Report to Hikers December 19 – December 25

Wednesday December 21

Kingsbury Woods Conservation Area

Hike report by Jim

Nine hikers met in Danby for a hike in the Kingsbury Woods Conservation Area. Overall it was  a pleasant day, and I found it necessary at points to have some eye protection against the sun’s glare off the fresh snow. The snowpack wasn’t deep, but foot traction was still a good idea on the uneven inclines along the way.

The trail starts out following a ravine in the upper reaches of the Lick Brook waterway. The trail winds through the woods with only gradual elevation changes; then, the path makes a turn and crosses over a streambed before running along the preserve property line and an open field on the opposite side of the property line. The trail here is a large loop that follows a nice route through evergreens before returning to an earlier point in the trail.

Completing the loop in one direction takes only about 40 minutes, so we turned around to retrace our route. On the return leg we left the trail, being careful to stay within the property line posted signs, and bushwhacked along what appeared to be an old logging road in another loop back to the blazed trail.

When we to the parking area with a few minutes remaining in our hike time, some of the group opted to leave early; others chose to walk along the road to use up the remaining hike time.

The rest of the group crossed the road and climbed the ridge there, which is still preserve property. We followed the ridgeline a short distance with open fields and preserve boundary markers on one side and the ridgeline on the other. We eventually reached a point where we scrambled down the hill, crossed the streambed, and bushwhacked our way up that hillside back to the parking area.

Photos by Mary W.

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Saturday December 24

Vincent and Hannah Pew Trail, East Hill Recreation Way

Hike report by Jim

The weather forecast kept a good number of people away from this hike. Thankfully, the forecast for the most part was wrong, and those who came out had a decent hike.

Three hikers (plus a late arrival who ended up doing her own route) met in the Snyder Hill Road parking lot for the East Hill Recreation Way. It was sunny, and while temperatures were in the single digits with wind gusts, it was an enjoyable day to be outside. The rain and sleet of previous days had given way to snow, but foot traction made for a safe hike.

As we left the parking lot, the small group almost immediately veered from the paved Rec Way onto the small, winding hiking trail that runs along it. This footpath was narrow, with uneven and icy surfaces underfoot. Portions of the footpath were still wet with runoff from what I assume are area springs.

The footpath winds through low undergrowth and smaller trees along the forests edge, never going deep into the woods, where windy conditions sending limbs to the ground might have been a concern.

After crossing several crosspaths, we continued until we reached smaller open meadows, which we quickly crossed to return to the woods.

Eventually the wooded path rejoins the paved Rec Way, just before it terminates in a residential neighborhood. Here we turned around, retracing our steps and checking out some of the side paths and a small gazebo along the way.

Unfortunately most of the side paths ended up being posted trails that presumably lead to residences further down the hillside. We did follow one such path to Honness Lane, which we walked to the paved continuation of the East Hill Rec Way.

We took this path to the Hawthorne Thicket, a semi-circular loop through the underbrush that returns to the Rec Way. Unfortunately, we lost the foot path about halfway through the loop and ended up bushwhacking our way across a stream and back to the Rec Way, which we took back to the cars with a few minutes to spare.

Along the way we saw a solitary dog walker on the unpaved trail and some joggers on the paved Rec Way portion.

The cold drained my camera battery, so we have no photos of this hike.

Sunday December 25

Rural road walks and FLT, starting from Compton Road

Hike report by Hank

Seven brave hikers and two dogs showed up for the Christmas morning hike, ready to endure the still-frigid temps.

We originally set out to follow the previously hiked and mapped out route as described in the event’s Meetup page; however, some hikers suggested that we may want to be less exposed to the biting windchill factor. After we discussed the issue, we decided to stick to lower ground rather than taking the original route, which would have been higher and more exposed to the elements.

 After waiting for one texted-in latecomer, to ensure that all hikers understood that we were altering the route, we set out at 10 bells.

 After a short jaunt down Comfort Road, enjoying waves from passersby in cars who were most likely on their way to Christmas celebrations, we turned into Buttermilk Park toward Treman Mud Puddle Emoji with the intention of hiking up to the where the Treman trail turns right, then continuing on up through Firelight’s glamping area and ultimately passing La Tourelle, up to 96, then the short jaunt back to the house.

We later discovered that that idea wasn’t going to happen due to encountering a trail closed barrier well before reaching the steps, so we turned back and went into Buttermilk via the Finger Lakes Trail off Yaple Road.

With the new plan of continuing past the west end of Treman and hiking to West King road, turning around and heading back the way we came. No loop hike on this day.

When we finally made it back to the house, it was 1:00 and our distance came out to be six miles! That was according to one hiker’s mileage app on her iPhone.

After the hike, we gathered inside 112 Compton to warm up by the wood stove and enjoy snacks to pass and hot beverages.

Some stayed until 9:00. We even had an experienced blues guitarist perform live for us. Thanks to Andrew G. It was a rocking good time!

Photos by Cian

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Report to Hikers December 12 – December 18

Wednesday December 14

Finger Lakes National Forest

Nine hikers and one dog met in the parking lot on Mark Smith Road to begin our hike of the Finger Lakes National Forest at the Gorge Trail trailhead. The morning was cold and crisp and the woods were covered in snow, making this a perfect day and place for a winter hike.

We warmed up quickly on the initial climb along the gorge. Mark S. led us on a nice tour of the trails in this part of the national forest, including parts of the Interloken and South Slope trails.

Mark had warned us that his planned route might take a little longer than our usual two hours. In practice, the two-and-a-half hours we were in the woods felt much shorter. Toward the end of the hike, Mark and Ellie’s dog, Marcy, spotted a deer and took off after it. Several of us spotted the deer running through the trees. Marcy gave up and rejoined the group as we got back to our cars.

Photos by Nancy H.

Saturday December 17

Stewart Park, Waterfront Trail, and Farmers Market

Hike report by Jim

I arrived at Stewart Park a little early for this hike, unsure of what conditions I’d find after the recent winter weather. Except for a sheen of ice on the paved surfaces, conditions were good, with well-paved park roads. No cold, biting wind blew off the lake this day; the skies were gray but otherwise mostly clear, with a good view down the lake from the Park. (This is in contrast to last winter’s Stewart Park hike, which started late because some hikers’ cars got stuck in unplowed drifts.) Many geese were in the air or waddling around the park grounds. The occasional early-morning runner passed me as I waited for the group to arrive.

In total, we had 16 hikers on Saturday. Given the icy surfaces, many hikers were glad they had nanospikes for traction on this hike. We set off for a quick circuit of the footpath that circles the old swan pond. Coming around the backside of the boathouse, we followed the paved sidewalk to the first bridge. We crossed it and entered the bird sanctuary.

In the bird sanctuary we made a quick circuit of the blue-blazed trails, picking up a late-arriving hiker along the way. After exiting the bird sanctuary, we crossed the second bridge and entered the golf course. There, we navigated the edge of the greens until we reached the access road for the lighthouse.

We walked to the sea wall leading to the  lighthouse; about two-thirds of the group braved walking on the icy, decrepit seawall out to the lighthouse itself.

After regrouping, we walked to the golf course entrance. From there, we walked along  Willow Ave. and followed the pedestrian path to the Ithaca Farmers Market, which was having its final Saturday before closing for the winter. Hikers spent about 10 minutes prowling the market’s wooden boardwalks, browsing the market stalls and buying a hot cider or other warming drink.

After the group reassembled, we retraced our steps back to the golf course and across the bridges back to Stewart Park, arriving at the cars about five minutes past our normal hike time.

Photo by Jim

Photos by Mary

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Sunday December 18

Black Diamond Trail from Kraft Road

Hike report by Jim

Fourteen hikers and one dog hiked at their own, individual paces northward on the Black Diamond Trail from Kraft Road. Skies were clear and there was little wind to contend with. Trail surfaces were uneven due to freezing and refreezing of the churned-up  snow that covered the well-frequented trail.

Hikers enjoyed the views of the distant ridgelines, the snow-covered fields along the footpath, and the nicely flowing  streams that ran along and under the trail. We shared the trail with a good number of other day hikers, dog walkers, and bicyclists.

The fastest hikers in the group made it to the Taughannock Falls overlook before turning around, a total round trip hike distance of just under six miles. Excellent work, pace setters!

Welcome to Brandon on his first hike with the group!

Hiker Nancy L. reports finding a black winter snow mitt type glove on the trail after today’s hike. If anyone in our group has lost such an item, please contact Nancy L. or Randy to retrieve your property!

Did you lose this glove? Contact Nancy L. or Randy.

On a personal note, the county has had its first instance of lost skiers on Hammond Hill this past week. There is currently a missing hiker in an adjoining county. Now that winter conditions are here, please take all reasonable precautions if you intend to hike area trails.

Photo by Jim

Photos by Cian

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Report to Hikers December 5 – December 11

Wednesday December 7

Finger Lakes Trail from White Church Road

Hike report by Jim

Six hikers met at the new FLT parking lot in the 800 block of White Church Road. Rain was falling en route to the hike, but by the time everyone arrived the rain had slackened considerably.

Given the recent rerouting of the FLT in this area, I left the planned route somewhat open. We started by crossing White Church Road and entered the field opposite the parking area, heading toward the rerouted part of the trail.

We stopped for a group photo at an overlook of Wilseyville Creek, where a thick fog hung over the water.

As we reached the turn in the path that directs hikers toward the new part of the trail, the rain picked up and accompanied us for a few minutes before slacking off again.

Soon we reached White Church Road; from here the trail turns onto Coddington Road for  a short road walk before entering the new Eberhard Nature Preserve, which is currently closed for hunting season. Here we turned around and retraced our steps to the turn in the trail.

Rather than head back toward our cars, I led the group down the decommissioned but still very walkable part of the FLT that runs along Willseyville Creek. When trail redirection had first been discussed a year ago, I obtained permission from property owners for our group to hike the old footpath occasionally after the trail was moved.

As we walked along the creek, hikers noticed the multitude of tiny water droplets that hung by the dozen off each branch. Drag trails of beavers and turtles criss-crossed the path, and there were fresh signs of recent beaver activity in the form of gnawed saplings.

We turned into the woods and walked on a thick bed of old needles, the footpath threading its way among towering evergreens. When we reached an open meadow, it seemed as good a turn-around point as any, so we headed back the way we’d come.

We followed the trail back across the open fields, crossing White Church Road and arriving at our cars a few minutes early, just as the skies opened up with a deluge of water drumming against us, encouraging us to find shelter and head for home or other warmer and drier destinations.

Today’s hike, taking into consideration only the active parts of the FLT footpath that we traversed, should count as 3 FLT miles for anyone still attempting to get an FLT60 patch.

A warm welcome to Hillary on her first (very wet) hike with the group!

Photo by Jim

Photos by Nancy H.

Saturday December 10

Dryden Rail Trail & Monkey Run trails from Stevenson Road

Hike report by Jim

Twenty-nine hikers and four dogs met near Stevenson Road on the unsigned access road to the solar farm there, for a hike of the Dryden Rail Trail and Monkey Run trails. It was a cool, crisp clear December morning, and the fields by our parking area were covered in thick frost.

We set off at a brisk pace, quickly proceeding down the trail. When we passed over Route 366 on the FH Fox bridge, the group paused for a quick photo. Then, we plunged into the woods via an access trail that leads to the orange- and red-blazed Monkey Run trails.

For this hike, we traversed these Monkey Run trails in the opposite direction from the way we normally go, giving hikers a new appreciation of otherwise familiar vistas.

At the Monkey Run parking area, the long and dispersed  conga line of hikers reconsolidated before we continued onto the trails on the far side of the parking area.

This section of the trail is a nice-but-short woods walk that eventually leads back to the Rail Trail, which we then followed to Route 13. Along the way, we reconnected with a few of our hikers who had opted for a strict rail trail hike rather than hiking the Monkey Run trail sections.

When we reached Route 13, the group paused for a few minutes while a couple of hikers checked trail conditions on the nearby red-blazed hiking loop, which had been underwater and a mud bog the last time we attempted to hike it.

The scouts reported a mostly usable trail, so the main group of hikers set off on that loop, which follows the cliffs above the stream in a long, meandering footpath before returning to the Monkey Run parking area.

We retraced our original steps through the Monkey Run trail system, finally returning to the Dryden Rail Trail close to the FH Fox bridge.

On our way back to the cars, the group encountered a solitary skunk which was running down the rail trail footpath in our direction. Hikers stepped off the rail trail into an adjacent meadow, assuming that the skunk would continue on its way. Instead, the skunk went into the meadow and began chasing individual hikers, who tried to stay out of the animal’s way. I resolved the issue by throwing a good number of Milk Bones at the skunk, who stopped to examine these items and eat a couple of them. This distraction allowed the hikers to continue down the trail to our cars, and we arrived back at the parking area a few minutes late because of the unexpected delay.

Welcome to Dave, Marie, Alison, and Alison’s dog Estrella, on their first hike with the group!

Photos by Jim

Photos by Nancy H.

Photos by Randy O.

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Photos by Cian

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Sunday December 11

Connecticut Hill, Newfield

Hike report by Jim

Fifteen hikers met at the junction of Lloyd Starks, Boylan, and Connecticut Hill roads. As we gathered, heavy, fluffy snowflakes fell so thickly that they obscured the surrounding areas. This was the first snowy hike of the season, and many hikers commented on their drive to the trailhead.

The larger group split into three, each group taking a different route. The three options were an out-and-back hike, a forest loop led by Randy, or a road walk loop led by Casey.

All three groups started up Lloyd Starks Road, with Casey’s group setting a good pace and soon pulling ahead and out of sight. The other two groups went their respective ways at the crest of the hill on Lloyd Starks Road. Eight hikers decided to take Randy’s forest loop; see Randy’s hike report below.

As it worked out, the two larger groups of loop hikers reconvened at the cars at almost the same time, with everyone reporting good hiking and conditions that resulted in only a spill or two along the way to remind everyone that winter has in fact arrived.

By the hike’s end the snow had stopped falling, the snowplows had made their first passes up and down the road, and hunters were in the woods opposite our cars blazing away (literally) at deer that we had just seen crossing the road below our parking area.

As a general note, today was a good reminder that winter is here, and proper hiking equipment is a necessity. If you’re new to winter hiking, please review equipment suggestions found on our Frequently Asked Questions page. Anyone who has questions about gear selection is strongly encouraged to consult with other hikers or sales staff at the local outdoor stores.

Hike report by Randy

We started off going up Lloyd Starks Road with the full group. At the top of the hill, our group of eight split off and headed east into the forest, while the others continued on the road. This was the first hike with a substantial snow covering, and it snowed lightly throughout the hike, making for a fun atmosphere. 

In the woods, the trail became easy to follow, although there were several intersections offering alternative routes. We elected to take a longer route.  Several hikers took the lead, breaking the trail through about three inches of new snow. This relatively flat hike passed an old house foundation, now just a large, uneventful hole in the ground. Distant views were limited by fog and falling snow.

Most of us were adorned with some sort of blaze orange, always a good idea in the woods this time of year, although we didn’t hear any hunters until we got back to the cars. Some also wore traction devices on their boots, which proved helpful…two hikers slipped and fell, but recovered quickly.

 We returned to our cars at the two-hour mark, and surprisingly the others arrived at about the same time.  Another hike successfully completed.

The loop hiked by Randy’s group.

Images by Randy

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The hikers who walked Randy’s loop through the snowy woods. Photos by Nancy H.

Photos by Norm

Report to Hikers November 28 – December 4

Wednesday November 30

Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca

Hike report by Jim

Nine hikers met for a hike of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology trail system. The morning was overcast, and light rain fell at one point during the hike.

We started by taking the outer, looping trails immediately behind the Lab of Ornithology visitor center. Here there has been an obvious attempt to cut back the number diseased and dying ash trees, with many of the fallen trees still strewn around the forest floor. Hopefully, the reforestation and replacement with other species will be successful.

At Sapsucker Woods Road, we crossed over and rejoined the trail system on the far side of the road. Initially we stayed on the outer trail loop, stopping at one point for a group photo.

For the return leg of the hike we jumped onto an inner ring of trails on both sides of Sapsucker Woods Road; this resulted in our arrival back at the visitor center only an hour into the hike.

After a short walk along Sapsucker Woods Road we re-entered the more easterly section of trails at another access point and walked our previous route in reverse. This brought us back to the parking area with about five minutes to spare. As the light rain was then picking up in volume I don’t think that anyone was complaining about being at our cars a few minutes early.

Photo by Jim

Photos by Nancy H.

Saturday December 3

Finger Lakes Trail, Lower Robert Treman State Park

Hike report by Jim

Fifteen hikers and one dog met in the newly redone FLLT parking lot at Shady Corners, where state routes 13 and 34/96 converge, for a hike of the FLT through Robert Treman State Park.

The day was overcast, a uniform shade of grey that persisted throughout the hike. Other than a solitary trail runner with a dog whom we encountered along the way, we had the trail to ourselves.

Knowing that different hikers would negotiate the hilly terrain at different speeds, we agreed before setting out that everyone would turn around at a little over an hour to complete this out-and-back hike in our two-hour timeframe.

After passing under the Route 13 bridge, we entered  the grounds of R.H. Treman State Park. Soon we encountered the beginning of the nearly continuous uphill outbound portion of the hike. At this point, the group became an elongated line of hikers, the faster hikers quickly pulling away from those walking at a slower pace.

The trail crosses over the YMCA camp access road and then follows along that road for a while before it begins another steep climb, the YMCA pavilion and surrounding areas quickly falling away from view as the trail proceeds to higher elevations.

Eventually the trail reaches a plateau, where it winds route through the woods, and the elevation changes become more gradual. The views here are enjoyable; with summer vegetation died off for winter, the views down the steeply sloping hills on one side and glimpses of open fields on the other make this the most pleasurable part of this hike for me.

The fastest hikers got as far as the junction with the Rim Trail before they turned around. Everyone else simply turned around at the appointed time. The different groups caught up with each other as we all made our way back to the parking lot.

For anyone still tracking their FLT miles for the FLT60 patch, this hike counts as 5 FLT miles.

Photo by Leigh Ann

Photos by Cian

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Sunday December 4

Taughannock State Park Gorge and Rim Trails

Hike report by Jim

Twenty-two hikers and three dogs met in the parking lot at Lower Taughannock Falls State Park for a hike of the North and South Rim trails. It was a popular day to visit the park, and we frequently met other hikers and dog walkers along our route.

We paused for a quick group photo before walking to the lower falls observation area. There was a good quantity of water flowing on this day, so it was an enjoyable day to be at the park. The morning was cool, with a crisp wind blowing through the towering stone cliffs. The trees at the top of the cliffs and the upper cliffs themselves were awash in sunlight.

After returning to the parking area we crossed the bridge. The stone stairs for both the North and South Rim trails are now closed, so we took the alternative path though the campground.

At the upper observation area on Taughannock Falls Road, we stopped for a few minutes to take a look at the falls and regroup. Then we continued our trek, circling the upper side of the falls and continuing on the South Rim Trail.

At the closed stone stairs, hikers took Gorge Road in a steep descent to the Taughannock Inn, where we crossed that property back to the parking lot, the faster hikers in the group only a miniute over on our time.

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Photos by Cian

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Report to Hikers November 21 – November 27

Wednesday November 23

South Road & Hurd Hill Road, Caroline

Hike report by Jim

Thirteen hikers met on the seasonal Hurd Hill Road where it intersects with South Road. We started with a steady downhill walk of Hurd Hill Road, which for the most part was free of washouts and potholes that otherwise might have slowed us down.

Our route passed through mostly undeveloped state forest land. Not until we approached the intersection with Prospect Valley Road did we encounter any residences or other signs of human habitation.

Hikers turned right at that intersection and then continued on Prospect Valley Road until we reached the seasonal end of Shindagin Hollow Road. Because we’d maintained a good pace, we found ourselves at the FLT crossing on Shindagin Hollow Road exactly an hour into the hike. We turned onto the FLT, hiking to the Shindagin lean-to, where we paused briefly.

We pressed on, hiking to South Road and then walking on that road back to our cars.

For those still tracking their FLT miles toward the FLT60 patch, today’s hike included 1.5 FLT miles.

Photo by Jim

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Thursday November 24

Thanksgiving Hike and Get-Together

Hike report by Hank

Eight hikers and one dog named Thor set out at approximately 9:40 from 112 Compton Road under clear skies and temps in the mid 50s.

We proceeded south on Compton Road, crossing NY-96, and got on Comfort Road. From there, we continued south until we picked up the trail that becomes the loop around Treman Lake.  

At approximately the halfway point, where the road leads into upper Buttermilk SP, we turned right, walked about 100 yards, and then turned left and walked up a service road past a now-defunct water tank and onward, finally ending up at  West King Road. There, we stopped to chat for a moment, then we turned around went back down to Buttermilk park and proceeded around the rest of the Treman lake loop. We picked up the Finger Lakes Trail to Yaple, walked Yaple to Comfort, then returned to 112 Compton. 

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Photos by Cian

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Saturday November 26

Stevens Suspension Bridge, Cornell Natural Areas

Hike report by Jim

Twenty hikers and two dogs met on Forest Home Drive for a hike of the Cayuga Trails and surrounding environs. It was a sunny but cool day, perfect hiking weather.

After crossing the suspension bridge we turned west, weaving our way through the woods along the well-travelled trail system. Eventually we reached the golf course, where we carefully skirted the perimeter of the well-groomed greens.

We cut through the woodline to reach the equine barns via the service road. We didn’t see any horses at first; we were nearly past the barns when suddenly a dozen or more horses thundered to the fenceline as we passed by.

There is some construction in progress between the current pastures and the Pooh tree, but we were able to turn toward the woods and the trails along the forested bluffs above the stream.

We hiked the orange-blazed trails along the bluff until we reached the split between the orange- and red-blazed trails. Normally we turn downhill and follow the orange blazes, but today I’d hoped to take the red-blazed trails and return to our cars from another point in the trail system. However, the hikers within our group had by now become so dispersed that I was afraid that the trailing hikers wouldn’t find the main group. So part of the group continued on the red-blazed trail under Norm’s guidance, while I took another group of hikers to retrace our route back to the orange-blazed trails. We  located the formerly trailing hikers near Stevens suspension bridge.

My group of hikers crossed the bridge and hiked the blue-blazed trails along the stream in a loop, returning to our cars at the two-hour mark. By now, the shoulders on both sides of the road in the parking area were lined with cars. Clearly, this trail system was a popular destination for hikers on this beautiful fall day!

Welcome to Pat K. on her first hike with the group!

Photos by Leigh Ann

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Photos by Cian

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Sunday November 27

Owl Creek Trail, lower Buttermilk SP, and Ithaca College Natural Lands

Hike report by Jim

Thirteen hikers and two dogs met in the lower Buttermilk Falls State Park parking lot for a hike of the Owl Creek Trail and surrounding areas. The morning was overcast, with the threat of rain in the forecast.

We set off up the paved service road before turning onto the Owl Creek Trail. The group paused for a quick group photo before resuming our upward trek. Much of the first section of this hike is a steady climb; we go some distance before reaching a level spot where we can catch our breath.

At the overlook area, we paused to take in the view. The forests across the gorge were shrouded in a watery haze.

We resumed our climb and eventually reached Kings Cemetery on to Stone Quarry Road. Here is where we felt the first raindrops.

The group returned to the woods and walked to the Owl Creek trailhead on Stone Quarry Road. Here we crossed the road and got on the red-blazed trails of the Ithaca College Western Natural Lands.

By now it was raining steadily. We completed several of the loops within that trail system before again crossing Stone Quarry Road and retracing our steps down the hill via the Owl Creek Trail back to our cars.

A warm welcome to Kristin on her first hike with the group!

Photos by Leigh Ann
Photo by Jim

Photos by Cian

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