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.

There is a roadside parking area big enough for a handful of cars on the side of Irish Hill Road, which the NCT follows north.  I left my car here and headed south into the woods.  The trail heads down slope into a ravine, where it fords an unnamed tributary of Chittenango Creek before climbing back up on the other side.  This land is part of the the Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area, as is most of the hike.  It is only the southern-most part of the trail immediately north of Damon Road that crosses private land.  I am so grateful to the landowners who open up their land to hikers...  Without the generosity of these folks, long-distance trails like the NCT could never exist (or would have to follow roads for much greater lengths).  So thank you, friendly landowners!

It was cold first thing, with ice in the path and a dusting of snow about, but it was sunny and warmed up a bit, so the return trek was muddier.  I didn't carry a pack, so had to stuff my raincoat in my camera bag when it came time to de-layer.  The first of the spring wildflowers are just coming up; there are no blooms yet, but I saw some buds.  It won't be long now!  I also saw a lot of deer, more so than most places except my backyard in the city.  I bet this is a popular area for hunting in the fall.  Today it was all mine though - I didn't see another human on the entire hike.  It was glorious!     

coming out onto a forest road (it is gated to vehicle traffic from the north)
the trail follows this forest road for 0.1 mile
re-entering the woods

if you're hiking this section, consider bringing a new bag - the one in the register box no longer closes properly

trout lily (Erythronium americanum) just coming up

spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) in bud

looks like there will be good berry picking here this summer

who could resist?  the "spur" is invisible, but the destination is clear enough - just crash through
Cazenovia Lake in the distance

Thank you, Liddell Family!

the trail fords East Branch Limestone Creek
the water level is currently a bit high
I crossed over this log jam
beautiful horse farm
my turn around point on Damon Road
pussy willow (Salix discolor)

the trail splitting off the road on the way back

back where I started on Irish Hill Road

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