Wednesday January 4
Finger Lakes Trail from Eastman Hill Road
Hike report by Jim
Seven hikers met on Eastman Hill Rd., just inside the Tioga County line, for a hike of the FLT into Eberhard Preserve. This hike was partly a hike of the recently rerouted FLT as it comes off Eastman Hill toward Coddington Rd.
The day was unseasonably warm; any snowpack on the trail had melted, although the small ponds and water-filled ditches we passed still had thin skims of ice on their surfaces.
As you leave the parking area, it’s a steady-but-gradual climb along a seasonal portion of Eastman Hill Rd. Past an unsigned intersection with the seasonal end of Heisey Rd., the trail goes left and right. We opted for the right, or southerly, direction.
The trail continued a steady climb, and the footpath was often a wet, muddy slog. This section is usually wet except in the driest part of summer, so conditions were not entirely unexpected.
Shortly after reaching the plateau at the top of Eastman Hill, the trail takes a turn, a recent redirection that was the purpose of our hike today. The rerouted section of trail meanders around the top of Eastman Hill for some time, following various old logging roads. Eventually, the footpath dips downhill, and before long we were passing the green metal sign announcing the border of Eberhard Preserve.
From this point on, the trail’s downhill slope becomes more pronounced. We passed by the first blue-blazed side trail and continued downhill on the FLT.
By the time we reached the second side trail, a green-blazed section that connects with the blue-blazed trail, it was our turnaround time, so we opted to take the green trail as part of our return route. We went steadily downhill on the green-blazed trail until we reached the blue-blazed trail.
That section of the blue-blazed trail goes sharply uphill, something not entirely unexpected as we had a copy of the Eberhard Preserve trail map with us. Once the blue-blazed trail levels out, it meets up with the FLT section we’d already traversed.
The return hike to our cars over the FLT was as muddy as the outbound leg, but thankfully more downhill than not. We reached our cars about 10 minutes past our normal hike duration, but as we’d stopped many times during the hike I am sure that future hikes at this location will be quicker.
Saturday January 7
West on the FLT from South Danby Road
Hike report by Jim
Seventeen hikers and one dog met on South Danby Road for a westbound hike of the FLT. It was an overcast morning, and as the hike progressed a haze of fine flakes began to fall steadily. Soon the forest floor was covered in a thin layer of fresh snow, and the faded white blazes were in some cases lost in the sheath of white that clung to the trees.
On the hike’s outbound leg we encountered a fair amount of mud, and sections of the trail were covered by flowing water.
The main group of hikers soon reached David’s Bridge on the FLT. Hikers crossed that and climbed the hill to Curtis Road and beyond. By now, the snowfall had stopped. This group reached Hill Road before turning around and retracing their steps.
A few of the slower hikers turned around at the hour mark, and the main group picked them up along the way as everyone returned to South Danby Road.
Sunday January 8
South Hill Recreation Way, Ithaca
Hike report by Jim
Twenty-eight hikers and a dog hiked from Crescent Place in Ithaca into the trail system that runs along the South Hill Rec Way. Temperatures were on the cool side, but it didn’t take long to warm up as we traversed the various hills and ridges of the blue-blazed trail.
This was the first time that many of our newer hikers had been on this trail, so it was nice to bring them here on a pleasant day for a winter hike. We met a handful of trail runners and other day hikers along the way, but otherwise we had the trail to ourselves.
I’d been worried that wintry conditions might make water crossings hazardous or prevent us from visiting the lower section of trail near the water. But given the recent thaw, these worries were unfounded.
There was a significant amount of water in all of the water crossings and some parts of the trail were muddy, so eventually I gave up trying to keep my feet dry and simply waded through the crossings or the mud bogs as we encountered them.
Some of the hike’s highlights were the fast-flowing waterways, checking out the old stone staircase, the views out over the second dam area, and the descent to the shoreline across from Mulholland Wildflower Preserve on the return leg.
Welcome to Pat, Yvonne, and Bill on their first hike with the group!