Report to Hikers — week of Dec 27 — Jan 2

Hello Hikers!

The special pleasure of hiking our trails when you’ve grown up here

“With Ithaca being my hometown, I have decades of memories of everywhere I go around here”

By Jim

Norm and I exchanged a few emails about the Cayuga Nature Center after our recent hike there. A couple of our longer term hikers indicated on the day of the hike that it was their first visit there. That actually surprised me, just as the comments from some hikers in the past that they lived in Ithaca for 20+ years before they even thought to set foot on a local trail. After all, as I sometimes pointed out, we have people visit Ithaca who spend hundreds or thousands to come here and enjoy what we have around us in the natural world on a daily basis.

Norm sent me the photo of the historical marker that’s on the grounds of the Nature Center and indicated that he was unfamiliar with the term “preventorium” as used on the sign. Here is a link from their website to some of the history of the Nature Center:

History — Cayuga Nature Center

Norm asked that I forward the Wiki link below in case people might be interested:

Cayuga Nature Center – Wikipedia

The day of the hike I mentioned ( I think it was to Leah ) that I’d attended programs there as a kid, at which time it was still the Cayuga Preventorium and only open for programs during the summer months. I still have fond memories of the Preventorium grounds, of the groups of kids trekking through the woods, gathering around ponds on the Preventorium grounds ( that I have not been able to re-locate on more recent visits as an adult ) to learn about bugs and trees and all sorts of natural minutiae that seemed *cool* to a kid of that age.

During my recent downtown walk with the CTC hikers I mentioned to Gary Mallow that with Ithaca being my hometown, I have decades of memories of everywhere I go around here. That hike we walked down Linn St, which is where my dad grew up. After that hike and the later Christmas Day hike with Ithaca Hikers, I stopped in to see my dad and mentioned I’d been in his old neighborhood, and he shared the trivia tidbit that his house was the last house in the city of Ithaca by the 1950s that was still being heated exclusively by coal. We argued whether or not his old neighborhood has improved since the 1950s; I think it looks much better than decades ago, while he thinks that it hasn’t changed a bit…..

I had the same experience with Nancy H on our Hallows Eve walk downtown that was led by the History Center.

Ithaca has been a great place to grow up. I continue to get what seem to be surprised responses from hikers both new and old  when they find out I grew up here. I know that there aren’t many of us that you transplants probably run into on a regular basis. A lot of my peers rushed to leave town after graduation; some trickled back in as adults when they recognized that it would still be a good place to raise their own young families. The ones who stayed tend to be a cliquish group in their personal lives and who they associate with…

As a kid growing up in Ithaca exploring all it had to offer, I thought that everyone had a gorge in their backyard and that every town had a Collegetown. Stephen Hesse has said more than once that he thought it was a great way to grow up, to have a summer job working at the two local Treman State Parks ( it wasn’t bad, in my mind at the time; somehow those stairs on RH Treman’s Gorge Trail have gotten harder since I raced up them as  a teen and young 20-something loaded down with tools ).

Not entirely certain where I’m going with this, so I’ll end it here. Just a little bit of personal and local history, since we have just a few native residents in our hiking group, and some newer hikers who can measure their time in Ithaca in literally a handful of weeks. Enjoy what it has to offer while you are here. I sometimes forget that not everyone in the group sees or remembers Ithaca the same way I do.

Hope to see all of you on the trail again, sooner or later.


Wed Dec 29

Hike report and photo by Jim

Woodchuck Hollow Lean-to on the FLT, Cortland County

8 hikers and 2 dogs met on Carson Rd in Cortland County for a lollipop  hike of the FLT to Woodchuck Hollow Lean-To.

Fresh snow had fallen overnight, so there was a clean white  blanket of snow on the footpath, as well as a layer of snow highlighting the tree branches ( making for a nice visual effect ).

Periodically throughout the hike there were stretches of the trail in which we found our selves hiking through fog which cut visibility to near distances only.’ Very atmospheric, as we commented to each other along the way.

The initial climb up the hill from Carson Rd warmed us quickly. We crested the first ridgeline and hiked down the other side, approaching the first of several water crossings. The streams were well supplied, filling the forest around us with the chatter of flowing streams as it found its way to lower ground.

The FLT wanders through the forest here, rarely taking a straight approach in its travels through the tall stands of pine trees.

Finally arriving at the lean to we paused for a quick group photo and reviewed the map for the next leg of the hike. Passing the shelter we returned to the FLT, and shortly afterwards jumped onto a blue blazed trail that provided a shortcut back in the direction we had come from.

By now the temperatures were rising just enough that the forest was alive with the newer sounds of snow falling from the branches to the forest floor below.

Returning to the FLT we made our way back to Carson Rd and our cars.

This hike took about 45 minutes longer than normal, an issue that I don’t recall when we hiked this route last summer. I attribute the overage somewhat to this being a winter hike that slowed us down a little. I will be sure to plan accordingly the next time we visit this area.

A warm welcome to Kate and her canine hiking companion Cocoa on their first hike with the group!


Sat Jan 1

Hike report and four photos by Jim

Yellow Barn SF, Dryden

Happy New Years to all!

This was an unusual hike.

While it was January 1st, it was an unseasonably warm mid-40s during the hike

I advised the group at the outset that the lollipop loop portion of the ski trail was expected to exceed the usual hike time by an extra fifteen minutes, and that anyone needing a strict two hour hike duration would need to turn around early.

Cars were still pulling in as we set off, so to my best count we had thirty hikers and 8 dogs.

A general reminder to all, we start on time and wait for no one. On many hikes this is not an issue, as out and back hikes will at some point pick up stragglers. This was not a good hike to be late on.

The seasonal portion of Signal Tower Road was muddy and had the usual pools of water, especially given recent rains and snow melt. The footpath as always was a bit adventuresome and hikers sometimes had to pick their footing carefully while skirting the pools of water lest they find themselves involuntarily partially immersed in said pools, as I found myself at one point.

Eventually hikers turn from Signal Tower Road onto the service path ( I can’t call it a road ) that leads to the equestrian fields. I waited here for the elongated line of hikers to draw closer to the turn, at which time we proceeded forward. The fields were in fine shape, though it was clear they were in their winter dormancy period.

Reaching the far end of the second field the group again paused and I was advised that a small group of hikers towards the end of the conga hiking line had not made the turn onto the service path. More on that later.

Setting off on the ski trails, it was a scene of unending devastation. Since our last hike in the area, DEC has clear-cut almost all of the trees on the inner side of the loop, and used the trail itself as a thoroughfare to drag the trees. The footpath was a mix of roots and churned up mess. It was  slow slog. We paused briefly when the time-constrained people had to turn around. The main body continued on.

Eventually the main group of hikers returned to the entry point onto the horse fields. While waiting for the end of the hiking line to arrive one of our group read off a near-by notice on a tree that advised hikers to NOT hike the ski trail until late 2022. Too late for todays hike! No worries for future hikes, either; we wont hike it ever again in its current deforested condition.

The main body set off across the horse fields and returned to our cars without incident. I was advised that the last group that hadn’t made the turn on to the fields on the outbound leg of the trip had chosen to hike their own hike and continue down the seasonal portion of Signal Tower Rd.

The bigger problem at that point was that we still had several hikers in the woods, in telephone contact with us, but who were unable to verify their location on the trail. Nancy L and myself drove the area until the hikers and their dogs were located on Irish settlement Rd near the Park Preserve. Hiker Ruth, as it turned out, had had a complete shoe failure on the trail and had had to hold the shoe together with strips of the blue surveyors marking tape that was in abundance along the ski trail ( see photo ).

New K9 hiker “Sage” joined the group today for its first hike

As a general note to hikers, as much as we enjoy Cians contribution to documenting hikes through his photos, I am looking for additional photographers who like to photograph hikes. We used to have several people such as Jack and Annie who shared their photos, in addition to Susan and Stephen. It is difficult for me at the front of the group to capture any serious number of decent hike photos. I am asking anyone who has been taking pictures on hikes to consider sharing those with the readers of the hike reports by sending their pictures to Stephen and whoever eventually takes over editorship of the weekly hike report.

Damaged shoes repaired with surveyor’s tape


Photos by Cian

Check out Cian’s complete album here


Photos by Randy/Nancy L



Sun Jan 2

Hike report by Jim

Comfort Road, Danby

12 hikers and 2 dogs met on Comfort Rd in Danby  for a hike of the FLT Northwesterly towards  Bruce Hill Rd.

The hike started with a cold wind whipping across the fields near the junction of Comfort and Lieb Rds.

I knew from previous experience and from checking out the beginning of the trail prior to the hike that the first section of trail would be extremely muddy. Stephen has in the past told me that the mud was a major reason why this section of trail was removed from the regular hike rotation. Last summer there were a couple of really muddy sections, but overall the trail was not bad. Today we were not quite so lucky.

The group set off and got through the first muddy portion. The footpath was covered pretty uniformally with a wet mass of leaves. The real risks on the hike were the wet stones, the wet fallen trees starting to freeze into an encapsulating sheath of ice, and the slippery mud, particularly on the downhill portions approaching stream crossings. The streams were, almost universally, all flowing quite well

There were some nicer sections of trail, particularly those trail moments where I found myself passing through sections of evergreens and the forest floor underneath was thick with a layer of needles. Some of the portions where the overhead canopy opened up and we found ourselves entering something close to a small meadow were also enjoyable.

Overall there was much more mud than I recalled from last summer, when it must have been much drier when we hiked this section of trail.

At about the hour mark, before reaching the first large open meadows and one stream crossing that I recall as being particularly troublesome, the group turned around. The snow began to fall around us in a granulated form that soon had a decent thin layer of white coating the forest floor.

The group arrived back at our cars a few minutes early, but no one was complaining.

The muddy areas could be addressed through some thoughtful trail re-routes or even laying down a decent courderoy log surface to cross the worst of the muddy sections on. I recall from looking at Nancy L’s Gaia app last year that the trail appears to have been laid down primarily by exactly following a trail contour on the map, as it looked to be a perfect overlay.

While the section of trail is appealing under the right conditions, I think that in the future I will limit us to hiking this only in the driest or most frozen of winter months.

Thanks to all who came out today to keep me company on this hike!

Photos by Cian

Complete album here