Wednesday January 11
YMCA Outdoor Education Center trails through Ecovillage and beyond
Hike report by Jim
Sixteen hikers met for a hike of the YMCA and Ecovillage trails on the west side of the Town of Ithaca, off State Route 79. It was a cool day with temps that made the hike an enjoyable experience.
I hadn’t had a chance to prehike this route and we hadn’t been on these trails in 10 months, so I was unsure what shape we’d find the trails in. On our last hike here, we had to zig-zag through the various trails in the YMCA system to avoid the worst of the muddy sections. On this day, the trail system was bone dry, with only a hint of mud in a couple of places.
We quickly passed through the YMCA trails and soon found ourselves on the Ecovillage trails. These unsigned trails are always a bit of a challenge, but I had a cheat sheet of directions from our last hike here. Soon we were passing through the woods into the open fields below the Ecovillage residences. We walked along the woods’ edge and followed the Coy Glen grassy pathways to Elm Street before turning around and finding our route through the Ecovillage road system back to the trails and from there back onto YMCA property.
We arrived at our cars with a few minutes to spare, but no one was complaining.
A warm welcome to Sara, Tasha, and Dennis on their first hike with the group!
Saturday January 14
Blue-blazed trail starting at Boylan and Hulford roads, Connecticut Hill
Hike report by Nancy L.
Nine intrepid hikers and a dog gathered at the corner of Hulford Hill and Boylan roads on a cold, somewhat snowy morning. Luckily, the snow plow had cleared the road to that spot, making the approach relatively easy.
I believe we all had our traction devices on, which was particularly good during the preliminary short road walk up Boylan Road to the trail that cut into the woods on the left. A short way in after passing a small field, the blue-marked trees begin, making the trail relatively easy to follow. The trail heads south, following a branch of Carter Creek, although it is quite a way up the hill from the creek itself.
The forest is mostly red pine and quite pleasant. The snow on the trail, though recent, was relatively thin, making the walking quite easy. Marcy, the young dog, was a great leader, finding the trail before the rest of us.
After about two miles, the trail heads closer to the creek, eventually intersecting with an old roadbed that leads down to the water. At that spot, there are several lovely cascades. We stopped there to catch a group photo in front of the falls.
At this point, a smaller but steeply descending creek comes in from the opposite, western side of the creek. A steep trail follows this creek, which allows hikers to quickly ascend to the upper reaches of the hillside and Cabin Road.
Getting across the larger creek was a challenge. (I felt the cold water seeping into my boots when I accidentally dipped my toe in). Initially, the hillside is very steep. Casey led most of the group up to a level spot, while I took the more treacherous route along the opposite side of the main creek to a rope tied there for scrambling up the steep hill. Everyone else watched, having arrived before me.
Then we had the task of climbing the relatively steep trail to Cabin Road, short but not sweet. It was only a short way up Cabin Road to another trail that takes off going north. A series of old road beds provided a trail along the west side (but out of view) of the main creek, heading north.
Eventually we reached a trail heading back downhill to the creek and across it. From there, it was a short distance to return to the blue-blazed trail. Thanks to the many footprints, we quickly made our way back along the blue-marked trail to our cars.
Sunday January 15
Shindagin Hollow Bike and Snowmobile Trails
Hike report by Jim
I knew while I was en route to the trailhead that this would be a special hike. As I drove down Irish Settlement Road, I could see the trees along the far ridgeline, a ghostly white army that stretched into the distance.
I got to the trailhead and checked out conditions a short way along the trail. Soon, hikers were arriving in clusters. By the time the last arrivals had jockeyed into their parking spaces, both parking lots were full.
After I gave a quick explanation of our route at the large kiosk map, we set off. We had 23 hikers and two dogs (a 24th hiker arrived later and did her own hike). Entering the woods was a unique experience; the trunks and branches of trees were dabbed with new snow. We pressed forward over flagstones also coated with new snow.
The first 1/10 mile or so was really enjoyable, and the snowy conditions seemed to impress the whole group. About six people said this was their first experience of hiking the Shindagin bike trails. For the rest of us, it’s been at least a year – probably longer – since we hiked here. I don’t think I’ve led a hike here since I took over the group.
Hiking through the rows of tall, snow-covered evergreens was like walking through a cathedral, the church columns surrounding us and proceeding in rows into the distance.
We reached the first intersection and turned into a scene that was even more wintry than the one behind us. This hike wasn’t getting old in the slightest!
We continued along a gentle downhill trek, following the infrequent blue discs that marked our route, our feet crunching through the thin, crusty layer of ice under the snow.
After taking another turn, we pressed forward until we passed the FLT and finally turned onto a snowmobile trail that offered a steady downhill grade, a minor water crossing, and then an uphill slog back to Braley Hill Road.
After pausing briefly on the road, we turned onto the FLT and began a gradual climb before crossing another snowmobile trail and reaching the first of several red-blazed bike trails.
We followed these trails, getting a little lost along the way. (I had prehiked the route earlier in the week and marked my route with engineer tape, but along the way I’d overlooked a few intersections and it appeared that some of my tape markers had disappeared since my first hike. Throw a layer of fresh snow on everything and it starts to look different…) Some bicyclists had preceded us and broken trail through the layer of ice.
Eventually we found ourselves walking along another plantation of monoculture pines. The sun came out from behind the clouds, bathing the woods in white brilliance for a few short minutes.
We reached our final descent far too soon, it seemed, but we found ourselves arriving back at our cars at exactly the two-hour mark.
Today was the kind of hike I enjoy the most, in case you couldn’t tell. Thanks to all who came out to share the trail with me today!