Report to Hikers February 20 – February 26

Wednesday February 22

Monkey Run Natural Area

Hike report by Jim

Fifteen hikers met at the dead-end on Monkey Run Road for a hike of the Cayuga Trail system on the south side of Fall Creek. The weather forecast was for snow, but over the course of the hike we encountered only a few stray flurries.

We set off from the parking lot, climbing the red-blazed trail. The temps were cold enough that almost all of the muddy spots we encountered on the trail were frozen over and inconsequential. Other than a handful of other day hikers, we had the trail to ourselves.

We paused at one fork in the trail for a group photo before continuing on the red-blazed trails, crossing open fields and returning to the woods to follow the trail as it passed along the stream.

Eventually the trail climbs the bluffs far above the waterway, which is always my favorite part of this hike. It isn’t long until the trail finds its way back to lower elevations, and multiple side trails offer hikers a way to cut their hike short if the need arises.

Normally we do the last bit of this hike as an out-and-back, hiking to a convenient point where we turn around and retrace our route to a side trail that takes us back to our cars. On this day, we decided to try something different, so we followed the red-blazed trail to a junction with the orange-blazed Cayuga Trail. This part of the Cayuga Trail is normally quite muddy in all but the driest months, which is why we usually avoid it. Despite the other muddy areas of trail we’d encountered on the hike being mostly frozen, this section was still quite muddy, causing a fair amount of cautious mudhole avoidance by many hikers and a resigned state of “might as well slog through it” in others. I’m not sure why this section of trail has never been properly outfitted with a boardwalk, as it’s a section of the Cayuga Trail most in need of it.

We made it through the mud and emerged onto the solid ground of the Dryden Rail Trail, which we took back to another section of the Cayuga Trail, which led to Monkey Run Road and our cars.

Photo by Jim

Photo by Nancy H.

Saturday February 25

Potato Hill State Forest, Caroline

Hike report by Jim

On a very snowy morning, seven hikers met on Level Green Road and set off on the Finger Lakes Trail through Potato Hill State Forest toward Blackman Hill Road. Casey set a quick pace through the mixed pines and hardwoods of the forest around us.

It had been around 17F at hike’s start, and despite a cold overnight period many of the small puddles we passed were only partially frozen. The minimal snow depth was not a barrier to a good hiking pace, and soon the new parking lot at Blackman Hill Road came into view.

After Blackman Hill Road, we reached in Summerland Farm Preserve. We traversed a small section of woods and then entered the open fields. Normally, on a clear day the views from this field are impressive. On this particular day, the snow and cloud cover obscured any distant views, and the winds tore at us as we passed through the open areas to the cover of the treeline on the far side of the field.

Back in the woods, we began the gradual descent that ultimately comes out at Rt. 79. The hardier hikers kept going until the turnaround time, while others were happy to simply take shelter from the wind and await their return.

The group reunited, and we began our return trip. By the time we’d crossed Blackman Hill Road again, the wind had died down and the snow had stopped falling. The rest of the return hike was made in relative – and greatly enjoyable – calm.

Photos by Jim

Photos by Nancy H.

Sunday February 26

Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca

On Sunday we tried something new, offering two options for this hike: an earlier, longer hike starting at 9:00 a.m. and a traditional hike at our regular Sunday start time of 9:40.

Four hikers met at 9:00 at lower Buttermilk, in the parking lot at the base of the falls. We hiked up the Rim Trail in about 25 minutes, meeting up with Jim’s group in plenty of time to socialize. Although the day was sunny and warming up quickly, the steep ascent up the Rim Trail was icy in spots and foot traction was helpful.

Both groups hiked together in upper Buttermilk. Then the four hikers who’d parked at the bottom of the hill made their way back to the cars, arriving at about 11:50.

In the future, we will continue to offer a longer option on some (but not all) hikes for those who would like to spend more time exercising in the woods, so if you’re interested in a longer hike, watch for details!

Three of the four hikers who took the earlier option. (I tried to get a selfie with all four of us but managed to cut off half of everyone’s face…)
Photos by Nancy H.

Hike report by Jim

Twenty-one hikers and two dogs met in the upper Buttermilk Falls State Park parking lot, for a hike of the upper park trail system. They were joined by four hikers who opted to start early from the lower park and hike up the Rim Trail, bringing the total number of hikers to 25. It was a bright and sunny day, with clear skies. The sun gleamed off the fresh snow.

We started the hike a little unsure of what trail conditions would be. Quite often the upper Buttermilk trails are so heavily used that they become an icy hazard in the winter. Some spots were a little slippery during our hike, but the trails were not dangerous. Most people wore some type of foot traction and used their poles, which were also useful in navigating the trail’s ups and downs. Although we found ourselves sharing the trails with a handful of other hikers and dog walkers, for the most part we had the trails to ourselves.

We crossed the wooden bridge at the parking lot and started up the Bear Trail. This trail is an enjoyable footpath that winds gently up and down around the hillside, sometimes coming close to the water before returning to the hill. The fresh snow, dark trees, and contrasts of shadow and light between the forest edge and the nearby open spaces all made for an extremely pleasing hike experience. Soon enough the trail emerges from the woods near the vehicle fordway; we paused there briefly for a group photo before resuming the hike.

We walked to the Treman Lake loop trail and hiked that to the stone bridge near the headwaters of Treman Lake. Finding the bridge still unrepaired, we turned around and walked to the nearby FLT spur trail and hiked that to Yaple Road. To use up some time, Casey took the main group to Comfort Road before turning around.

Back at the fordway, we found that the wooden footbridge there was in place, so we opted to hike back to our cars via the park service road, arriving a few minutes early.

Welcome to new hikers Mark and Ainsley!

Photos by Nancy H.

Photos by Casey

Photos by Jim

Photos by Norm

Report to Hikers February 13 – February 19

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 Nancy H.

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!

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Photos by Norm

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.

The whole group (minus a few late arrivals) before we split up. Photo by Leigh Ann.
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!

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Photos by Cian

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Report to Hikers February 6 – February 12

Wednesday February 8

Robinson Hollow State Forest, Richford

Hike report by Jim

Eleven people met on Robinson Hollow Road for a hike of the Finger Lakes Trail. Temperatures were mild in comparison to recent hikes, and a bit of snow still covered the trail.

The first several minutes of this hike are entirely uphill, following an old, winding logging road away from the very small parking area. After a steep climb the footpath turns away from the logging road, continuing upward until it reaches a flat section, another old logging road.

The footpath eventually turns downhill, traversing a steep slope until it arrives at a stream crossing near Kimmie Lean-to. We opted not to visit the lean-to but continued on the FLT as it winds through a mix of soft and hardwood forest, following the stream bed. This is my favorite part of this hike, and it was even more enjoyable as the sun made an appearance through the clouds and lit up the snow cover.

After we turned around, everyone chose a comfortable pace that soon spread out the group over an extended section of trail during the largely downhill return hike.

Photo by Jim
Photo by Nancy H.

Saturday February 11

Finger Lakes Trail through Lower Treman SP

Hike report by Jim

Nineteen hikers met in the parking lot outside of lower RH Treman State Park for a hike of the FLT toward upper Treman and the Rim Trail. This was a last-minute revision due to hunting-related trail closures at our originally planned hike location, Fischer Old Growth Forest.

It was a cold, breezy morning as the group set off, passing under the Rt. 13 bridge and entering the state park. A dusting of fresh snow clung to last summer’s dead leaves that littered the forest floor.

A long line of hikers snaked its way along the flat terrain near the campground before starting to climb the first incline of many on the hike’s outbound leg. We crossed the service road to the YMCA pavilion and continued onward.

The trail itself  was clear of obstructions, but the hulks of fallen trees, both large and small, from many years (based on the level of decay) littered the shoulders of the trail.

After the YMCA pavilion, the trail begins another climb in earnest for a good long while before it eventually settles into a flatter stretch. Here the trail runs along a border of sorts: open fields visible through the trees on one side of the trail, while the terrain falls away sharply on the other side. The lack of summer undergrowth offered extensive views of the ravine’s opposite bank.

The faster hikers reached the Rim Trail and opted to continue to the Lucifer Falls overlook. Other hikers opted to turn around at the hour mark and begin their return to the lower park and our vehicles.

The group reconvened in the Land Trust parking lot. Some hikers got back about half an hour later than our usual two-hour hike time. I didn’t hear any complaints about this additional hike time.

Welcome to Meenu on her first hike with us!

Photos by Cian

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Photos by Leigh Ann

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Sunday February 12

Two Hikes from Lake Road, Dryden

We had a large group on Sunday: 32 hikers and five dogs in all. We had a choice of two hikes beginning on Lake Road in Dryden. Some hikers followed Casey up Havington Hill, while the rest opted for a flat hike of the Jim Schug Trail.

Havington Hill

Hike report by Casey

Ten Ithaca Hikers and one well-behaved dog chose the non-flat alternative hike plan. Instead of doing the Jim Schug Trail from Lake Road, our small, enthusiastic group walked along Lake Road for a little way before turning onto a meadow that is famous for being inundated with knee-deep snow, extremely wet, or both. Today it was just cold enough in the morning that this was not a problem at all.

From that meadow we reached Havington Hill, where we had a lovely climb to the top. None of us wore spikes because there seemed to be no need until we got two-thirds of the way up the hill, where we encountered a number of icy patches directly on the trail. But it wasn’t much problem to just walk a few inches to the side of the trail to get whatever traction you needed.

We crested the hill and were treated to a wonderful 360-degree view. From there, we went down the other side and got to see the fancy deer stand in the open field, which also offered a great view of Purves Road and Route 38.

From there we continued down the hill and crossed the creek at the bottom. We hiked a while more until reaching our required turn-around time, at which point we did just that and climbed back up the hill. We enjoyed the view from the top and then carefully made out way back down the icy sections without any mishaps.

We managed to return to the cars right on schedule, only to find that the main group of flat hikers were still quite a way down the trail on their way back to the cars.

Photos by Norm

Photos by Cian

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Jim Schug Trail

Hike report by Jim

Twenty-two hikers and four dogs hiked the Jim Schug Trail to Weber Street before turning around and retracing our steps. The day was sunny, and a relatively warm breeze blew during much of the hike.

The trails were mostly clear of snow and ice, although we did encounter intermittent ice along the route. The path was definitely thawing during our hike, as what was frozen surface on our outbound leg had turned to thawed mud on the return trip.

Many joggers and dog walkers were out on the Schug Trail, and the ice on Dryden Lake was still substantial enough that there were several fisherman on the ice.

I found the clear ice over the aquatic weeds on the opposite side of the path to be interesting (see photo).

After the hike a number of hikers convened at Hopshire to socialize and discuss upcoming hikes.

Photo by Jim

Photos by Leigh Ann

Report to Hikers January 30 – February 5

Wednesday February 1

Bock Harvey Forest Preserve and Rieman Woods

Hike report and photo by Jim

Ten hikers met at the Bock Harvey Preserve for a hike of preserve trails and the FLT. Overall trail conditions were good, with minimal snowpack that only a handful of recent hikers had preceded us on.

We set off from the parking lot, quickly crossing the open fields to arrive at the lean-to, where we stopped for a quick group photo.

From there, we took the blue-blazed trail to the FLT to Porter Hill Road and Rieman Woods beyond. The main group took the Rieman Woods loop out and back, while I opted to roadwalk back to the road crossing and wait for the other hikers to return.

Once we’d all reunited, we took the FLT back into the Bock Harvey Preserve, hiking that trail through woods and open fields in a gradual arc until we reached Rockwell Road.

We turned around yet again and took the FLT until we diverted at the yellow-blazed preserve trail, which took us back to the cars.

Saturday February 4

Shindagin Hollow State Forest

Hike report by Jim

Six hikers met at the end of the maintained section of Shindagin Hollow Road for a hike of the Rim and bike trails. Although it was a cold morning (-3F as we got out of our cars), all of the hikers were well prepared for the frigid conditions.

The group set off down the seasonal portion of Shindagin Hollow Road, a layer of fresh white snow underfoot. We reached the turn-off to the Rim Trail and entered the woods. There, we followed the path in the snow left by a few previous hikers and bicyclists.

The sun gleamed off the snow in open areas but was greatly diminished under the trees.

The trail wound along the cliff’s edge, and before long we found ourselves at the top of the bike trail leading down to the stream. A decent layer of ice lay on top of the stream, and we crossed with minimal excitement.

We paused to check on the “shoe shrine” (see photo below) before continuing on our way to the lower end of Shindagin Hollow Road.

On the road walk back to the cars, the sun disappeared behind a layer of clouds that weren’t there early in the hike, so I’m glad that we hiked during the early part of the day and could enjoy the sunshine.

A warm welcome to Matt on his first hike with the group!

For those who missed this hike due to weather and temperature concerns, be assured that I will reschedule this hike sooner in the hike rotation than I normally do, so that everyone can enjoy this locale. This is one of my favorite places to hike, and I don’t want those of you who sat out this hike due to weather concerns to have to wait many months before we hike here again…

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Photo by Nancy H.

Sunday February 5

Finger Lakes Trail from Woodard Road to Hines Road and beyond

Hike report and map by Nancy L.

Twenty-seven hikers and four dogs gathered on Woodward Road near upper Treman Park to hike northward and away from the park on the Finger Lakes Trail.  

The temperature was much milder than the previous two days, so I was comfortable without my stocking cap, which I had forgotten, anyway. Traction gear was a must, as the trail varied between snow and icy spots.  

Hikers were spaced out nicely, everyone going at their own pace without getting too spread out. The route makes many short ups and downs, crossing gullies and ridges. So we got a workout without noticing it, thanks to the bursts of activity.  

After crossing Hines Road we continued a short way farther on the FLT before turning around to retrace our steps. This allowed the fastest hikers to get in a little more distance than the rest of the group. 

We arrived back at the cars about 10-15 minutes ahead of our scheduled end time, so some hikers extended the hike on the other side of Woodard Road, while others chatted by the cars or left a few minutes early.

Photos by Leigh Ann

Photos by Cian

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Report to Hikers January 23 – January 29

Wednesday January 25

Lime Hollow Nature Center, Cortland

Hike report and photo by Jim

Five hikers met on a snowy morning at the Gracie Road parking lot for a hike of the Lime Hollow Nature Center trail system. For a good portion of the hike, we were getting fresh supplies of the white stuff delivered to us from above–not in such great quantities as to make the hike dangerous, but enough that it slowed us down and forced me to modify our normal route to stay within our usual two hours.

We started the hike by walking west on the Lehigh Valley trail, from which we completed a circuit of the High Vista loop. We then crossed the Lehigh Valley trail to jump onto Hermits Way. This section was nice in that it was much more sheltered from the falling snow. There was less accumulation on parts of Hermits Way than we found on other trails within the preserve.

Along the way, we discussed amending future hiking route options to include the Wilderness Way trail, which is usually closed for hunting when we hike here.

From Hermits Way we crossed onto Fen Way, which prompted a conversation about the various associations we had for other “Fen Ways,” “Fenways,” etc., that we have encountered in our lives.

Back on the Lehigh Valley trail, we returned to Gracie Rd., crossing that and continuing on the Lehigh Valley trail to the Maple Run trail. We took Maple Run to the Chicago Bog. Because time was running short, we opted to curtail the normal loop we do near the bog to a simple out-and-back hike that returned us to our cars at nearly the two-hour time.

This was an enjoyable hike despite the change to my original plan, and I look forward to developing some other routes at Lime Hollow in the next few months!

Saturday January 28

Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve, Dryden

Hike report by Mary W.

On Saturday morning the sky was mostly clear. It was 31 degrees and unusually sunny, considering the recent Ithaca weather. Sixteen hikers and one dog took to the snowy trails of the Ellis Hollow preserve off Ellis Hollow Creek Road. This is a 111-acre preserve located in the town of Dryden that was donated to the Finger Lakes Land Trust by Barbara Keeton and her family.

We started out heading north, going uphill on the yellow trail until we reached the red trail, which we took to the left and to circumnavigate the preserve. The red trail traces the perimeter of the preserve and intersects with the yellow and blue trails, giving hikers several stream crossings and lively ups and downs.

We covered all of the available trail areas in our hike that went out, up, and around once, and then again in the other direction. The hike plan was such that hikers may not realize they’d been turned around; perhaps that was true for some.

Welcome to Liz on her first hike with us!

Photos by Mary W.

Photos by Cian

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Photos by Leigh Ann

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Sunday January 29

Monkey Run Natural Area, Ithaca

Hike report by Jim

Twenty hikers and three dogs met at the corner of Hanshaw and Lower Creek roads for a hike of the Cayuga trail system on the north side of the Monkey Run area.

It was a cool, clear, wintry day. I arrived early at the trailhead and did an exploratory hike of the first stretch of trail, which was icy. So I warned everyone that foot traction was needed due to the extensive ice.

We completed a loop of the red-blazed trails, stopping along the way for a group photo. Other than a couple of other individual dog walkers encountered in the parking lot before the hike, we had the trails to ourselves.

We emerged from the red-blazed trails into the area around the Cornell pavilion, circled around the open fields, and took the orange-blazed trail. The downhill stretches of the footpath were definitely slippery on the outbound leg of the hike, but I noticed on our return that the ice covering the trail had been fairly well broken up by the passage of 20 sets of hikers’ feet.

There was a little more mud on the trail than I expected for January, but it didn’t seem to slow us down too badly. The orange-blazed portion of the trail is an out-and-back section, and after a short pause at our turnaround point we reversed our course.

Back at the Cornell pavilion we left the woods and circled the pavilion to take the service road back to our cars, arriving there with five minutes to spare.

Photo by Jim

Photos by Norm

Photos by Cian

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Photos by Leigh Ann

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