April 9, 2017

Group Hike: Jones Hill and Tinker Falls

One of Frankie's best friends is a little girl named Holly who has been a classmate of his for three years now.  I got an email Thursday from Holly's mom, Megan, inviting us to join a group hike with families from Frankie's school at Tinker Falls today.  The hike was organized by a family with two elementary-aged children, and their daughter is best friends with Holly's older sister.  The few names I recognized on the invite list were parents of other elementary students.  Because of the mixed age classrooms at Frankie's school, he could be in the same class with some of these kids next year when he moves up to elementary.  Plus I knew he'd have fun hiking with Holly!  

The invite indicated that we should meet at 10:45 am, bring a lunch to eat together at the top of Jones Hill, and bring water shoes in case the kids wanted to play in the creek by Tinker Falls on the way down.  The climb up Jones Hill is all uphill, and steep at times, so I thought Frankie might be outpaced by the older kids.  I wasn't too worried though, as I figured he and Holly could companionably bring up rear guard.  Boy, was I wrong!  Despite being two of the youngest kids there, Frankie and Holly were right up front setting a very aggressive pace.  I was huffing and puffing to keep up!  They blew off all suggestions for breaks and had us up top in less than an hour, probably closer to 45 minutes. 

The family who organized the hike carried a big tarp up, and Frankie sat on the tarp next to Holly to eat his lunch.  He was too excited to eat much and soon was up again, wandering about and checking out the view.  He and Holly were at or near the front of the pack again on the way down, jockeying for lead position with some much older upper elementary kids.  Of course, Frankie had outgrown his old water shoes, and the new pair I ordered didn't arrive in time to bring on the hike.  He took off his boots and zipped his pants down to shorts so he could play in the creek above the falls, but didn't last long.  The water was icy cold with the last of the snow melt, and shoes wouldn't have helped much.  We discovered long ago, and have proved out many times since, that Frankie is no fan of very cold water.  No matter... he had a blast anyway!

We'll definitely attend similar hikes again when the opportunity arises.  It was so much fun seeing Frankie and Holly hiking together!

April 5, 2017

NCT/FLT: Cheningo Day Use Area to Cheningo Solon Pond Road

For this hike, I returned to the Cheningo Day Use Area, where I had to turn back early without completing my planned hike back in January.  This section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) follows the Finger Lake Trail (FLT) across Taylor Valley State Forest.  Today I successfully completed the section of trail between Taylor Valley Road and Cheningo Solon Pond Road.  Redemption!  The tracker on my phone put the out-and-back hike at about 5.5 miles with about 1,200 feet elevation gain.  Basically, the trail climbs up over a ridge and down into the valley on the other side, where I turned around and climbed back up over the ridge again to get back to my car.

The map I purchased from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference showed roadside parking along Cheningo Solon Pond Road where the trail crosses on its way up over the next ridge into Cuyler Hill State Forest.  I still need that section, too, and aerial imagery doesn't really show any clear areas for parking, so I went to poke around the roadsides and check for substrate solidity and ditch depth.  I found a gravel-surfaced area at the edge of the intersection of Cheningo Solon Pond Road and Freeman Road that I deemed suitable for temporary vehicle storage, and I felt pleased to have accomplished that scouting mission.  I'll be back down this way again soon!

The snow has finally all melted, and the ground is super saturated, lots of mud and standing water, creeks running high and jaunty.  There is no significant green up yet.  However, the very earliest spring plants are starting to venture forth above the thick layer of leaves insulating the soggy forest floor.  Spring beauty and  hepatica are both in bud, and tiny leaves of wild leeks and Virginia waterleaf are starting to emerge.  Exciting times in the woods!  Soon my hikes will be slowed by compulsive wildflower admiration.  

I'm really enjoying these hikes on the Finger Lakes Trail. 

turnaround point at Cheningo Solon Pond Road
looking back up at the trail while investigating parking
spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana)