November 30, 2016

North Country Trail: Three Onondaga Trail Roadwalks

The Onondaga Trail is part of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) system, a 42-mile branch trail.  The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) follows the entire length of the Onondaga Trail from end to end, and I hiked most of it this year while pursing the Hike 100 Challenge.  My original intent was to only hike the off-road portions, and I completed those in October.  However, when I realized there were just 3.5 miles of the roadwalks remaining, I knew I'd end up completing them at some point; leaving them undone would just drive me crazy.  A rainy day during hunting season provided the perfect opportunity for me to hopscotch around and knock off the three short roadwalks. 

November 19, 2016

Lake Loop Trail, Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake Nature Center is a County Park with about 10 miles of groomed trails and a visitors center.  Being a nature center, hunting is not allowed, and as a result, we almost always hike there in November.  Today was unseasonably warm, with temperatures that rose above 70 degrees before a cold front rolled in.  We walked the 3-mile Lake Loop Trail, which as the name suggests, circumnavigates the lake, making use of several elevated boardwalks through the swamps.  Boardwalks are always a hit with kids, so much that Frankie got "stuck" on the Bog Trail for a long time, insisting we had to hike that every time.

November 16, 2016

Assorted Trails, Green Lakes State Park

Between parent-teacher conferences one week, and then rearranging my work schedule the next to attend an event at Frankie's school, it has been a few weeks since I've the opportunity for a school day hike.  With the horrible stress of the holiday season looming, I knew I had to seize this fleeting opportunity.  Since hunting season is underway, I have been favoring parks over forests and wildlife management areas lately, and decided to do some further exploring at Green Lakes State Park today. 

November 13, 2016

Gorge & North Rim Trails, Fillmore Glen

I had thought I might take Frankie further afield locally this year, to explore more of the many beautiful New York State Parks in our region.  However, many of these parks feature gorges and waterfalls, and we had a drought this summer.  The waterfalls we did visit were practically dry and, as such, underwhelming.  Therefore, I never bothered making the longer drives to take him to see more dry/drippy rock faces.  The autumn finally brought some rain, and while the groundwater may not be fully recharged yet, the surface waters are flowing again at least.

November 1, 2016

Post-Halloween Hike at Clark Reservation

My mother Mary has been visiting.  She stayed with my sister a few nights on this trip, so that she could spend some quality time with my adorable nephew.  Frankie loves visits from Grammy, so wasn't necessarily excited to share her, but we arranged it so she would be here with us for the Halloween excitement, and could stay with Frankie while Erwin and I attended a parent-teacher conference at his school.  Pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating are very important to my five-, almost six-year old.  We didn't get in as much hiking as we sometimes do, but we did have fun!

October 19, 2016

North Country Trail: Shackham Road to Bardeen Road

Erwin joined me for another section hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) today.  We covered the 4.2 miles between the northern NCT crossing of Shackham Road and the NYSDEC fishing access lot on Bardeen Road, where we spotted the second vehicle.  I had been saving this section for a day with two cars available, because I wasn't entirely certain I could complete it as an out-an-back and make it back in time to pick Frankie up from school.  I think I could swing 8.4 miles in my hike window, but there is no need to risk it.  Plus, this section of the NCT has two particularly scenic features I thought Erwin would enjoy: Shackham Pond and the Fabius view.

October 15, 2016

Great Bear in October

My mother and her husband are in town briefly, on their way back from their annual fall tour of New England, visiting family in Maine and friends in New Hampshire.  It is a long drive from Maine to Michigan, so they stopped here in Central New York for two nights, giving us two dinners and one full day together.  The weather was autumnal perfection, so after some lazing about this morning, with Frankie reading books aloud and showing off his school work, we headed out for a hike.  Alden was napping, so Mary suggested Great Bear, in hopes Erin could come join us when Alden woke up. 

October 12, 2016

North Country Trail: Stoney Brook Road to Wiltsey Glen

I've been exploring the local sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) all year, tallying my miles as I went.  Today I surpassed the 100-mile mark for 2016.  It was a little bittersweet, honestly.  My total was at 94.5 miles before I set out, and I was genuinely tempted to shorten my hike so I wouldn't finish until next time out.  Why, I couldn't quite put my finger on... obviously, I will keep hiking once this goal is complete.  I guess I've just enjoyed the NCT Hike 100 Challenge so much, I didn't want it to end.  Maybe I'll have to take on another challenge now that this is done.  The Adirondack High Peaks obviously remain a long-term goal, but I really enjoyed the local aspect of this one. 

October 9, 2016

North Country Trail: Freber Road to Emhoff Road

I had originally hoped to get up to the Adirondacks this weekend to do some leaf peeping -- hiking Blue Mountain this time last year was amazing.  However, the weather forecast was kind of dodgy.  For last minute, long drives, I generally look for more favorable weather conditions, so I decided we'd stay local.  Frankie and I headed out for another section hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  We parked at the trailhead on Freber Road, and hiked south to Emhoff Road and back, hiking the section immediately north of my last hike.  The mileage would have been 4.6 miles out-and-back, but due to some slight backtracking to reclaim a special stick that Frankie accidentally left behind after snacking, totaled 4.9 miles by the time we got back to Freber Road.  The back seat of my car is full of sticks.

October 5, 2016

North Country Trail: Emhoff Road to Route 20

I have a cold, the first that Frankie's brought home this school year, and I woke up dragging.  I was really tempted to just come home after dropping Frankie off at school and go back to sleep.  However, it was gorgeous out there and I knew I'd regret being a total slug: I knew I'd truly enjoy myself if I managed to get outside.  As a concession to my low energy, I picked a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that follows the old Lehigh Valley Railroad.  Flat sounded more appealing than normal.  I hiked section from Emhoff Road south to the village of Cazenovia and back, a total of 6.2 miles roundtrip.

September 28, 2016

North Country Trail: Route 13 to Chickadee Hollow Road

Today I headed back to the Cuyler area to hike another section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that crosses private land with an upcoming hunting closure.  I parked at the New York State Department of Environment of Conservation (NYSDEC) lot on Route 13 that provides fishing access to the Tioughnioga River.  The trail follows Route 13 in both directions, with blue blazes painted on the telephone poles.  I walked west for 0.4 mile until the trail turns north at West Keeney Road, following a hedgerow and field edges away from the road and toward the woods. 

September 25, 2016

Great Bear in September

Erin and I wanted to get together for another hike, and since we hadn't been to Great Bear Farms since spring, we decided to meet there.  We took what has become our default short loop, down to the river via Alec's Trail and back via Great Bear Road.  There are so many more trails available here, but we're always trying to fit our hikes into a narrow window, constrained on the front end by how long it takes Frankie and I to get out there, and at the back end by Alden needing to get home for his nap.  And since we can't possibly skip the river, this is where we go.  It is a lovely little walk and fits our needs for now.  Someday those boys will be ready for a longer loop!

September 21, 2016

North Country Trail: Maxon Creek State Forest

Since Erwin was joining me for the day's adventure, we took advantage of having two cars and hiked a 5.0 mile traverse, dropping one car at the parking area along Route 13 just south of Cuyler, and taking the other up to Stoney Brook Road.  This is right near where the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) splits off from the white-blazed Finger Lakes Trail and starts following the blue-blazed Onondaga Trail.  We included short roadwalks along Stoney Brook Road, Cuyler Hill Road, and Midlun Road, which were well worth it for the wide open views of the rolling hills.  All are low traffic rural roads, and we were passed by just one vehicle in the 0.9 mile we spent on the roads. 

September 14, 2016

North Country Trail: Webber Road to Damon Road

After I found out about the NCT100 Challenge back in February, I have made it a quest to explore the local off-road portions of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  When selecting and planning hikes so far, the section I did today had always seemed a low priority.  Only about 3 miles of it is off-road.  While that would be a suitable length for a hike with Frankie, there are no "attractions" along the route, so we always ended up on other NCT sections with more notable features.  For solo hikes, I prefer something a little longer, especially when I'm investing 35 minutes each way to drive to and from the trailhead.  What brought me here today was hunting.  This section of the NCT is entirely on private land, and one section of the trail is closed to hikers between October 1 and December 31.  If I want to hike this section of the trail for the NCT100, it had to be this month.  There is one other section with similar restrictions that I will be trying to visit soon, as well.

September 11, 2016

Short Hike at Three Rivers

Erin and I have had a hard time getting together for hikes this summer, but we finally met up for a short walk at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.  Alden gets up super early and we wanted to catch him before his nap, so I rushed Frankie out the door, skipping his yogurt and giving him the pear slices to eat in the car.  We managed to get out there by 8:30 am, a rare feat for my morning slug.  It's not so much that Frankie sleeps in, not by normal standards anyway; he is almost always up by 7 am.  It's just that he likes to lollygag in the mornings.  But we made it!

September 4, 2016

Belfry Mountain Fire Tower

Located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest in the eastern Adirondacks, Belfry Mountain barely qualifies as a hike -- it is more like a very short walk.  In fact, that is how I explained it to Frankie: it would be like a walk around the block, only with a fire tower halfway.  And that about sums it up... The "trail" is actually a gravel access road that services a couple communication towers just below the fire tower.  After passing the second right hand turn, the road narrows to a two track with a strip of grass in the middle.  Stay left/straight for the fire tower (i.e., keep going "up").  Roundtrip, the hike is just 0.8 mile with 120 feet elevation gain.

September 3, 2016

Mount Van Hoevenberg

Everyone seemed game for a third day of hiking (hurray!), so we headed for another little peak I'd been keeping on deck.  When hiked from the trailhead on South Meadows Road, Mount Van Hoevenberg is 4.4 miles roundtrip with 740 feet elevation gain.  The first mile or so is pancake flat, passing through pine and spruce plantations with gorgeous sunlight streaming through the boughs.  The trail then skirts a lovely beaver pond before starting to climb.  The open water of the beaver pond offers views up to the rocky summit ledges of Mount Van Hoevenburg -- nice to see our destination before re-entering the woods. 

September 2, 2016

Mount Gilligan

After hiking Cascade yesterday, I wasn't sure what we'd end up doing today.  Would the boys need a rest day?  Or would they be eager to hike again, like me?  We settled on doing an easier hike today.  Mount Gilligan fit the bill: it has been on my radar for a while as a good kid-friendly little mountain.  It is 2.2 miles roundtrip with 790 feet elevation gain.  The rocky summit ledges have nice views towards Rocky Peak Ridge and the Dix Range.  The gravel lot for the trailhead is on Scriver Road (not Gilligan Road) just east of Route 9.  After parking, walk the bridge across the Bouquet River and follow Scriver Road around the bend to the south.  The trail starts on the left immediately before a home; it is clearly marked with a large sign and can't be missed.

September 1, 2016

Cascade Mountain: Frankie's First High Peak

4,098 feet  |  ranked 36/46 in height  | 2nd peak climbed (repeat)

Last year at Labor Day weekend we rented a big house in Keene Valley with Jason and Susie and their girls.  The house had a huge wrap-around deck with views of Giant Mountain.  Frankie immediately began asking to hike it: "I want to climb Gigantic."  Giant as a stand-alone (without Rocky Peak Ridge) is generally accepted as one of the easier of the Adirondack High Peaks.  However, it is still about 6 miles round trip with more than 3,000 feet elevation gain.  Since Frankie was four at the time, and hadn't yet climbed any High Peaks, we deferred.  I told him I wanted him to climb Cascade Mountain first, and if he liked that, we would consider taking him up Giant.  And he did not forget... he's still talking about "Gigantic."  So this year at Labor Day weekend, we rented a little house in Keene with views of Cascade Mountain.  And Frankie climbed his first High Peak!

August 28, 2016

North Country Trail: Spruce Pond to Jones Hill

This summer has been hot.  Not just regular old summer hot, but really freaking ungodly hot.  HOT hot.  I've mentioned this before (broken record alert!), but heat is not my friend.  I am immeasurably thrilled that the forecast for later this week and into the weekend is for significantly cooler weather.  But between appointments and birthday parties and non-compatible travel, it has been far too long since I'd been out hiking, and I just couldn't wait another week to get in the woods.  Since I knew temperatures were going to exceed 90 degrees today, I wanted a shorter hike, so we went with Option 3 from the hiking menu I made Frankie a few weeks ago.

August 6, 2016

North Country Trail: Shackham Road to Tinker Falls

On a lark, I wrote up a "hiking menu" last night after Frankie went to bed.  I included some brief descriptive information about four different sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and showed it to him in the morning.  While he ate breakfast, he read through the menu and announced he wanted to do hike number 2.  This was welcome news!  All the options were of interest to me, of course, or I wouldn't have included them.  However, I was most looking forward to this one, even though we hiked the adjacent section of trail last week.  Options 1 and 4 follow the abandoned Lehigh Valley Railroad, and as a result, are quite flat.  They are also located in a more developed landscape, closer to roads and houses and such.  Option 3 is a lovely hike that is also adjacent to last weeks hike (on the other side); Frankie and I did it last summer and will certainly repeat it at some point.  Morgan Hill State Forest, especially, and the abutting Labrador Hollow Unique Area, has a remote rugged aspect that really appeals to me, and Option 2 was all new territory for me.

July 30, 2016

North Country Trail: Tinker Falls & Jones Hill

Bolstered by our successful mini-adventure at Clark Reservation on Wednesday, I was finally ready excited to head out for a summer hike in Central New York.  I gave Frankie the choice of a few different sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), showing him maps and pictures from previous hikes.  He decided he wanted to go to Tinker Falls, which is part of Labrador Hollow Unique Area, then hike up to the hang glider launch pad on Jones Hill.  Last year when we hiked here, we took the service road up to Jones Hill, but this year we stuck to the blue-blazed NCT the whole way up and down.  The NCT does follow a short section of the service road, but the majority of the hike is on a narrow single-track in the woods.  It was so charming, I question why we ever went the other way!

July 27, 2016

Clark in July

This was my very first hike since returning from Scotland three weeks ago, an inexcusable lapse that has lead, I am ashamed to say, to no small amount of moping on my part.  I have been extremely discouraged by the horrendous heat and humidity, and compared to the cool perfection of the Scottish climate, it has seemed even more unpleasant than normal.  The day we flew home there was a 40+ degree temperature differential from morning in St. Andrews to evening in Syracuse.  Then, just when I promised myself I'd get out that weekend, no matter what the weather and enjoy myself (dammit!), I was dispatched to western New York for three days of invasive plant surveys.  Field work means very long days, even when it's 90 degrees, so after arriving home late Friday, I was feeling more like crawling into a dark cave than heading back out into the beastly weather.

July 4, 2016

East Lomond Circuit, Falkland, Scotland

With our vacation rapidly winding down, this was to be our last hike in Scotland.  I was a little worried when Erwin developed cold symptoms yesterday, and more so when he was slow to rise this morning.  However, he finally emerged and managed to pull himself together.  He stuffed his backpack full of tissues and we set out for Falkland, a 35-minute drive from our rental in St. Andrews.  We arrived in time for lunch at the Covenanter, a charming little inn across from the Bruce Fountain and Falkland Parish Church, right in the center of town.  It began raining as we finished our meal, so after settling up, we paused in the empty bar to pull on our rain gear.

July 1, 2016

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

Since we are leaving Skye tomorrow to drive to St. Andrew's, I had hoped to do another big hike today.  However, Erwin confessed he was stressed about the long drive, due to some car trouble we'd had on the drive from Edinburgh, and was hoping today could be mellower, more laidback.  So we lollygagged around in Portree a bit in the morning, enjoying another delicious breakfast at the cozy Cafe Arriba and poking into some shops before setting out for the Fairy Glen, which had been on our radar all along as a place we wanted to visit.  I am so glad we didn't miss out!

June 29, 2016

Coire Lagan, Isle of Skye

If the Quiraing is the hike that brought me to Scotland, Coire Lagan might be the hike that brings me back.  Hey!  I can always dream, right?  But seriously, I do feel like I have unfinished business in Scotland.  We never climbed any Munros, after all.  [A Munro is a mountain in Scotland that is over 3,000 feet high; hiking all 282 of them is a challenge hikers pursue much like the Adirondack 46ers, New Hampshire 48, or Colorado 14ers.]  And we didn't get to climb North Berwick Law, which we'd planned as a day trip from Edinburgh via train, because service on that line was canceled due to a ScotRail strike. 

June 28, 2016

Talisker Bay, Isle of Skye

After the "big" Quiraing hike yesterday, we wanted today's activities to be a little easier, to let Frankie rest up for another big adventure later in the week.  We decided on the short hike to Talisker Bay, followed by lunch at The Old Inn in Carbost and a quick stop at the Talisker distillery, where I picked up a wee bottle to help sleep through the Highland nights, which have just a few hours of darkness this time of year.  Then we hopped in the car and drove to Dunvegan, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the castle and gardens.

June 27, 2016

Quiraing Circuit, Isle of Skye

This hike is the reason we came to Scotland.  No joke!  Our trips are often inspired by some insignificant detail that leads down a rabbit hole of investigation and obsession.  For example, Erwin and I traveled to St. John's many years ago after I saw a job listing for a biological science technician position with the Park Service, but couldn't apply because it required scuba certification.  At the time, I had the same job title working for the Forest Service.  I knew nothing of St. John, but was very interested in what I read as I burrowed away.  A Caribbean island not dominated by golf and casinos?  What?  Similarly, our trip to Ireland was spurred by some rare plant surveys I did for Hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum).  While doing background research, I discovered that another variety of this federally threatened species is common in Ireland; once I read about the Burren, there was no turning back.  My Quiraing fascination grew along those lines. 

June 21, 2016

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

When we travel, we always book our flights, lodging, and car rentals in advance, of course, but we don't schedule the day-to-day adventures.  Erwin uses Google Earth to pin sites of interest in the vicinity of where we are staying.  That way we have information easily accessible about place we want to see, but can fine-tune our days based on weather, energy levels, and new information we may acquire on-site.  We always have more sites pinned than we could possibly visit, so have to prioritize somewhat.  For Edinburgh, our number one attraction was Arthur's Seat.  That doesn't mean we hiked it the first day; rather we watched the weather forecast, looking for the best possible day.  After a few days in Edinburgh it became clear that the forecasts were somewhat meaningless, and it would likely rain, at least a little bit, every single day. 

June 19, 2016

Water of Leith Walkway: Roseburn to Royal Botanic Garden

The Water of Leith is the largest river in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The Walkway is a footpath that follows along the banks for about 12 miles from Balerno to Leith, where the river drains into the Firth of Forth.  We hiked the portion between Roseburn and the Royal Botanic Garden, about three miles.  To focus our time and energy on the Walkway, we took a short cab ride from our Grassmarket apartment to the intersection of Roseburn Cliff and Roseburn Terrace.  The trail is clearly marked, and descends from Roseburn Cliff to the river via a long staircase.

May 30, 2016

Pinery Provincial Park: Carolinian Trail

I fretted all week watching the weather forecast.  I desperately wanted to join my mother Mary and her husband Keith again on their annual Memorial Day camping trip to the Pinery -- Frankie and I met them there last year and had so much fun!  I was worried though, because storms were forecast for the entire weekend.  I knew we'd be OK if it rained a bit while we were there, but was concerned about getting the tent set up in the rain... it just seems like everything would be soaked right from the beginning.  As the weekend approached, storms were still forecast every day, but it seemed like they would be hit-or-miss, the kind of big storm that can pop up in the afternoon on hot muggy days.  And it was HOT!!  Ultimately, I decided to risk it, and I'm so glad we went.

May 21, 2016

North Country Trail: Old Quarry

There are two crossings of Quarry Road on the old Lehigh Valley Railroad portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  On my last hike in this area, the northern Quarry Road crossing was my turnaround point.  Because it was a school day hike, I didn't have time to continue 1.4 miles further south to the second Quarry Road crossing, from which there is a lengthy road walk to the next off-road section.  Rather than orphan the short remnant, I decided to bring Frankie along for this portion.  However, I knew he could handle a little more than 2.8 miles, especially since the old railroad bed sections are so flat.  I decided we'd continue on through my favorite portion of the last hike, making the bench with the lovely view our turnaround point.  That would give Frankie a chance to rest, and let him hug the railroad crossing sign.  The kid loves signs almost as much as he loves sticks!

May 18, 2016

North Country Trail: Hemlock Glen, Morgan Hill

The rolling hills south of Tully are fast becoming one of my favorite local places to hike, and I've been itching to get back down to Morgan Hill State Forest, where I last went with Frankie in March.  The weather forecast was lovely for today, and Erwin was planning on joining me for another section hike along the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  Unfortunately for him, he remembered he had a dentist appointment, so he went to get tortured while I ventured out solo.  For this out-and-back hike, I left my car at the shoulder parking area at the southern crossing of Shackham Road, and headed east.  I hiked east until I reached Chickadee Hollow Road, then returned to the trailhead via the same route, for a roundtrip total of 7.7 miles with about 1,000 feet elevation gain. This is a little longer than I typically attempt on a school day hike, but summer vacation is coming fast, and I decided to risk skipping a shower and/or laundry to fit this hike in.  I made it back in plenty of time and it was SO worth it. 

May 11, 2016

North Country Trail: Highland Forest

The weather forecast for today was very fine, sunny and warm, and Erwin decided to join me for a hike while Frankie was at school.  With two cars available, I opted for a traverse of Highland Forest on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), a 5.2 mile hike with approximately 740 feet elevation gain.  We dropped one car at the small gravel parking lot on Dam Road by DeRuyter Reservoir, and drove back west to a small roadside parking area along Cowles Settlement Road.  I pulled over a little too soon when I saw a NCT trail marker, but then remembered this section of the trail follows the road, and drove up to where the trail enters the woods, leaving the car at the small shoulder parking area at the sharp bend in the road.

May 7, 2016

North Country Trail: Armstrong Pond via Kinney Hill

Today Frankie and I hiked the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) from Webber Road to Armstrong Pond and back, for a total of 3.4 miles with about 700 feet of elevation gain.  This was the hike I'd scouted ahead for when I hiked the Deruyter State Forest section of the NCT last month, and Frankie liked Armstrong Pond as much as I thought he would!  He loved this entire hike, actually.  The trail starts climbing right away and gains 500 feet in the first mile, but the grade is never steep.  Like many other local portions of the NCT, this section was built by the Onondaga Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, and they do fantastic trailwork.  These trails are such a pleasure to hike.  

May 4, 2016

North Country Trail: Nelson Road to Quarry Road

Several weeks have passed since my last free day (i.e., my last chance for a school day hike), and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get out and move at an adult pace.  Rain was forecast, so I selected another easy section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that follows the old Lehigh Valley Railroad.  I parked at Nelson Road, which had been my turnaround point when I hiked the Canastota Creek section, and hiked to Quarry Road and back, a total of 6.4 miles roundtrip.  The first portion is also marked for snowmobile use.  This is farm country, and much of the trail follows hedgerows between fields or passes through pasture.  The trail also skirts several backyards and passes through several front yards.  There is not a lot of cover, so it is definitely a good choice for a cool, cloudy day. 

April 30, 2016

Spruce Mountain Fire Tower

Last summer Frankie had a really bad allergic reaction to mosquito bites, so for the first time ever, I've been a bit conflicted about the change of seasons.  Spring has always been my favorite time of year, with the mild temperatures and awakening plant life.  Green!  Wildflowers!  Unfortunately, it also means the return of biting insects.  I have been watching trip reports carefully, hoping for a day of good weather to make a foray up to the Adirondacks in the narrow window between ice melt and bug emergence.  The High Peaks are still icy at high elevations, of course, but there are some fire towers in the southern Adirondacks that are clear now.  With gorgeous weather forecast for today, it seemed like my stars were lining up for a hike, and in a serendipitous case of timing, Jen was able to confirm the black flies aren't yet problematic at Spruce Mountain.  Hurray!

April 24, 2016

Clark in April

Frankie was pretty tired today, hung over from a very busy yesterday.  We started the day volunteering at the Earth Day clean-up organized by the Downtown Committee.  One of the meeting places is right outside my office, so a contingency from my company always represents.  This was the third year Frankie and I have joined in, and it is a great experience, if a little depressing - because the garbage is continuously replenishing.  It's an impossible task.  Good for a kid to develop an understanding of why it is important not to litter, though.  Then yesterday afternoon was an epic three-hour knight themed birthday party, with much simulated sword play and endless running around.  Asher's father made "swords" from cardboard tubes wrapped in tinfoil and decorated "shields" from corrugated cardboard.  The kids loved every minute of it, and wore themselves out completely.

April 17, 2016

Berm Trail North, Three Rivers

Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area is one of the few places close enough to Erin's house that a hike can be sandwiched between Alden's morning and afternoon naps.  It is also a place my Mom used to frequent when she lived here, making it a good choice for another family hike on this visit.  We decided to make another Berm Loop, following the banks of the same drainage ditch we hiked last month, only this time going north of Potter Road instead of south.  Once again, we parked at the gate on Potter Road and headed east, but then in short order took the first left onto a dirt road heading northwest.  This is a service road that passes a number of sunken bunker-like structures.  We crossed over another service road about a half mile from the car.

April 16, 2016

Great Bear in April

As I've mentioned before, my mom lives in Michigan.  Mary is not at all fond of driving in the snow, so aside from an annual holiday pilgrimage when her husband Keith gets stuck with the driving duties, she doesn't visit much in the winter.  Despite the storm earlier this month, snow never lasts long around here in April, so she planned a trip back east.  The weather forecast for the weekend was perfect, so of course we all wanted to hike.  As the guest of honor, I thought Mary should get to select the destination (from the suite of options nearest Erin's house).  However, Frankie overheard me suggesting she choose, and insisted on Great Bear.  Luckily, Mary hadn't been there in a long time and was on board.  Win-win. 

April 13, 2016

North Country Trail: DeRuyter State Forest

I just loved this hike - it made me so happy!  At 5.8 miles roundtrip with 1,111 feet elevation gain, it was also one of my more ambitious school day hikes.  Because I was alone, it was another out-and-back.  I left my car at the grassy parking area on East Lake Road, which has a narrow entrance and is a little tricky to spot.  I drove by it the first time, but managed to find it on the second pass.  If you're coming from the north and get to the point where East Lake Road is immediately adjacent to the reservoir, you've gone too far.  After passing a register, the trail starts climbing through private property along a ravine.  The trail turns away from the stream after passing a cascade, and continues climbing generally eastward along a series of switchbacks, which disguise the elevation gain.  Soon there is a nice view of the reservoir below.

April 6, 2016

North Country Trail: Canastota to Nelson Road

We had a spring snowstorm a few days ago, and lingering cold temperatures have kept the snow from melting.  I had a couple sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) on deck, and since I knew trails would be slippery in the steeps, I selected a segment with little elevation change.  I headed further east than I'd previously been on the NCT to start my hike, to the outskirts of Canastota.  The North Country Trail Association has designated Canastota as an official Trail Town, but I always skip the road walks, so I headed to the small parking area at the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  The trail winds through the woods on private land, briefly follows an old road, then veers back in the woods as a lovely single track.

March 30, 2016

North Country Trail: Tioughnioga WMA

It has been three weeks since my last "free" day, and Frankie has a birthday party to attend this weekend, so today seemed like a good time to squeeze in a solo hike.  I decided to explore another new-to-me section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  I chose the section between Irish Hill Road and Damon Road, which is the next off-road portion of the NCT south of Nelson Swamp.  The out-and-back was 5.0 miles roundtrip, with 425 feet elevation gain.  The distance was a factor in my selection, as this has turned out to be a good fit for a school day NCT hike, given that I have a 30-40 minute drive each way to get to the closest sections. It gives me just enough time to drive there, hike, drive home again, shower, start a load of laundry, and grab a quick bite, then dash out the door to pick Frankie up.

March 26, 2016

Alden's Birthday at Great Bear

Erin wanted to have a small family get-together to celebrate Alden's first birthday.  Since the weather was so nice, we ended up meeting for a hike at Great Bear.  We set off on the Upper Quarry Trail, then cut over on the Root Hill Trail to the river.  Here were took a long break to snack, throw rocks in the river, and open a few presents, which my sweet little guy carried in his backpack for the entire hike.  Alden was more interested in exploring than in the actual presents, but he will certainly enjoy them later absent the excitement of trees!sticks!dog!

March 20, 2016

North Country Trail: Shackham Road to Spruce Pond

Today I decided we'd continue our exploration of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) by heading back to Morgan Hill State Forest.  Last summer, we hiked the abutting section of trail, from Spruce Pond to Jones Hill, but had never been on the portion southeast of Spruce Pond.  We left the car at the small roadside parking area along Shackham Road, and took the NCT to Spruce Pond, then returned the way we came for a round trip out-and-back of approximately 3.8 miles.  Some people apparently make a loop by using the seasonal Herhily Road, which is also a designated snowmobile trail, but I'd rather walk the same single-track twice than walk on a road, so that's what we did.

March 12, 2016

The Berm Trail, Three Rivers

I asked Erin to pick the meeting spot for this hike, again suggesting we do something on her side of town to make it easier to fit the hike in between Alden's two naps.  I remember well how sacred the nap was in those days, so long gone for me and my big boy.  She suggested the Berm Trail at Three Rivers, to which I readily agreed because I hadn't hiked that trail in years.  I should clarify that the "Berm Trail" is not an official name; there are no marked or named trails at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.  However, it is a big place with a lot of woods roads and parking areas, and we went there frequently growing up.  As a result, we've developed quite a few "in-names" we use amongst the family to refer to specific destinations.

March 9, 2016

Skyline Trail

Erwin doesn't hike with us very often because he operates on a completely different schedule.  However, he does enjoy hiking and is prone to the inevitable restlessness pulling so strongly toward the outdoors this time of year.  When he saw today's weather forecast for unseasonably warm temperatures, he decided to sacrifice some sleep and come out for a hike with me.  As soon as he mentioned the idea, I knew immediately where I wanted to go!  The Skyline Trail is 6.1 miles.  I've wanted to hike this trail for a long time, but logistically, it hasn't been feasible, since it is beyond Frankie's current range.  To accomplish it solo, I'd have to do an out-an-back totaling over 12 miles with significant elevation gain, which is not something I could realistically do in the window between dropping Frankie off at school and when I'd need to be back to pick him up.  Two cars would let us complete this hike as a traverse, making the distance more manageable in our available time window.

February 27, 2016

North Country Trail: Nelson Swamp

When I was reviewing online trail maps before my recent Art Park hike, I discovered there is another cross-country section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) just a mile or so down Stone Quarry Road from where I turned around on that hike.  I didn't have time to go further that day, because I needed to get back in time to pick Frankie up from school.  Also, I'm not remotely interested in hiking on roads.  However, I am definitely interested in exploring new trails.  Between that hike and the one we did today, I've definitely got the bug to keep exploring new sections of the NCT.  We hiked a few sections of the NCT last summer, and Frankie was enthusiastically and affectionately calling it "the interstate trail" (he loves highways), so I thought he'd be excited to hike more of it today.  Plus I saw pictures of the foot bridge over Chittenango Creek, and I knew he'd like that.  Pooh sticks!

February 24, 2016

North Country Trail: Art Park

My normal work schedule is four days a week, so I occasionally have part of a day to myself when Frankie is at school.  Between appointments and errands, snow days and school vacations, it doesn't happen every week -- not even close.  But every now and then, things line up perfectly for me.  I am excruciatingly prone to cabin fever this time of year, so when I realized I'd have such a day to myself this week, I was determined to get out for a hike.  It was a no brainer.   

February 20, 2016

A Warm Winter Day at Great Bear

After last weekend was miserably cold with subzero temperatures that limited our outdoor time to a few brief hours of yard play, I'd been watching the weather forecast desperately hoping for a chance to get out this weekend.  Today was forecast to be rainy with mild temperatures.  However, throughout the week, the likelihood of rain in the forecast kept decreasing, and there was also my desperation factor... I was pretty much determined to go no matter what.  I convinced Erin the rain wasn't worth worrying about, and offered to meet her somewhere out her way.  We settled on Great Bear.