Report to Hikers March 13 – March 19

Wednesday March 15

Smith Woods and Habitat Nature Preserve, Trumansburg

Hike report by Jim

This was an unusual hike location and arrangement that combined two hike locations, each with relatively short trail sections, at opposite ends of Trumansburg village. In anticipation of the predicted storm, I’d planned this hike with two things in mind: trailhead accessibility and an easy hike, given that both locations are relatively flat.

Eleven hikers and a single dog met at Smith Woods. The snowfall of the previous day and evening had dissipated, but when I arrived at our meeting place, the wind moaning through the trees convinced me to wear thicker layers of clothing on the hike. The sun was out, however, and I warmed up quickly once we started to walk.

I’d hiked here once previously, with the CTC about two years ago. I did not prehike the location before Wednesday’s hike. Problems developed fairly quickly after today’s hike began.

On this morning, the trail surface was mostly fresh, unbroken snow, with only the footprints of a single dog walker to guide our way. The trail system displayed on Smith Woods’ downloadable map shows three distinct, color-coded trails. During the hike, we came across an old sign showing a former layout that was quite different from the map I’d brought. The sign displayed more trails than my map, and they had different blazing. The blazing on two of the three current trails (yellow and blue) is not intuitive and can actually send you off on a wild goose chase; there are, for instance, random trees in the woods with yellow spray paint on them that have nothing to do with trail markings.

The group ultimately did two laps around the Smith Woods trails, trying to figure out the legitimate trail routes, which was impossible with snow covering the trails.

We then returned to our cars and drove to the Habitat Trails at the other end of the village. We parked at the Farmers Market and walked along Salo Drive to the trailhead.

In the Habitat Nature Preserve, a short feeder trail plunges into the woods from Salo Drive and leads to a figure-8 trail that winds through the preserve. A hiker who lives nearby offered suggestions on which direction to take within the trail system. The trail route was fairly easy to figure out, thanks to some very worn blazing, chainsawed sections of fallen trees along the route, etc.

Several hikers indicated that they’re interested in trying out this hike again in the summer. Perhaps it will be easier to find our way through the Smith Woods trail system then.

In addition, hikers suggested that next time we could walk from one trail to the other through Trumansburg (instead of driving between sites), possibly with a stop in the village afterwards for refreshment.

Photo by Jim
Photo by Dave R.
Here Jim tries to reconcile the differences between the new and old trail maps in Smith Woods.
Entrance to the Habitat Nature Preserve. Photos by Nancy H.

Smith Woods is one of the few remaining old-growth forests in central New York.

Photos by Leigh Ann

View Leigh Ann’s photo album.

A Note on This Weekend’s Hikes

From Jim:

This weekend we did two hikes under some very different and sometimes difficult conditions. I appreciate everyone who showed up for one or both of these hikes.

Recently, Casey told me that he’d been asked by someone outside of our group if he was looking forward to the beginning of hiking season. A lot of people, hikers and nonhikers alike, think of hiking as something that’s done two, maybe three seasons at best.

In hiking three times a week for all 52 weeks of the year, we really do manage to pull off some interesting hikes under conditions that many people would hesitate to deal with. This weekend’s hikes exemplify that.

Saturday March 18

Shindagin Hollow State Forest, Brooktondale

Saturday’s hike was a repeat hike of the Shindagin Rim and bicycle trails. We’d originally done this hike in February on a day when half a dozen well-dressed hikers braved some seriously cold single-digit temperatures. This is one of my favorite hikes, and I wanted to hold another hike here sooner rather than later so that more hikers could enjoy the location. So on Saturday 32 hikers and five dogs met at the end of the maintained portion of Shindagin Hollow Road.

Temperatures were warm at the start of the hike, and although the skies were overcast it was a pleasant hiking day. There were several inches of crunchy snow on the seasonal portion of the road, and the group moved quickly to the turn-off for the trail that leads to the gorge rim.

Because we were a large group, we’d arranged to have faster and slower groups before we set out, and it didn’t take long for the hikers to stretch out along the footpath.

Views along the gorge edge were great, and while the snow wasn’t extremely fresh, it still retained enough of its pristine appearance to make an excellent contrast to the waterways, trees, and cliff faces that surround the trail.

Very few hikers had preceded us on the trail. Leigh Ann, who was leading the fast group, reported having to break trail through the snow for much of the route.

Soon hikers were turning from the rim trail onto the bicycle trail that leads down to the streambed. We were so spread out by this time that the lead hikers were already crossing the stream by the time the sweep (me) was starting the descent down the slope from the top of the ravine. The first stream crossing presented fast-flowing water that challenged hikers. In fact, a few hikers decided at that point to return to Shindagin Hollow Road walk along it rather than try to cross the stream.

The section of the hike through the bicycle trails to Gulf Hill Road went fairly quickly. The sun came out during this part of the hike, shining its brilliance over the white snow around us.

By the time we came out onto the lower end of Shindagin Hollow Rd., the sun was turning the snow on the road into an increasingly slushy mess. Hikers in the faster group who’d trekked up the hill to the lower parking area near the Jeep trail opted to go back into the woods and return to the cars by retracing their path along the rim trail. I chose to remain on the seasonal road, and by the time I met the hikers coming out of the upper end of the rim trail, the road surface was very slushy and slippery going indeed.

A warm welcome to Jed, who joined us for his first hike of the area. Jed was visiting Ithaca from NYC, and I’ve heard from other hikers that he thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to rural Tompkins County.

NOTE: After the hike, Mary asked that I relay to hikers that the Town of Caroline enforces parking restrictions in snowplow turnarounds. Those turnarounds, like the one on Shindagin Hollow Rd., are covered under a town law that allows for the ticketing and towing of cars parked there. I didn’t think it would be an issue on Saturday because it was a weekend and no active plowing was taking place, but Mary is right that hikers should be forewarned about this issue for future reference.

Photos by Leigh Ann

View Leigh Ann’s photo album.

Photos by Cian

View Cian’s photo album.

Sunday March 19

Finger Lakes Trail to Woodchuck Hollow Lean-to, Cortland County

Hike report by Jim

This hike was intended to be an FLT hike from Carson Road to the Woodchuck Hollow Lean-to and beyond. However, we arrived at Carson Road to find a bone-chilling wind that cut through clothes and encouraged hikers to don additional clothing.

I had not prehiked this hike location, and while Ithaca and Freeville had barely a dusting of snow, this section of the FLT was buried under several inches of unbroken, crusty snow.

Nineteen hikers set off, with Casey breaking trail, as the wind chased us up the hill. I had hoped that the wind would be less of an issue once we crested the hill and descended into the hollow. Even in the hollow, however, the wind whipping high up through the trees was our constant companion.

The original plan for the hike was to visit the lean-to, and then continue to the blue-blazed trail that leads back to the FLT for the return leg of the hike. Because of the slow going, Casey ultimately opted to leave the FLT and hike to Pipeline Road on the blue-blazed trail before returning to the FLT for the return leg of the hike. This plan fit our two-hour window perfectly, and the lean-to will have to wait for our return to this section of trail in the summer.

For those tracking their FLT miles for this year’s FLT50 patch, I believe that today’s hike easily counts as three FLT miles.

Despite the issues we encountered on this hike, the group rose to the occasion. Multiple hikers told me they enjoyed this challenging winter hike.

That said, this experience has prompted me to revisit the issue of polling our regulars to see who owns snowshoes. I’ve been saying all winter that I would schedule some Tuesday snowshoe hikes if we ever got enough snowpack, and today’s hike would have qualified!

Photos by Leigh Ann

View Leigh Ann’s photo album.