Wednesday December 7
Finger Lakes Trail from White Church Road
Hike report by Jim
Six hikers met at the new FLT parking lot in the 800 block of White Church Road. Rain was falling en route to the hike, but by the time everyone arrived the rain had slackened considerably.
Given the recent rerouting of the FLT in this area, I left the planned route somewhat open. We started by crossing White Church Road and entered the field opposite the parking area, heading toward the rerouted part of the trail.
We stopped for a group photo at an overlook of Wilseyville Creek, where a thick fog hung over the water.
As we reached the turn in the path that directs hikers toward the new part of the trail, the rain picked up and accompanied us for a few minutes before slacking off again.
Soon we reached White Church Road; from here the trail turns onto Coddington Road for a short road walk before entering the new Eberhard Nature Preserve, which is currently closed for hunting season. Here we turned around and retraced our steps to the turn in the trail.
Rather than head back toward our cars, I led the group down the decommissioned but still very walkable part of the FLT that runs along Willseyville Creek. When trail redirection had first been discussed a year ago, I obtained permission from property owners for our group to hike the old footpath occasionally after the trail was moved.
As we walked along the creek, hikers noticed the multitude of tiny water droplets that hung by the dozen off each branch. Drag trails of beavers and turtles criss-crossed the path, and there were fresh signs of recent beaver activity in the form of gnawed saplings.
We turned into the woods and walked on a thick bed of old needles, the footpath threading its way among towering evergreens. When we reached an open meadow, it seemed as good a turn-around point as any, so we headed back the way we’d come.
We followed the trail back across the open fields, crossing White Church Road and arriving at our cars a few minutes early, just as the skies opened up with a deluge of water drumming against us, encouraging us to find shelter and head for home or other warmer and drier destinations.
Today’s hike, taking into consideration only the active parts of the FLT footpath that we traversed, should count as 3 FLT miles for anyone still attempting to get an FLT60 patch.
A warm welcome to Hillary on her first (very wet) hike with the group!
Saturday December 10
Dryden Rail Trail & Monkey Run trails from Stevenson Road
Hike report by Jim
Twenty-nine hikers and four dogs met near Stevenson Road on the unsigned access road to the solar farm there, for a hike of the Dryden Rail Trail and Monkey Run trails. It was a cool, crisp clear December morning, and the fields by our parking area were covered in thick frost.
We set off at a brisk pace, quickly proceeding down the trail. When we passed over Route 366 on the FH Fox bridge, the group paused for a quick photo. Then, we plunged into the woods via an access trail that leads to the orange- and red-blazed Monkey Run trails.
For this hike, we traversed these Monkey Run trails in the opposite direction from the way we normally go, giving hikers a new appreciation of otherwise familiar vistas.
At the Monkey Run parking area, the long and dispersed conga line of hikers reconsolidated before we continued onto the trails on the far side of the parking area.
This section of the trail is a nice-but-short woods walk that eventually leads back to the Rail Trail, which we then followed to Route 13. Along the way, we reconnected with a few of our hikers who had opted for a strict rail trail hike rather than hiking the Monkey Run trail sections.
When we reached Route 13, the group paused for a few minutes while a couple of hikers checked trail conditions on the nearby red-blazed hiking loop, which had been underwater and a mud bog the last time we attempted to hike it.
The scouts reported a mostly usable trail, so the main group of hikers set off on that loop, which follows the cliffs above the stream in a long, meandering footpath before returning to the Monkey Run parking area.
We retraced our original steps through the Monkey Run trail system, finally returning to the Dryden Rail Trail close to the FH Fox bridge.
On our way back to the cars, the group encountered a solitary skunk which was running down the rail trail footpath in our direction. Hikers stepped off the rail trail into an adjacent meadow, assuming that the skunk would continue on its way. Instead, the skunk went into the meadow and began chasing individual hikers, who tried to stay out of the animal’s way. I resolved the issue by throwing a good number of Milk Bones at the skunk, who stopped to examine these items and eat a couple of them. This distraction allowed the hikers to continue down the trail to our cars, and we arrived back at the parking area a few minutes late because of the unexpected delay.
Welcome to Dave, Marie, Alison, and Alison’s dog Estrella, on their first hike with the group!
Photos by Randy O.
Sunday December 11
Connecticut Hill, Newfield
Hike report by Jim
Fifteen hikers met at the junction of Lloyd Starks, Boylan, and Connecticut Hill roads. As we gathered, heavy, fluffy snowflakes fell so thickly that they obscured the surrounding areas. This was the first snowy hike of the season, and many hikers commented on their drive to the trailhead.
The larger group split into three, each group taking a different route. The three options were an out-and-back hike, a forest loop led by Randy, or a road walk loop led by Casey.
All three groups started up Lloyd Starks Road, with Casey’s group setting a good pace and soon pulling ahead and out of sight. The other two groups went their respective ways at the crest of the hill on Lloyd Starks Road. Eight hikers decided to take Randy’s forest loop; see Randy’s hike report below.
As it worked out, the two larger groups of loop hikers reconvened at the cars at almost the same time, with everyone reporting good hiking and conditions that resulted in only a spill or two along the way to remind everyone that winter has in fact arrived.
By the hike’s end the snow had stopped falling, the snowplows had made their first passes up and down the road, and hunters were in the woods opposite our cars blazing away (literally) at deer that we had just seen crossing the road below our parking area.
As a general note, today was a good reminder that winter is here, and proper hiking equipment is a necessity. If you’re new to winter hiking, please review equipment suggestions found on our Frequently Asked Questions page. Anyone who has questions about gear selection is strongly encouraged to consult with other hikers or sales staff at the local outdoor stores.
Hike report by Randy
We started off going up Lloyd Starks Road with the full group. At the top of the hill, our group of eight split off and headed east into the forest, while the others continued on the road. This was the first hike with a substantial snow covering, and it snowed lightly throughout the hike, making for a fun atmosphere.
In the woods, the trail became easy to follow, although there were several intersections offering alternative routes. We elected to take a longer route. Several hikers took the lead, breaking the trail through about three inches of new snow. This relatively flat hike passed an old house foundation, now just a large, uneventful hole in the ground. Distant views were limited by fog and falling snow.
Most of us were adorned with some sort of blaze orange, always a good idea in the woods this time of year, although we didn’t hear any hunters until we got back to the cars. Some also wore traction devices on their boots, which proved helpful…two hikers slipped and fell, but recovered quickly.
We returned to our cars at the two-hour mark, and surprisingly the others arrived at about the same time. Another hike successfully completed.
Images by Randy