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.
Ultimately, I stuck with the hike I had planned, a 6.9 mile out-and-back in Cuyler Hill State Forest. I parked at the same trailhead on Stoney Brook Road that I used when Erwin and I hiked the Maxon Creek State Forest section, and hiked south to Wiltsey Glen, then back. After just 0.2 mile on the blue-blazed NCT/Onondaga Trail, I reached the Three Trails Junction, with the orange-blazed spur trail to Chippewa Falls to the left, and the white-blazed NCT/FLT trail to the right. I will come back to check out Chippewa Falls sometime in the spring, in hopes it will actually have some water flowing; too many streams are dry this year with the drought. Today I signed in at the register, then turned right and followed the NCT south. If you are headed this way, consider bringing an extra baggie for the notebook, as this one no longer closes properly.
Soon after the Three Trails Junction, the NCT crosses Stoney Brook Road before continuing south. There was an active logging operation south of Stoney Brook Road, between the trailhead and the road crossing. I could hear it as soon as I opened the car door, and I hiked through the sound of chainsaws for the first mile or so. The loggers weren't cutting immediately adjacent to the trail today, so I didn't let it bother me. However, there were two freshly cut tree crowns blocking the trail entirely. I fully support leaving the crowns in the forest, to return nutrients to the soil and provide wildlife habitat. I just hope the loggers will move them off the trail. I could hear the saws again in the distance as I approached Wiltsey Glen, which is a small campsite with a fire pit on a ledge above a mostly dry creek. It must be a challenging year for thru hikers in terms of finding water to filter. The forest was quiet when I returned to the Stoney Brook Road area, and I could see the loggers had moved on.
The fall color is spectacular down in those hills, much further along than at home in the city. The temperature difference was striking, too: 54 degrees when I left my house and 44 degrees at the trailhead. I was chilly when I started, but the motion quickly warmed me, and when I needed to delayer, I tied my orange shirt to my backpack to maintain my visibility in case there were any bow hunters out there. What a gorgeous day in the woods!
|Three Trails Junction|
|another register just north of Randall Hill Road|
|Randall Hill Road|
|Wiltsey Glen campsite|
|standing in the dry creek bed|
|bristly clubmoss (Spinulum annotinum a.k.a. Lycopodium annotinum)|
|5.5 miles into my hike today, I reached 100 miles on the NCT so far in 2016|
|I made a little note with sticks to celebrate|
|Stoney Brook Road|
|approaching the Three Trails Junction|
|view west from Stoney Brook Road at the edge of Cuyler Hill State Forest|