Wednesday December 14
Finger Lakes National Forest
Nine hikers and one dog met in the parking lot on Mark Smith Road to begin our hike of the Finger Lakes National Forest at the Gorge Trail trailhead. The morning was cold and crisp and the woods were covered in snow, making this a perfect day and place for a winter hike.
We warmed up quickly on the initial climb along the gorge. Mark S. led us on a nice tour of the trails in this part of the national forest, including parts of the Interloken and South Slope trails.
Mark had warned us that his planned route might take a little longer than our usual two hours. In practice, the two-and-a-half hours we were in the woods felt much shorter. Toward the end of the hike, Mark and Ellie’s dog, Marcy, spotted a deer and took off after it. Several of us spotted the deer running through the trees. Marcy gave up and rejoined the group as we got back to our cars.
Saturday December 17
Stewart Park, Waterfront Trail, and Farmers Market
Hike report by Jim
I arrived at Stewart Park a little early for this hike, unsure of what conditions I’d find after the recent winter weather. Except for a sheen of ice on the paved surfaces, conditions were good, with well-paved park roads. No cold, biting wind blew off the lake this day; the skies were gray but otherwise mostly clear, with a good view down the lake from the Park. (This is in contrast to last winter’s Stewart Park hike, which started late because some hikers’ cars got stuck in unplowed drifts.) Many geese were in the air or waddling around the park grounds. The occasional early-morning runner passed me as I waited for the group to arrive.
In total, we had 16 hikers on Saturday. Given the icy surfaces, many hikers were glad they had nanospikes for traction on this hike. We set off for a quick circuit of the footpath that circles the old swan pond. Coming around the backside of the boathouse, we followed the paved sidewalk to the first bridge. We crossed it and entered the bird sanctuary.
In the bird sanctuary we made a quick circuit of the blue-blazed trails, picking up a late-arriving hiker along the way. After exiting the bird sanctuary, we crossed the second bridge and entered the golf course. There, we navigated the edge of the greens until we reached the access road for the lighthouse.
We walked to the sea wall leading to the lighthouse; about two-thirds of the group braved walking on the icy, decrepit seawall out to the lighthouse itself.
After regrouping, we walked to the golf course entrance. From there, we walked along Willow Ave. and followed the pedestrian path to the Ithaca Farmers Market, which was having its final Saturday before closing for the winter. Hikers spent about 10 minutes prowling the market’s wooden boardwalks, browsing the market stalls and buying a hot cider or other warming drink.
After the group reassembled, we retraced our steps back to the golf course and across the bridges back to Stewart Park, arriving at the cars about five minutes past our normal hike time.
Sunday December 18
Black Diamond Trail from Kraft Road
Hike report by Jim
Fourteen hikers and one dog hiked at their own, individual paces northward on the Black Diamond Trail from Kraft Road. Skies were clear and there was little wind to contend with. Trail surfaces were uneven due to freezing and refreezing of the churned-up snow that covered the well-frequented trail.
Hikers enjoyed the views of the distant ridgelines, the snow-covered fields along the footpath, and the nicely flowing streams that ran along and under the trail. We shared the trail with a good number of other day hikers, dog walkers, and bicyclists.
The fastest hikers in the group made it to the Taughannock Falls overlook before turning around, a total round trip hike distance of just under six miles. Excellent work, pace setters!
Welcome to Brandon on his first hike with the group!
Hiker Nancy L. reports finding a black winter snow mitt type glove on the trail after today’s hike. If anyone in our group has lost such an item, please contact Nancy L. or Randy to retrieve your property!
On a personal note, the county has had its first instance of lost skiers on Hammond Hill this past week. There is currently a missing hiker in an adjoining county. Now that winter conditions are here, please take all reasonable precautions if you intend to hike area trails.