Wednesday February 15
The FLT in Danby State Forest from 96B to the Tamarack Lean-to
Hike report by Jim
Eleven hikers set out on the Finger Lakes Trail from the parking area on Durfee Hill Road at Rt. 96B. We were later met by two late arrivals plus one late-arriving dog.
From Durfee Hill Road, the FLT crosses some open fields before turning into some scrub trees that line the state route. When we emerged onto 96B, the group managed to vault over the guardrail, dodge oncoming traffic, and climb another guardrail to get to the other side of the road. This always makes me feel like we’re in a human-sized version of the old 1980s-era Frogger video game, where the player tries to keep the frog who’s crossing the road from being run over by traffic. This section of trail could benefit from some improvements, but I’ll skip that for today’s hike report.
Leaving Rt. 96B behind us, we walked along a waterway, the open ground underfoot still covered in some slippery but melting snow. Once the FLT went into the treeline, we enjoyed a bare footpath for the balance of the hike.
There’s a section of trail here where, in the summer, the moss and other greenery seem to glow in subdued light. That section felt dormant on this hike.
Soon enough, the FLT begins a steady climb, with brief reprieves during a couple of flat sections. The trail only really levels out near the top as it approaches the Tamarack Lean-to. Hikers paused here briefly to look around and take some photos before pressing ahead.
After the lean-to, the trail levels out nicely as it traverses the crest of the hill. The trail wanders through a nice section of woods before beginning a descent toward Travor Road. Hikers reached this area and found the path to be getting very muddy, and so they turned around to begin the return journey.
The downhill section of the hike was, as expected, much more enjoyable than the uphill outbound portion! [Jim sometimes forgets that some of us like going uphill! -Ed.]
Photos by Mary W.
Saturday February 18
Virgil Mountain, Cortland County
Hike report by Jim
Nineteen hikers and a dog met at the intersection of O’Dell and Baldwin Roads in Cortland Conty for a hike of the FLT to the peak of Virgil Mountain. The day was cold, and the ground was covered by a thin layer of fresh snow that had fallen overnight. Despite the cold temperatures and snowy conditions, we still encountered a fair amount of mud on the trail, mainly at stream crossings and some short trail sections that are frequently muddy.
I always seem to remember the outbound leg of this hike as primarily a steep climb, yet although the section beyond Van Donsel Road certainly meets that description, the trail up to that point is a meandering path that slowly rises and falls as it traverses dark stands of evergreens, crosses streams, and passes through some open sections of mixed soft- and hardwoods.
After crossing Van Donsel Road, hikers made a detour to the top of Greek Peak ski slopes to check out the view. Snow machines in the woods were busily – and loudly! – making snow for the ski trails, so we made our way past that equipment as fast as we could.
The group had gotten off to a late start, and the overall hike pace had been slowed due to the snow-covered trail. As a result, some of the group opted to turn around at the hour mark, while others continued up the hill to get a look across the valley from the viewing area near the power lines. Thanks to the faster return leg of the hike, those hikers who had pressed on to the power lines returned to the cars only a few minutes later than the other hikers.
A warm welcome to Rabah on his first hike with the group!
Sunday February 19
Cayuga Trail from Freese Road
On this hike we split into two groups. One group, led by Casey, went all the way to the end of the section of this trail that Ithaca Hikers are taking over for trail maintenance, from Freese Road to Rt 13. The other group, led by Jim, hiked the same trail but turned around after an hour to make this hike fit our typical two-hour timeframe.
Hike report by Jim
Twenty-nine hikers and three dogs met at the Cornell Community Gardens parking lot on Freese Road for a hike of the Cayuga Trail toward Rt. 13. The day was overcast and blustery; every time our group emerged from the woods into open fields, we were greeted by buffeting winds that reminded us that it’s still winter.
Even though it was an overcast day, it was still pleasant to walk some of the lower sections of trail that follow the creek or to walk the eroding bluffs far above the water that offered a view of distant, tree-covered slopes.
The trail was generally in good condition, with none of the ice that had covered the footpath on a recent exploratory hike we had made of the same section. Most of the sections that are normally quite muddy were substantially frozen over.
My group got as far as the Cornell pavilion near Hanshaw Road before we turned around at the one-hour mark. Overall, this was a good preview hike for us to see a portion of the Cayuga Trail that we haven’t hiked in recent years – one we’ve recently adopted as trail maintainers.
Welcome to new hiker Sean!
Hike report by Casey
Seven hikers chose the faster and longer hike option all the way to Route 13 and back. It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes, but I am sure we could have made it back by the two-hour mark if that had been our objective.
We spent a little extra time sort of evaluating the trail, including trying to figure out if there’s any usable access to the trail from the Route 13 end.
It was quite an enjoyable and informative hike, and we look forward to future expeditions on that section.
And I will say that the method of doing a two-speed hike has worked very well, especially since Jim was so good at getting the two different groups properly designated and separated just prior to the beginning of the hike. Well done, Jim!