopped to make a trail register entry, texted David Priester about a blow-down, and continued a slow uphill climb towards Newtown Rd. Reaching Newtown Rd I crossed over that road, and here began the long descent down into that portion of Texas Hollow that the group is most familiar with from previous hikes in the area.

As I drew closer to the bottom of the valley I was taking note of the condition of streams I was crossing; many could be seen flowing briskly downhill from further uphill, only to literally disappear into the ground, leaving only a dry streambed. The grassy areas around the pond as parts of it became visible in the far distance seemed to be in stark white sunlight compared to the forested area I was travelling through.

Coming to one of the last shaded streams with a strong water flow and pools of water to draw from, I stopped for a prolonged lunch, a resupply of my water, and a bit of a rest before continuing on.

Eventually I came to the flatlands and then to Texas Hollow Rd itself. By now the heat was fully evident, and I decided to do the road walk bypass on Texas Hollow Rd to Rte 79 rather than make the steep climb up the FLT on the Westerly side of Texas Hollow Rd. I began walking Texas Hollow Rd and soon found myself racing from one clump of shadowed roadside to the next.

Reaching the end of Texas Hollow Rd I dumped my gear, had a long rest and evaluated my position. I realized that much of the route I would have covered in my remaining planed trail time consisted of  Trail that I’d already been on at one time or another. I realized that much of it was dry with little or no water likely to be present, and I had failed to consider the need to pre-position water along this portion of the Trail. I knew that the next two days were supposed to be in the high 80s or low 90s in temperature. Given these facts, I decided that the wiser course of action would be to terminate the hike. I called Katharine and asked her for a ride from the area. And so ended what was a few short but interesting days on the FLT.