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.
Once parked, the orange-blazed spur trail is also easy to miss. It goes west, uphill through the hedgerow to the left of the farm lane, then emerges at the field edge and intersects the FLT at a 90 degree turn in the trail; we continued west at the junction, toward Hoxie Gorge State Forest. I will return another day to follow the trail north across Underwood Hill toward Baker School House State Forest. After turning southwest and entering the woods, the trail begins a long easy descent into a stream valley, soon following the water. The stream is beautiful, with an unusual flat bedrock substrate. We stopped at a lean-to along the brook, to have a snack, and because lean-tos are still a cool novelty for Frankie. We signed the logbook and discovered the lean-to is as new as it looks - it was just built last year, by volunteers. I am so grateful to the landowners and volunteers that make this trail so nice!
From the lean-to, we continued on, and the trail eventually moves away from the stream, then approaches and crosses another, following it down into a glen dark with hemlocks. We reached the intersection with the McDermott Nature Trail, another spur trail that leads up to a SUNY Cortland parking area, that was to be our turn around point, but it was too beautiful to turn around just yet. We went down to the streambank for a while. Frankie threw rocks in the water, and I took pictures. We flipped cobbles over to find salamanders, and checked out the many fossils, then packed up and headed back the way we came. Of course we had to stop at the lean-to again on the way out. Roundtrip, the hike was 3.8 miles with about 400 feet elevation gain.
With the deep shade and cool water, Hoxie Gorge is really nice, just a perfect hike for a hot summer day. There is still another 5 miles of so of FLT/NCT going through the Hoxie Gorge State Forest, and I look forward to returning to explore it.
|parking along shoulder of Stone Road, looking north|
|Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora)|
|our turnaround point at the junction of the McDermott Trail|
|common agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala)|
|overgrown section of trail on private land|
|orange-blazed spur trail to Stone Road|