December 30, 2017

Back to the Bog

Since my mom moved to Michigan, she and her husband Keith visit after Christmas and we celebrate the holidays together at New Years.  Between numerous other previous holiday engagements, Mary and Keith's long drive, and a long stretch of unusually cold weather, everyone had been cooped up inside way to much.  We were all eager to get outside.  But it is still very cold, and it's hard to generate heat moving at a toddler's rate, especially when said toddler is necessarily thickly bundled.  We decided to try a short trail with proximal warming opportunities.  Where else?  The Bog Trail, of course.  It always delivers.

December 9, 2017

Bog Boys in December

Erin and I wanted to get the boys together for a hike, so we met at Beaver Lake to hike the Bog Trail.  Since it is a park and a nature center, hunting is not allowed, so it is a safe place to hike year round.  And the boys love the boardwalk, of course.  The Bog Trail is accessed via the Hemlock Hollow Trail, so we hiked both. Combined, the short loop is just 1.0 mile, perfect for toddler legs.  Poor Alden had a bout of motion sickness and threw up in the parking lot upon arrival, but at least he made it out of the car.  And he was very brave about the whole thing.  It was so sad: as Erin was trying to clean him up a little, he kept saying over and over, but you want to take a hike!  Maybe thought we were considering not letting him go?  Don't worry, little boy... it would take more than that to turn us back!  So off we went. 

December 6, 2017

FLT/NCT: West River Road

Today was my last opportunity for a solo school day hike during the current hunting season, and I used it to complete the last of the roadwalks I'd orphaned while hiking nearby "real trail" sections of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) [which carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) south and west all the way to Pennsylvania].  I wasn't super excited about the route, and was a bit tired; I may have even dragged a bit setting out.  I made hot tea for the long drive, and after dropping Frankie off at school and putting gas in the car and then finally setting out, I realized I'd forgotten it.  I did a u-turn and went back home for the tea, but I didn't let myself get discouraged.  Between holiday obligations and various appointments, I won't have many opportunities for hiking this month.  I couldn't let this chance slip away.  And it turned out to be one of the more pleasant roadwalks I've done.

November 29, 2017

NCT: Durhamville and Cazenovia Roadwalks

This outing was all about filling in gaps.  I "hiked" two short sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that I had orphaned when hiking the adjacent sections.  I originally skipped them because I was strategically leaving the Durhamville section to cover during hunting season, and in the case of the Cazenovia section, because I wasn't doing roadwalks at the time I hiked in this area.  Unsurprisingly, neither stretch was particularly interesting, but collectively they consisted of 7.4 miles outside -- a decent way to spend a morning, regardless of the scenery... or lack thereof.  And with this outing completed, I have now hiked the entire contiguous section of the North Country Trail between the outskirts of Rome and Interstate 81 (south of Cortland), the section shown between the two green asterisks on the map below.  Which feels pretty good!

November 25, 2017

Kayaking: Cassique Boathouse to Captain Sam's Inlet

Every year, we travel to Kiawah Island, South Carolina to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Erwin's mom, Ellen.  Kiawah is known for its golf and tennis facilities, which are apparently top notch, but are of little interest to me personally.  There is an extensive network of paved bike trails, which we make good use of, but these trails are exclusively along roadsides and through residential neighborhoods.  It is also great fun to bike at the beach.  Except at the highest of tides, there is wet sand firm enough to ride on, right next to the crashing waves and sandpipers.  However, the beach is lined with mansions as far as the eye can see, along with condos and a big fancy hotel.  The island is completely over-developed; there are virtually no opportunities to get out in nature.  There are zero hiking trails in the area, not on Kiawah or anywhere else remotely close by. 

November 15, 2017

NCT: Two Link Trail Roadwalks

When I first began my explorations along the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), I was vehemently opposed to roadwalks.  I was just starting to reconnect with that core part of my being that spends time in the woods alone, a private sanctuary that got lost in the shuffle of growing and rearing a small human.  It was Frankie's first year of attending school all day, and I found myself with an occasional free day.  This newfound freedom was precious, and I wanted to maximize my fleeting opportunities with full-on nature immersion; diluting the experience with roadwalks didn't remotely appeal.  Plus, I wasn't doing a through hike, right?  So I skipped all the roadwalks... it just didn't make sense to me to drive to "hike" on a road; I can walk on roads in my own neighborhood. 

November 7, 2017

NCT: Nelson Swamp & Roadwalk

I had a lot of errands to run today, and wasn't sure I have time to go hiking.  However, my opportunities for solo hiking typically diminish significantly as the holidays creep closer, giving me that extra motivation to squeeze something in.  After confirming I was not needed in Frankie's classroom this morning, I decided I've have time for a quick hike between errands.  I went to my polling place and voted immediately after dropping Frankie off, then drove out to Nelson Swamp Unique Area and parked at the trailhead on Constine Bridge Road.  This is one of the closest sections of North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and follows an old railroad grade, so it is easy to maintain a good pace. 

November 5, 2017

Chittenango Falls

Frankie's classroom has a nature backpack, which is sent home with each child one weekend per year.  The backpack contains binoculars, a bug magnifier, some simple field guides, and a list of local parks; parents are encouraged to take the kids out to explore.  This was our weekend, and since we already had an indoor commitment yesterday, today would be our only chance to get out with the nature backpack.  Rain was predicted, but no matter - we couldn't let this opportunity pass by.  

October 29, 2017

Rainy Day Walk at The Quarry

Although there is no official public access, the abandoned Skytop Quarry is a popular spot for outdoor recreationalists, particularly mountain bikers and hikers.  There is a warren-like maze of single track trails through the rocky woods fringing the quarry, and old roads going though the quarry proper.  There are some cliffs and steep spots that are apparently dangerous to the careless, and people occasionally do manage to get themselves hurt here, causing the owners to periodically crack down and issue trespassing tickets.  We have been going here for more than two decades and have never had problems.  However, one group of friends was ticketed a number of years ago.  I tend to avoid the main entrance from Skytop Road for that reason.

October 25, 2017

FLT/NCT: Hoxie Gorge, South End from Route 392

I started this hike at the NYSDEC fishing access lot for the Tioughnioga River along NY Route 92, and hiked generally northward, until I reached my turnaround spot from last week.  This hike was my third outing on the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT)/North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) within Hoxie Gorge State Forest.  For the first 0.7 miles I walked south on Route 11; then the trail turned north, following the dirt Steve Russell Hill Road uphill through a narrow gorge.  I was sort of dreading the roadwalk, since Route 11 can be so busy, but it wasn't too bad.  There is a wide shoulder with lots of room to walk on the protected side of the guardrail.  And Steve Russell Hill Road is actually kind of interesting, first winding up along the stream, then passing under Interstate 81.  Immediately after 81, the road split.  The right fork, Pine Hill Road, is more substantive; the FLT/NCT stays straight on Steve Russell Hill Road, which immediately narrows and keeps climbing.

October 18, 2017

FLT/NCT: Hoxie Gorge, McDermott Junction Southward

I started this hike from the SUNY Cortland McDermott Nature Trail parking area, off Hoxie Gorge Road.  There is an official Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) access spur that I followed to connect to the main trail near where Frankie and I turned back when hiking the adjacent section over the summer.  When I hit the main trail, it looked unfamiliar, and I realized Frankie and I hadn't come quite this far south, so I decided to make a short diversion to find my previous turnaround spot.  I traveled north just a tenth of a mile before I came to the spot I recognized, a second intersection marked with the yellow blazes from SUNY Cortland, and the specific stretch of stream where we hung out playing (pool, rocks, three fallen logs, just so - check).  Satisfied, I went back to the main intersection, and continued my hike southward.  I ran into two friendly hunters before crossing Hoxie Gorge Freetown Road, out looking for grouse and woodcock.  They praised me for wearing orange.    

October 8, 2017

North Pack Monadnock

We are in New Hampshire for the long weekend, visiting old friends.  When planning the visit, Susie had suggested we could all go on a hike together, and of course I was excited by the notion.  However, after being here a while, it seemed unlikely.  They have two-year old twins (two years and eight or nine months), and that is just about the hardest age for hiking with kids: not yet able to hike far on their own, but way too heavy to carry very far.  I suspect hiking with Frankie could have been a motivating factor for the girls, the way it is for Alden.  However, these girls are in a serious nap resistance phase, and having company was not helping them go to sleep.  Susie suggested we three sneak out for a hike while she and Jason tried to strong arm the girls into a nap.  We were disappointed they couldn't join us, but definitely game for a hike.  We planned to meet up for soup in Peterborough post hike/nap. 

September 28, 2017

FLT/NCT: Roadwalk, Trout Brook Redux, and Mount Tego

For this hike, I parked at the snowplow turnaround on Telephone Road that had been the starting point for a spring hike through Taylor Valley State Forest.  Today I hiked west and south instead of north and east.  The Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) throughout the area, so the white blazes are periodically punctuated with blue NCT discs.  The first 1.8 miles of my hike were a roadwalk, along Telephone Road and NY Route 41.  I decided to do this hike today so that I could complete a 0.2-mile section of trail I had orphaned this spring when I hiked the FLT/NCT through Baker School House State Forest.  There has long been a hunting closure on the private land this section of trail crosses, but unfortunately there was an announcement this week that the closure would be permanent effective October 1st.  So today would be my last chance.

September 20, 2017

FLT/NCT: Underwood Hill

Although classes started back up a few weeks ago, today was my first opportunity for a solo school day hike.  I prioritized this section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), which carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), because it is on private land and has a fall hunting closure starting October 1.  I have already hiked the adjacent sections of FLT/NCT on both sides, so didn't want to orphan this chunk.  I parked at the Stone Road access, which I used over the summer when Frankie and I hiked the adjacent section into Hoxie Gorge State Forest.  This time I followed the trail north through farm fields, and then east down Underwood Hill, crossing two roads and two creeks before climbing again to the edge of Baker School House State Forest.  This spot had been my turnaround point on my last school day hike of the spring.  From here I retraced my steps down into the valley and back up Underwood Hill for a total hike of 7.6 miles with over 1,000 feet elevation gain.

September 4, 2017

Three Generations on the Bog Trail

Frankie was in the midst of one of his epic breakfasts, where he grazes and nibbles intermittently, but mainly focuses on reading drifts of Highlights and Ranger Rick, when I noticed a text notification.  I had a message from Erin that she was heading to Beaver Lake and had also invited our Dad, Bruce.  Apparently Alden was sad that we weren't coming.  I casually mentioned this to Frankie, and he wanted to leave -- immediately.  I told Erin we might come and find them, but not to wait for us, as we were still in pajamas and have a much longer drive.  It was obvious where they would go.  Alden is two and I remember those days: the Bog Trail is the only trail that matters. 

September 1, 2017

Giant Mountain

 Giant Mountain
4,627 ft.  |  Ranked 12/46 in height  |  7th peak climbed (repeat)

In 2015, we spent a long weekend in Keene Valley, at a rental house with a direct view of Giant Mountain.  Frankie, who was four at the time, immediately declared that he wanted to climb "that mountain."  He was not remotely discouraged when we told him it is a very hard hike.  Over the course of the weekend, and continuing back at home afterwards, Frankie repeatedly expressed his desire to climb Giant.  He talked about it persistently, adorably calling it "Gigantic" for a while.  He was not to be deterred.  I didn't want to rush into to anything though - Giant actually is pretty gigantic.  I have taken Frankie hiking pretty regularly his whole life, but they were/are typically short hikes close to home, hikes without significant elevation gain.  At that point he had climbed only very small Adirondack mountains fully under his own power: Bald Mountain and Mount Jo.  His longest hikes had been a pair of four milers, in Tuscany and at Highland Forest.  Nothing remotely comparable to a High Peak.

August 31, 2017

Poke-o-Moonshine via the Ranger Trail

We had been planning on climbing Giant today, if the weather was good, in hopes of avoiding the holiday weekend crowds.  However, the forecast was not great, with rain predicted, so didn't set alarms for this morning.  Giant is a big mountain with big views.  Frankie has been looking forward to climbing it for so long, we wanted him to get to enjoy it on a nice day.  The  forecast for tomorrow is clear, so deferring a day seemed like our best option.  It was also much later than planned when we arrived in Keene last night, and then we went out for dinner after we got settled in the vacation rental.  As a result, it was pretty late when we finally got Frankie to bed last night; another good reason to have a slow morning today to rest up for the big push tomorrow.

August 26, 2017

Great Bear in August

We hadn't been to Great Bear since April, so Erin and I decided to meet up there for a Saturday morning hike.  It always has good reliable rock throwing, amazingly enough -- you'd think the boys would have thrown them all in by now.  We hiked our default loop down to the river and back.  The boys found an additional opportunity for throwing fun in an old dead red pine from which big chunky blocks of bark had sloughed off, forming drifts on the ground.  These apparently made perfect missiles to be launched into the forest.  Poor Alden took a few spills running, always running, but that is to be expected at his age, and he still had a great time, overall.  Frankie played with various sticks in passing, but there was no hoarding.  The weather has seemingly turned, and it was a lovely cool morning.  Such a relief to get a break from the ubiquitous oppressive humidity!  All in all, a great little hike.

August 19, 2017

Fellows Hill Loop

The orange-blazed Fellows Hill Loop is part of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) system.  The 3.6-mile loop is located in Morgan Hill State Forest, and can be accessed from the snowplow turnaround at the end of the paved section of Herhily Road, or from the the parking area at Spruce Pond further south along the dirt road portion of Herhily Road.  I was curious to explore a new trailhead, so I parked at the snowplow turnaround, which was empty.  There is a small footbridge crossing the ditch on the east side of the road, with orange blazes clearly visible on both sides of the path.  The trail to the west wasn't immediately visible, but since I wanted to go east first, up Fellows Hill, this didn't bother me.

August 12, 2017

Rock Throwing at Three Rivers

Another Saturday morning, and another meet up with Erin... we decided to try another "new" place for the boys to throw rocks in the water.  This a great way for us all to spend time together.  There is enough of an age gap between Frankie and Alden that when we meet at a playground, they naturally end up doing different things.  When we hike together, Frankie definitely has greater range and can handle more difficult terrain than Alden, but we can compensate for that by choosing short hikes with lengthy stops to play.  Nature play is a great equalizer; it is something a wide range of ages can enjoy together.  Small, medium, or large -- I've yet to meet a kid who doesn't like throwing rocks in the water.  Plus, hiking is obviously much more pleasant for Erin and I!

August 9, 2017

Gothics, Armstrong, and Upper Wolf Jaws

4,736 feet  |  ranked 10/46 in height  |  28th peak climbed 
4,400 feet  |  ranked 22/46 in height  |  29th peak climbed 
Upper Wolf Jaw
4,185 feet  |  ranked 29/46 in height  |  10th peak climbed (repeat)

I have been itching to get up into the Adirondack High Peaks for what feels like forever; it is more or less a permanent affliction.  So when Erwin planned a short trip with Frankie to South Carolina to visit my mother-in-law, I saw a potential opportunity.  I didn't have enough vacation time to join them on the trip, but would still have one day off while they were gone.  Obviously I wanted to hike!  This happened once before, in 2015, and I was able to hike Santanoni and Panther with my Dad, so there is established precedence.  Erin wouldn't be able to join me due to logistical issues, and I'd felt my Dad out for general interest earlier in the summer.  Unfortunately, he's been dealing with some back pain, of the same kind that bothered him on our hike in the Santanonis, and didn't think it would be wise to attempt a High Peak.

August 5, 2017

Stillwater Fire Tower

Frankie and I had so much fun with our day trip up to Black Bear Mountain last weekend that we decided to go on another adventure today.  We hadn't planned ahead for a big outing today, hadn't set the alarm or prepped snacks, and Frankie is slow on mornings when nothing is scheduled.  He was having one of his long leisurely breakfasts, engrossed in his Ranger Rick and Highlights magazines when I planted the idea, and he was into it -- and he didn't have to rush because I had to get ready.  Stillwater Mountain it is a short easy hike, making it manageable despite the long drive and our sluggish start, but it also has a fire tower to make it more exciting.  It is on private land with a fall hunting closure, and is located on a long dirt road that I'd be nervous about traversing in winter and spring.  These factors combined to make it the perfect choice for a last-minute summer hike. 

July 29, 2017

Black Bear Mountain

Black Bear Mountain was the last of the three Fulton Chain Trifecta peaks Frankie and I needed to climb to complete the challenge, so we've been eager to get back up north since returning from our trip.  My car troubles are sorted out, and we finally got some nice weather.  Seize the day!

July 22, 2017

Rock Throwing at Clark Reservation

When Erin told me she has been searching for good places for Alden to throw rocks in the water, I immediately thought of Clark Reservation State Park.  It has been my old reliable, my default spot for short hikes for many many years, because it is close and convenient, and so very cool.  Of course, it isn't as close to Erin's house, and she has her own default spots, but it does have a good spot for rock throwing.  Apparently they have been trying many different spots near her house with little luck, so Erin was willing to check out Clark.

July 16, 2017

FLT/NCT: Hoxie Gorge, Stone Road to McDermott Junction

I was looking at my spreadsheet for the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and realized all my hikes so far in 2017 have been on school days.  Since Frankie hadn't been out on the "interstate trail" in so long, we decided to rectify that.  I selected a section of the NCT that follows the white-blazed Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) through Hoxie Gorge State Forest.  We accessed the trail via an orange-blazed spur trail on Stone Road that serves as a bypass during the fall when there is a hunting closure on a portion of the trail crossing private property.  Parking is along the shoulder of Stone Road and is inconspicuous when approaching from the north; the FLT signs are obscured by vegetation.  The spot is much more visible from the south.

June 29, 2017

Puez-Odle Altopiano

This is an incredible hike, just continuous non-stop jaw-dropping scenery from start to end.  It was my absolute favorite day of an amazing trip.  This loop hike is located in Naturpark Puez-Geisler, which is part of the Dolomites World Heritage Site.  It starts and ends in the ski town of Selva di Val Gardena.  We parked in a pay lot along the main street, then walked uphill along Streda Dantercepies for about half a mile before reaching the base station for the Dantercepies cable car.  There was no queue, so once we secured our one-way tickets, we stepped into a small cable car for the speedy ride up.  There is an elbow in the line, but we stayed in the cable car through the mittelstation, all the way to the end of the line. 

June 28, 2017

Monte Lagazuoi, Dolomites

We drove through stunning scenery between Innsbruck and Santa Fosca, the tiny village where we stayed in the Dolomites.  The most impressive section stretched between Valparola Pass and Falzarego Pass; both are included in the List of Highest Paved Roads in Europe.  It took forever to drive through here, and not just because the roads were twisty and choked with bicyclers.  We kept having to stop to gawk and take pictures. This area is relatively close to Santa Fosca, and we knew we wanted to return for a hike.  There is a cable car that whisks passengers from the elevation of 6,900 feet at Falzarego Pass ass up to an elevation of 9,000 feet near the summit of Monte Lagazuoi.  Many visitors ride the cable car both up and down, taking the short stroll to the rifugio to enjoy the views accompanied by strudel and espresso.  Hiking both up and down is also obviously an option, and we definitely wanted hike.  However, we also didn't want to burn Frankie's legs out too much the day before hiking the Puez-Odle Altopiano, so we elected to ride up, and hike back down.

June 22, 2017

Leutascher Geisterklamm: the Spirit Gorge

When researching this trip back home, I had read about a number of gorge hikes in the area: Partnachklamm and H√∂llentalklamm in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area, and Leutascher Geisterklamm in Mittenwald.  Apparently the bedrock in the region is karst, which is easily eroded by the snow melt that courses down from the lofty spires of the Bavarian Alps.  The rushing waters carve out deep chasms as the flow into the broad valleys, and suspended limestone sediments make the rivers a gorgeous icy blue.  Erwin is particularly drawn to hikes along water features, so we planned to include one of these gorge hikes.  Since today was to be our last full day in Mittenwald, we decided to spend it locally, choosing Leutascher Geisterklamm.  As with Karwendel, we could walk to this destination directly from our apartment. 

June 21, 2017

Wank Circuit, Bavarian Alps

For this hike, we drove 25 minutes from our apartment in Mittenwald to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, most famous for hosting the 1936 Olympics.  The village is nestled at the base of the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest mountain.  Of course we considered going up the Zugspritze instead, since we were right there.  However, we wouldn't have been able to do much hiking there: even without a 6-year old, the ascent typically takes two days, and we weren't about to leave Frankie behind.  There is a gondola that we could have ridden almost to the summit, but scaling a ladder is required to reach the actual summit.  We weren't sure if this would be safe or accessible for Frankie, so we decided to pass on Zugspritze, and hiked Wank Mountain instead.  Wank is on the other side of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen valley, and the grassy pastures at the summit offer panoramic views of the Zugspritze and the Wetterstein range. We could ride a cable car up, and hike back down.  Perfect for little legs! 

June 18, 2017

Hoher Kranzberg - Ferchensee Loop

Kranzberg is a small mountain located in the Bavarian Alps, rising from the western edge of the charming village of Mittenwald.  There is a chairlift that carries riders part of the way up the mountain, with a hut located not far above the top of the lift.  We planned a loop hike that started with a ride up the the Kranzberg Sesselift, followed by a hike up to the panoramic viewing area at the top of Hoher Kranzberg, then a meandering descent that would take us by two alpine lakes, Ferchensee and Lautersee.  The maps illustrate five restaurants along the route: St. Anton, Kranzberghaus, Ferchensee, and two along Lautersee, so we brought snacks, but nothing substantial.  We planned on eating lunch at Kranzberghaus, the hut closest to the summit.

June 11, 2017

Bald Mountain (Rondaxe)

Frankie first climbed Bald Mountain back in 2014, when he was three.  It was his first fire tower hike, and the first mountain he climbed all the way both up and down on his own power.  When he decided he wanted to complete the Fulton Chain Trifecta, I made sure he understood we'd have to climb Bald Mountain again.  The rules are pretty unequivocal:  You can complete the challenge in one day or take up to a year to reach all three summits.  This didn't bother him at all.  I honestly don't think he remembers the specifics of his first hike there too well, but knowing he completed it when he was three made him confident that he could handle it with ease now.  And rightly so.

Rocky Mountain

Rocky Mountain is part of the Fulton Chain Trifecta, a new hiking challenge consisting of three peaks in the Old Forge area that must be climbed within a calendar year.  When I told Frankie about the challenge and showed him a picture of the patch, he wanted to leave immediately and get started right away.  However, since that was a random weekday afternoon, and it is a two-hour drive for us to get up there, we had to plan a little better.  We decided we could accomplish the challenge with two day trips.  Today was a perfect day for hiking, so we set the alarms and headed up to get started with Rocky and Bald.  Frankie was excited about the prospect of hiking two mountains in one day.   

June 10, 2017

Turtle Hike at Three Rivers

Since most of our recent hikes at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area have been from Potter Road, Erin and I decided to meet at the parking area on Sixty Road and do the "turtle hike," which is what we have called this route since we saw all those hatchling turtles there back in 2014.  We knew it would be too late to see the baby turtles this year, but we selected it mainly for variety.  This hike is an out-and-back along a two-track service road, totaling about 1.8 miles.  There are a few tiny little hills, but it's mostly pretty flat.  It was the first time Frankie and I had hiked there with Alden since he's been hiking independently. He is such a good little hiker!  I don't think Frankie was covering that kind of distance when he was 2 years old.

June 7, 2017

FLT/NCT: Baker School House State Forest

Another solo school day hike means more exploration on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  Hurray!  This section, in Baker School House State Forest, follows the white-blazed Finger Lakes Trail (FLT).  I parked on Baker School House Road and hiked north, intending to turn around at Route 41 and retrace my steps back.  The last 0.8 miles is on private property with a fall hunting closure, so I thought this would be a good section to check out now, in the spring.

May 28, 2017

Pinery Provincial Park: the Cedar Trail

At 4.0 kilometers (2.5 miles), the Cedar Trail is the longest hiking trail at the Pinery, an interesting loop with spurs to both Lake Huron and the Old Ausable Channel.  It starts at the parking lot for the Visitor's Center, and heads west through oak savanna interspersed with red cedar.  After a short distance, the trail splits and we turned right, and then turned right again at the next intersection, as well, to take the spur trail toward the lake.  The main loop is wide and gravel-surfaced to provide accessibility, while the spur to the lake is narrower with slightly more topography, including a long staircase climbing over an old forested dune.  The trail crosses over a park road before traversing more boardwalks over the dunes that lead to a viewing platform with benches and stairs down to the beach.

May 27, 2017

Pinery Provincial Park: the Riverside & Wilderness Trails

Frankie and I spent Memorial Day weekend at the Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario.  We met Mary and Keith for a long weekend of camping, hiking, and playing in the sand along the shores of Lake Huron.  Mary and Keith have been coming here for many years, often staying a week or more.  This is the third year in a row Frankie and I have joined the fun and it's starting to feel like a tradition, which is just a terrific feeling.  Yay for outdoor adventure traditions!

May 10, 2017

NCT/FLT: Telephone Road to Cheningo Day Use Area

When researching this hike months ago, I read that there is no bridge over Cheningo Creek, and that the crossing can be difficult/dangerous during high water.  I went down and scouted the crossing when I was in the area on a solo hike back in January, and decided that I should save this section for a day when Erwin could join me.  It turns out that was an abundance of caution, because despite high water conditions today, the crossing was really easy.  However, it was a spectacular hike for Erwin to tag along on!  Really nice woods, stunning displays of wildflowers, and not too much hill climbing.  Having two cars allowed us to drop one vehicle at the Cheningo Day Use Area, then drive around to start our traverse at the Telephone Road crossing.

May 7, 2017

Group Hike: Green Lakes

There was another group hike with families from Frankie's school scheduled for today.  The original invite indicated that the hike would be re-scheduled for Saturday (yesterday) if rain was forecast today.  With a previous commitment for yesterday, and rain predicted all weekend coupled with with unseasonably cold temperatures, I wasn't sure if we'd be able to go, or even if the hike would be cancelled altogether.  We are new to this group, and I just didn't know what to expect.  I was delighted to find that the organizers stuck with the plans for hiking today despite the cold rain.  They changed the venue to somewhere less remote, and moved the meeting time from late morning to early early afternoon.  Meeting after lunch was definitely sensible, as picnicking in steady rain with temperatures below 40 degrees is not ideal.

April 30, 2017

Clark Reservation for the Win

My Mom, Mary, has been visiting from Michigan the last few days, staying first at Erin's house, then here.  On Friday morning, after dropping Frankie off at school, I drove out to Beaver Lake and caught up with Mary, Erin, and Alden on the Deep Woods Trail.  Yesterday, we had a picnic in the cold wind at Onondaga Lake Park, then the boys played on the playground eternally and we visited the memorial bench for my late grandparents.  Erin and Alden aren't available Sunday mornings, so we made plans to meet up this afternoon to hang out after Alden's nap and have dinner together.  Then Mary, Frankie, and I packed lunches and headed out for a short hike at Clark Reservation.

April 23, 2017

A Sunny Spring Day at Great Bear

Erin and I had been waiting for a nice day to get the boys to Great Bear Recreation Area.  Alden is big enough now to have acquired the ubiquitous kid joy in throwing things in the water.  Splash!  By taking Great Bear Road, then Alec's Trail, we reached the Oswego River in about 1 mile.  For little legs, this is the perfect distance to get some time in the woods, then have a lengthy rest-and-snack-and-play session before returning via Great Bear Road.  Because of this, we almost always take the same route, and likely will for some time to come.  Alden hiked almost the entire distance himself, only requesting portage during the climb back up Great Bear Road toward the end.  This is a very impressive hike for someone who is only very newly 2 years old, so it wouldn't be reasonable to ask the little guy to go further for a while yet. 

April 16, 2017

Easter Hike at Woodchuck Hill

We had to spend some lazy hours at home this morning, due to the Easter holiday and the excitable youth.  This was somewhat challenging for me, since it was so gorgeous outside.  The woods were calling!  I would love to build a tradition of taking an Easter hike, and we have incorporated Easter candy on several occasions (Frankie brings a plastic goldfish stuffed with Easter candy and nibbles along the way).  However, storms were predicted for the afternoon and I could see them barreling towards us on the radar.  We needed a short hike somewhere close by.  I remembered my promise to take Frankie back to Woodchuck Hill, and that seemed perfect given our constraints.  I threw some snacks in my pack so we could have a picnic in the treehouse, and off we went, Easter fish in tow.

April 12, 2017

NCT/FLT: Cheningo-Solon Pond Road to Wiltsey Glen

For this hike, I left my car at the intersection of Cheningo-Solon Pond and Freeman Roads, in the spot I scouted during my last hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  This section of NCT follows the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) through Cuyler Hill State Forest.  My plan had been to hike north to Wiltsey Glen, which had been my turnaround point while heading south on a hike last fall.  I knew it would be a long hike to fit into my school day hike window, and last night when I was squinting at the topo and adding up the elevation gain, I started to get nervous.  Maybe I was biting off too much?  In the end, I decided I would attempt the hike as planned, and simply turn around before reaching Wiltsey Glen, as necessary.  And I'm so glad I did!

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!  

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.

April 2, 2017

Three Rivers: Berm Trail North, Short Loop

Erin and I have been wanting to get together for a hike with the boys for a while, but have been repeatedly thwarted by cold rain.  Finally a gorgeous spring day!  Alden recently turned 2 and is quite rapidly abandoning babyhood to join the big kids, an effect only enhanced by his height.  He now enjoys throwing rocks in water, a long-term passion of Frankie's.  Erin and I thought it would be great fun to watch the boys play outside together.  We met at the parking area at the eastern end of Potter Road, and headed east past the gate before turning left up a service road.  We hiked a modified version of the loop described here and mapped in pink here, turning right at the first service road crossing and returning via the berm, making a 1.4 miles loop.  Alden did awesome, hiking almost entirely on his own, with some hugs mixed in here and there.   

March 29, 2017

North Country Trail: Circle Drive to Erie Canal Village

Even though the snow from winter storm Stella has virtually all melted at home, the Southern Tier got more accumulation, and I knew it wouldn't have all melted yet down in the hills.  I decided to skip the unmaintained seasonal roads for one more week, and finish up the Erie Canal section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) instead.  I parked at the trailhead on Circle Drive, and hiked east to the old Erie Canal Village, then retraced my steps back to where I started for a roundtrip out-an-back of 8.8 miles.  This was my longest school day hike yet, although certainly not the most challenging, given the pancake-flat terrain. 

March 19, 2017

Southern Exposure Trail, Beaver Lake

There are about 9 miles of permanent trails at Beaver Lake Nature Center, and in the winter, use is designated, with the longer trails reserved for cross-country skiing and the shorter trails open for walking.  But when snow conditions are right, two additional seasonal trails open for snowshoeing.  Unfortunately, it's been a frustrating winter for snow activities.  We've received more than 130 inches of snow this season, but wild temperature fluctuations have caused it to melt rapidly after each storm.  We got about two feet of snow mid-week, and the temperatures finally stayed cool long enough so we still had snow on the weekend.  This was the first weekend all winter that we've had enough snow on the weekend to go snowshoeing locally.

March 8, 2017

North Country Trail: West River Road to Cortland 9 Road

I've been eager to get out and explore more new sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), not just on the Erie Canal, but back in the woods and hills.  We had such a long stretch of mild weather in February that I felt confident I'd be able to find safe parking, even on a dirt road.  I decided on a section of the NCT that follows the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) through Tuller Hill State Forest.  This section is quite close to Interstate 81, which is part of the reason I selected it, as the proximity to the highway made the drive time comparable to many closer sites.  I fully expected to be able to hear the highway for most of the hike, and was pleasantly surprised not to.  I started on West River Road, and hiked up, up, up, crossing the seasonal Snyder Hill and Pipeline Roads before reaching my turnaround point at Cortland Road 9.  I then retraced my steps back the way I came, for an out-and-back hike of approximately 5.9 miles with over 1,000 feet elevation gain.  Not too shabby! 

March 1, 2017

Around the Lakes at Green Lakes


My motivation failed me this morning.  I didn't sleep well last night, so I was exhausted, and it was pouring rain and forecast to continue raining all day.  It didn't help that I hadn't done anything last night to prepare for a hike.  On my school day hikes, I get Frankie up and ready for school, feed us breakfast, pack his lunch, the whole nine yards.  It is always a mad dash just getting the little slug out the door on time, and that's without dedicating any time or energy to my own preparations.  He has a sweet habit of wanting to cuddle on the couch between eating breakfast and brushing teeth, and that is not the kind of thing that can be discouraged... he'll outgrow it soon enough, so we're going to savor it while it lasts (he does the same thing with Erwin the other four days a week when I'm at work).

February 25, 2017

Clark in February

The weather forecast for today was dreary, with rain predicted all day and and drastically plummeting temperatures.  I hadn't planned on hiking.  Morning brought stormy looking skies, but no rain.  After finally finishing his ridiculously sluggish breakfast, Frankie was being crazy, acting like a a typical energetic six-year old cooped up inside.  I started fretting about the prospect of an entire weekend of such behavior.  It still wasn't raining, so I pulled out my phone and checked the weather again.  The chance of rain was 100%, and I could see the wall of storm clouds moving towards us on the radar.  However, it was almost 70 degrees out and the front wouldn't arrive until noon.  Mobilize!!