December 9, 2018

Great Bear in December

Erin had mentioned a while ago that on their last visit to Great Bear, she and Alden had ventured along the river beyond our normal turnaround point, coming back a different way, via the Root Hill Trail instead of Great Bear Road.  This is not significantly longer but adds great interest, and avoids a big climb at the end of the hike, which is advantageous when hiking with young kids.  Frankie and I were immediately intrigued, and excited to join in another time.  Today proved a perfect opportunity!  We hadn't made advance plans and had a lazy morning, but it looked so nice outside, I started to get itchy.  Alden has stopped napping, which makes it easier to wing it with haphazard adventures, so Erin and I texted back and forth a bit and decided to go for it.  Neither of us had packable lunch supplies, so we met at Friendly's for a bit of lunch first.  The boys were thrilled, of course.  Then... off to the woods!!

November 7, 2018

FLT/NCT: Robinson Hollow State Forest

For this hike, I started at what had been my turnaround point on my last Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) hike: the Harford-Slaterville Road crossing.  The narrow roadside spot I had scouted was available and I took it.  Unfortunately someone else was parked on the opposite side of the road with two tires in the road, which concerned me somewhat because it made a narrow pinch point between our cars.  However, since my car had all four tires off the pavement with several feet to spare, I decided not to worry; it is unlikely that traffic is ever very heavy there anyway.  It was very chilly when I set out, but gloriously bright and sunny.  I grew up in central New York, and I like cloudy, overcast weather.  Too many sunny days in a row tends to make me a bit anxious.  The sun... it burns us.  Nevertheless, there is something amazingly cheerful about a bright sunny day after weeks of rain. 

November 3, 2018

Lake St. Clair Metropark

Since Frankie was born, my mother Mary has visited us in Syracuse every year around this time, sometimes carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating with us at Halloween.  Unfortunately, she had to have knee replacement surgery six weeks ago.  The surgery went well, and she is recovering nicely, already experiencing less pain than she did before the surgery, but it is a slow process.  Since she is still actively undergoing physical therapy and cannot drive yet, her annual fall visit was off the table this year.  However, Frankie's school was closed Thursday and Friday, so I bought tickets for the two of us to fly out to Detroit for a long weekend.  This way we wouldn't have to miss out on seeing Mary, and would get to see Keith, too.  Plus, we haven't visited Detroit in a few years and there is a whole lot to do here.  Thursday, we stopped at the Edsel Ford House on the way back from the airport, and hiked the short loop on Bird Island, and yesterday we went to the Detroit Zoo, where many animals were absent due to the cold, but we had notable encounters with an otter and a polar bear. 

October 24, 2018

FLT/NCT: Hammond Hill State Forest

For this hike, I continued my exploration westward on the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), skipping a short roadwalk between here and my last hike that I plan to pick up during hunting season.  The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) follows the FLT through Hammond Hill State Forest and beyond; the two trails diverge considerably east of here.  I left the car along Star Stanton Road, at what may be a snowplow turnaround, or perhaps just an old log landing; I doubt plows go that far up the dirt road.  Regardless, it quickly becomes undriveable immediately thereafter, so it was a good place to stop.  The white blazes continue to follow the rocky dirt track west up the hill for about 0.4 miles before a footpath splits off to the south.

October 20, 2018

Kane Mountain Redux

I love traveling and I love days trips.  Hiking Bald Mountain a few weeks ago just ramped up my always latent desire to be in the mountains, to be adventuring.  I immediately began scheming about how we could get back up to the Adirondacks.  We have not tested Alden's range yet, and don't want to overdo it and burn him out on hiking mountains.  However, Frankie and I hiked Kane Mountain together back in 2015, and knew from experience that it is comparable to Bald Mountain in both distance and elevation gain.  If anything, it might be a little easier, because there is less scrambling and exposure.  Based on how easily Alden scampered up Bald, we knew he could handle Kane.  Now we just had to wait for good weather.  Ha!

September 29, 2018

Bald: the Perfect First Mountain

Bald Mountain, a.k.a., Rondaxe Mountain, is located a short distance outside the tourist mecca of Old Forge.  It is a short hike to the top, about 0.9 miles, and with an elevation gain around 500 feet, is quite easy.  This accessibility, coupled with the gorgeous views out over the Fulton Chain Lakes, plus the thrill of the fire tower, makes it a very popular hike.  Sometimes when things are popular for a good reason, it is worth it to deal with the crowds, and such is the case here.  Since it is a two hour drive for us to get to the trailhead, we don't hike it frequently, but it a fun treat every few years.  For example, I hiked it in 2010 with Erwin, when I was pregnant.  In 2014, when Frankie was three and a half years old, Erin and I took him up it for his first entirely self-propelled mountain hike (he had hiked up Owl's Head in Keene before that, but I carried him back down that one).  Then last summer, Frankie and I hiked it again on the same day as Rocky, in pursuit of the Fulton Chain Trifecta.

September 19, 2018

FLT/NCT: Jim Schug Trail & Private Land

This hike continues my ongoing exploration of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) and North Country Trail (NCT), and is immediately west of my hike last week in Kennedy State Forest.  I had mistakenly thought the border of state forest lands was further west, but my hike today was entirely on private land, except a short portion at the start that follows a rail trail.  Completing this section early this fall was a priority for me, as there is a hunting closure on part of the private land.  I started my hike today at the trailhead for the Jim Schug Trail on Willow Crossing Road, and hiked east toward Daisy Hollow Road, planning to turn around where I parked last week.

September 16, 2018

Tour the Towpath: Cycling Dewitt to Rome

Last fall, Frankie and I were out for a bike ride on the Erie Canal.  We stopped at a road crossing to wait for a break in traffic, and there we met another child.  This boy, who was several years older than Frankie, asked him are you riding Tour the Towpath, too?  Confused, Frankie looked at me; we didn't know what Tour the Towpath was.  The boy showed us his map and explained all about it: Tour the Towpath is a 36-mile ride between Rome and Dewitt, with overnight camping in Canastota.  He looked Frankie up and down, and checked out his bike.  I think you could do it, he said.  My little brother is doing it.  Of course he's pretty hardcore.  Are you hardcore?  Frankie had never heard that term before, but this boy's vote of confidence and the entire conversation made a big impression.  On subsequent rides, last fall and this summer, the Tour kept coming up in conversation: Frankie was very interested.

September 12, 2018

FLT/NCT: Daisy Hollow Road to Hilsinger Road

On my last hike on the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) in Kennedy State Forest, I turned around when I reached Hilsinger Road.  It was immediately apparent that this "road" would be impassible in my car, so I knew I'd have to drive up to the crossing further west and hike back.  That's what I did today.  I parked on Daisy Hollow Road, walked north for a half mile road walk, entered the woods and followed the trail east to Hilsinger Road, then retraced my steps the way I came. 

September 10, 2018

NCT: Cowles Settlement Road to Skyline Lodge

It has been delightfully cool all weekend -- pants weather, long sleeves even.  It feels so good!  Such a relief after the oppressive heat and humidity.  The forecast shows that this nice weather won't last, though, so Frankie and I headed out for a hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  Get it while the getting it is good!  To keep our drive time low, we went to one of the closer sections, which passes through Highland Forest County Park.  I hiked this section in 2016, as part of a two car traverse across the entire park with Erwin.  With just one car today, I opted to park at Cowles Settlement Road, and hike east, using the Skyline Lodge as our turnaround point.  Frankie was excited to revisit the lodge, where we lunched during our cross-country skiing adventures this past winter.

September 3, 2018

Mount Arab Fire Tower

Today was the last day of our end-of-summer Adirondack adventure, and would be mostly allocated toward getting home: school is starting back up this week.  We had breakfast, then packed up and loaded the car, departing Keene just before our 11 am check out time.  Frankie and I made plans to stop during the drive home for one last short hike: after being thwarted last month at Goodnow, we really wanted to climb a fire tower.  It has been way too long!  By taking a different, slightly longer route home, we would drive quite close to the trailhead for Mount Arab.  It was a perfect fit!  Erwin had driven up separately, and even though he had decided to drive home the same way on Route 3, he declined to join us for the hike.  I think after Catamount, he felt like he'd had enough mountains for a while. 

September 1, 2018

Catamount Mountain

Catamount has been on my radar for a while, but we hadn't gotten to it before.  There are just so many hikes I long to do in the Adirondacks!  Anyway, I'm super glad we made it out there today -- it's such a fun climb.  This trail is located well north of the main part of the high peaks, north of Whiteface even, so it apparently sees less traffic than the busiest areas along the Route 73 corridor.  However, I noticed a sign at the Garden encouraging hikers to try different trails aside from the 46 high peaks (we have always done this) and Catamount was specifically mentioned as a good alternative.  If people listen, it may not stay an off-the-beaten-path destination for long.  We stayed up late last night, and got a slow start this morning, so it was almost 1 pm when we arrived at the parking lot.  Between our late arrival and it being a holiday weekend, the small lot was filled to capacity.  There were a few cars parked along the shoulder, so I joined the line up.  There were no signs prohibiting this and no traffic on the wide road, so it seemed low risk.  Off we went...

August 30, 2018

Saddleback Mountain via Johns Brook Lodge

4,515 feet  |  ranked 17/46 in height  |  32nd peak climbed 

I have long been curious about Johns Brook Lodge (JBL), the backcounty hut run by the Adirondack Mountain Club.  I thought I might walk by it last summer when I hiked the Gothics-Armstrong-Upper Wolfjaw loop from the Garden, but I turned left by the second register and passed by the rangers cabin instead.  After hearing a favorable report from friends who stayed there with kids, I told Frankie about it and asked if he wanted to go.  Of course he did!  Erwin was less enthusiastic; he was deterred by the prospect of shared sleeping quarters and no showers.  However, he said he didn't mind if Frankie and I went for a few nights - he would meet us in Keene for some shared adventures afterwards.  So I booked Frankie and I for two nights, with the rough plan of driving up and hiking into JBL on Wednesday, hiking a high peak on Thursday, then hiking back out to meet Erwin on Friday.

August 19, 2018

Lick Brook Figure Eight Loop

A friend told me about Lick Brook after she and her family hiked there this spring.  They are big hikers, and like me, are chipping away at the Adirondack High Peaks and the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), so the recommendation definitely carried some weight.  I looked it up online and knew Erwin would be interested as well; waterfall hikes are his absolute favorite.  We were both surprised to hear of this hidden treasure, as Ithaca is well known for its waterfalls (Ithaca is gorges) and we've hiked all the state parks down there, multiple times.  Lick Brook is literally right in the thick of it: it is located between Robert Treman State Park and Buttermilk Falls State Park.  In fact, it is possible to hike between those two state parks, by passing right through Lick Brook Gorge.  And part of the trail system through Lick Brook Gorge is the FLT, which carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  As a huge fan of these long-distance trails, this was just an added bonus.

August 15, 2018

Monument Mountain

Erwin's family moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts when he was middle-school aged, and he lived in the Berkshires for several years after high school, as well.  These were formative years, and he still adores the region, getting all swoony whenever we drive through the area.  Monument Mountain was "his mountain," the one he climbed 30 or 40 times, in all seasons, in all conditions.  I have heard many, many stories about this place.  When I looked it up and realized it was only a 3 hour drive, and that it's a fairly short trail to the top, I decided we should make a day trip there and see what it's all about.  Erwin could play tour guide and show us his mountain.

August 3, 2018

Donaldson & Emmons

4,140 feet  |  ranked 33/46 in height  |  30th peak climbed 
4,040 feet  |  ranked 40/46 in height  |  31st peak climbed
Erwin and Frankie are off in South Carolina visiting my mother-in-law; we've decided to make these single parent trips to visit with grandparents an annual tradition, with me taking Frankie camping at Memorial Day weekend to see Mary and Keith, and Erwin taking Frankie to play in the ocean in August to see Ellen.  It just works so well for everyone: Frankie gets more time with his faraway grandparents, I don't use up precious vacation time, the boys get to enjoy more beach time then I could handle, and I get the chance to sneak off to the Adirondacks.  I worked Wednesday, so I would have Friday off, and drove up to Tupper Lake last night, setting up camp in the dark in one of the primitive sites along Corey's Road.

July 28, 2018

NCT: Deruyter State Forest

I am really enjoying sharing the North County National Scenic Trail (NCT) with Frankie, taking him back to sections I previously hiked solo and doing them together.  For this hike, I parked at the trailhead on East Lake Road, just east of Deruyter Reservoir, and we followed the Onondaga Trail east.  The trail starts on private land, then traverses Deruyter State Forest.  As I did in April 2016, Frankie and hiked the short roadwalk along Fairbanks Road to reach the charming Armstrong Pond.  I had brought Frankie here once before, from the Webber Road trailhead; that visit was in spring and the the shoreline was a little more accessible.  Today the vegetation was a bit more overgrown, making it harder to access the water directly, but it was still very lovely.  We ate lunch at the pond and goofed around a bit, then retraced our steps the way we came. 

July 15, 2018

NCT: Mill Street to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park

For this hike, I parked at the trailhead on Mill Street south of the village of Cazenovia, and Frankie and I followed the Link Trail to the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park.  The Link Trail is blazed a creamy yellow, but this segment lies on the portion between the Onondaga Trail and the Old Erie Canal Trail that carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), so it is also marked with the blue blazes of the NCT.  I hiked this same out-and-back in a cold rain in February 2016 while completing my first NCT Hike 100 Challenge.  Weather conditions were very different today: high temperatures and extreme humidity.  We wanted to get out on "the interstate trail," as Frankie calls it, despite the tortuous weather, so as a concession to the heat, I selected this hike because there is less hill climbing than on the Onondaga Trail and Finger Lakes Trail sections.

July 14, 2018

Great Bear in July

Somehow almost a year has passed since Frankie and I last visited Great Bear.  Last time we'd planned to go, Erin discovered there was a mountain biking event, so we elected to go elsewhere instead to avoid the crowds and speedy bikes.  I was honestly a bit surprised to find it had really been so long, as it feels like a frequent destination.  Nevertheless, Frankie and I were both excited to go there, and excited to see Erin and Alden for the first time since before our trip.  We set off along our normal route: Great Bear Road > Alec's Trail > the River Landing, and then had the obligatory long play session by the river.  When the madness became too much, we decided to start hiking back. 

July 9, 2018

Caves of Keash

Today we drove across Ireland, from Strandhill to Dublin, returned the rental car, and checked into our apartment for a few nights in the city before we fly home.  We like to break up driving days with stops to stretch our legs, of course, and so we can take in some sights in additional locales aside from where we stay.  For example, on the drive between the Causeway Hotel and Lough Eske, we made two planned stops: the Dark Hedges and Londonderry, where we walked the city walls.  The stops generally don't involve much hiking, because our typical hikes are too long to fit into driving days.  However, sometimes we make exceptions for short hikes.  Today we stopped en route to hike the Caves of Keash.  This was different from anywhere else we'd been in Ireland, and was a ton of fun.

July 8, 2018

Benbulben Forest Walk

Benbulben Mountain is an iconic part of the landscape in County Sligo, a great dramatic table top visible from miles in every direction.  It is part of the Dartry Mountain Range, the most distinct of a series of limestone peaks sculpted by glaciers during the last ice age.  Erwin had read that we couldn't climb Benbulben, but we were still drawn to the unique formation.  [This turned out to be incorrect, as it can apparently be climbed fairly readily from the south side, although parking/access can be a problem.]  Anyway, we decided to hike the Benbulben Forest Walk, an easy 5.5-kilometer loop that runs along the base of the mountain.  Because it is such a short hike, we spent the morning exploring charming Sligo town before heading out.  The boys caught a bunch of Squirtles with sunglasses (it was a Pokémon Go community day) while I got a nice spot of tea, we left a bookstore with far more weight than is reasonable to fly back over the Atlantic, and had a delicious lunch at Hooked.

July 7, 2018

Knocknarea-Killaspugbrone Traverse

When Erwin and I first visited Ireland in 2009, we spent most of our time along the west coast, but didn't make it any further north than Connemara.  County Sligo remained mysterious and alluring, and I have always wanted to come back to explore it.  Not knowing the area well, we mentally allocated time to Sligo on this trip, but not specifically for Sligo town (although we did go there) -- just for the entire region.  When it came time to secure lodging, we ended up booking at Strandhill, a little beach community nestled in the shadow of Knocknarea.  Along with Benbulben, Knocknarea is one of the most dominant and distinctive landforms in the area.  It is capped by an enormous mound of rocks, a Neolithic passage tomb thought to contain the remains of Meabh, the legendary Queen Maeve.  We already had Knocknarea on our radar as a possible hiking destination, and staying so close clinched those desires: there is a particular charm in walking out the door for the days adventure on foot.

July 5, 2018

Glencolmcille Tower Loop

When researching this trip, we learned about Napoleonic-era signal towers built between 1804 and 1806 in response to the threat of a French invasion. The towers were constructed in remote locations all along the coast of Ireland: from the northern tip of Donegal, down the west coast, around the south, and up the east side to Dublin.  There were originally 80 towers, each within sight of additional towers were visible in both directions, so that flags could be used to quickly communicate over great distances.  In other words, we would have the opportunity to visit a warning beacon of Gondor!  When Erwin discovered that the Glen Head Signal Tower, near Glencolmcille in County Donegal, is part of a marked hiking loop, this became our highest priority thing to do in Donegal.

June 28, 2018

Slieve Bearnagh

“I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true.” -- C.S. Lewis

The heat wave smothering Ireland continues, and at 86 degrees Fahrenheit, today was hot and downright muggy.  Again!  This weather is highly unusual here: most years Northern Ireland doesn't see a single day with temperatures this high, yet today is the second day in a row to break 30 degrees Celsius, and the pattern is forecast to continue.  The high humidity, combined with smoke from fires, made for hazy, almost smoggy conditions in the Mourne Mountains.  Not exactly ideal for another day of rugged hiking, but... we're here, aren't we?  Tomorrow we drive north.  We have to make hay while the sun shines.  

June 27, 2018

Murlough National Nature Reserve

After climbing Slieve Binnian yesterday, we planned for a rest day today, in hopes of squeezing in another big hike tomorrow before heading north.  While walking in Newcastle, we'd seen some impressive looking dunes along the coast north of town.  We found out that the Murlough National Nature Reserve is owned by the National Trust and was the first Nature Reserve protected in Ireland.  Located at the edge of Dundrum Bay, the 6,000 year old dunes are apparently one of the most extensive dune heath habitats in the United Kingdom.  We decided  to hike the South End Nature Trail, a 2.5-mile loop featuring boardwalks, beach walking, footpaths through the dunes, and a narrow track through a pasture. 

June 26, 2018

Slieve Binnian

"I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge." -- C.S. Lewis

The Mourne Mountains are located in County Down, which comprises the most south-easterly county in both Ulster Province and in all of Northern Ireland.  I can't recall when or in what context I first learned of the Mountains of Mourne, but I do know it was fairly recently -- within the last year, certainly -- and that I was immediately smitten.  I pored over the Mourne Mountain pages at and obsessed.  I learned that C.S. Lewis spent holidays in the area in his youth, formative years, apparently, for he later attributed the real world magic of the Mournes as the inspiration for Narnia. What else could we do but get a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and take it with us on a journey to explore the Mournes? 

June 2, 2018

Clark in June

I don't post about the majority of our hikes at Clark Reservation State Park, just because we go there so often, and I have posted about it so many other times.  I have never bothered documenting solo hikes here, and have mostly transitioned to posting only hikes that include family members beyond Frankie and I, just for the fun of looking back at the pictures later.  Even on this front I have been slacking: Frankie and I hiked here with Mary in October 2017 and with Erin and Alden in September 2017, and I didn't document either hike.  In fact, it's been almost a year since I last posted a Clark hike. 

May 28, 2018

Pinery Provincial Park: Pine Trail

The hiking trails at Pinery Provincial Park are generally quite short, but are very rewarding.  Mary and Keith have hiked all the trails at the Pinery, many times over, but Frankie and I still have some exploring to do.  Each time we visit, we hike a different combination of new trails and old favorites.  This year we hiked the Heritage Trail, the Cedar Trail, and the Pine Trail.  We have hiked the Heritage Trail twice, but it is definitely a favorite, and we didn't go there last year, so re-visiting it was a treat.  Although it was a bit sad for all of us that Mary's bum knee prevented her from completing the full circuit; she sent Frankie and I on ahead.  We have hiked the Cedar Trail only once before, and chose it again because we could take the park's trail wheelchair down it, enabling us all to stick together.  The Pine Trail was our "new trail" for this trip.

May 27, 2018

Canoeing: the Old Ausable Channel

Frankie and I returned to the Pinery Provincial Park to camp with Mary and Keith for our fourth consecutive Memorial Day weekend.  The park is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in southwestern Ontario, and it is a really special place.  Mary and Keith always make reservations months in advance, and secure a fantastic camp site with a private path to the beach.  The facilities are top notch, and the oak savannas are an unusual ecosystem that provide habitat for plants not commonly found in the northern hardwood and succesional communities near my home.  I truly treasure our time here.  This year was a little different because Mary is suffering grievous knee pain.  X-rays have showed that both knees are bone-on-bone, and recent steroid shots didn't seem to help much.  I suggested canoeing or kayaking as a way to get outside together without Mary having to be on her feet the entire time.

May 16, 2018

FLT/NCT: Kennedy State Forest

For this hike, I wanted to continue my exploration of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) in Kennedy State Forest, which also carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  There was no parking adjacent to where I left off last week, so I parked on Bleck Road this morning and basically hiked two out-and-backs.  First I hiked east until I got to the "four corners" junction of the main branch FLT, the Virgil Mountain Loop, and the Dabes Diversion Loop, then I returned via the same route.  This section of trail starts in a conifer plantation and then crosses the seasonal Cortwright Road before descending steeply through hardwoods to follow a stream meandering through a floodplain forest.

May 9, 2018

Virgin Mountain Loop from Tone Road

The section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) that crosses Kennedy State Forest has many different spur trails that can be linked up with the main branch to make loops of various lengths.  The Virgil Mountain Loop can be hiked as a simple circuit, using parking on O'Dell Road, but I didn't want to orphan the section of FLT east of the loop, so I parked at the trailhead at Tone Road.  This made for a lollipop loop, where I hiked the stick/stem section connecting Tone Road and the loop twice, on the way in and out, then the main loop in a counter-clockwise direction.  The total hike was 7.8 miles with over 1,400 feet elevation gain; more than 700 feet of that climbing occurs in the first mile ascending Virgil Mountain.  This is the highpoint of Cortland County. 

May 5, 2018

Searching for Bobolinks at Three Rivers

My Dad's birthday was this past week, on a work/school day, and we didn't get together then; he had dinner plans with extended family.  I suggested we get together for a hike today and go look for the bobolinks at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.  Bobolinks are migratory birds that return to the area this time of year.  They nest in grasslands and the big open fields east of Sixty Road are a good place to find them.  Bobolinks are funny little birds, the way they perch on plants bobbing in the wind.  Bruce and Debbie always enjoyed birding together, and looking for bobolinks on his birthday has long been a fun way to mark the season.  I haven't accompanied them/him on such a mission since Frankie was born, and we weren't sure how much luck we'd have today... would two noisy little boys and a rambunctious dog keep the bobolinks away?

April 24, 2018

Queen's Garden Navajo Loop

After hiking the amazing Fairyland Loop yesterday, our plan for today was to stop at the visitor's center, get Frankie a Junior Ranger booklet, and ask a ranger for a recommendation for a good, shorter hike in the main Bryce Amphitheater.  The ranger emphatically recommended the Queen's Garden-Navajo Loop, which at 3.0 miles with less than 600 feet elevation gain, was perfect for our easy hike (despite the rating of "moderate to strenuous" on the National Geographic map).  We also learned that Frankie would once again be required to attend a ranger-led program in order to complete the Junior Ranger program.  I do find the ranger programs interesting, and we always learn a lot...  My only issue is that we came here to hike, and the available ranger program options are very limited, in April anyway.  However, Frankie very much wanted to be sworn in as a Bryce Canyon Junior Ranger, so we made it work for him. 

April 23, 2018

FairyLand Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park

According to the National Geographic map, the Fairyland Loop Trail is 8.0 miles long and with 2,309 feet ascent and descent.  Other descriptors include "strenuous" and "less-crowded."  This sounded right up our alley, so we decided to dedicate one of our two full days in Bryce to this hike.  After getting a small taste of hoodoos yesterday exploring Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest, we were super excited to get to Bryce proper, and wanted to jump right in with both feet.  Frankie can do the Junior Ranger Program tomorrow... today was for Fairyland.  And this trail did not disappoint!  It has instantly become one of my all time favorite hikes.

April 21, 2018

Observation Point

Observation Point was the hike I was most looking forward to in Zion National Park.  The Narrows and Angels Landing weren't going to happen on this trip, so I made sure to negotiate for Observation Point before we made any reservations.  I wouldn't have been happy coming to Zion and only seeing the valley; it would have been too cruel of a tease.  While plenty of kids hike Angel's Landing, it was not an option for us on this trip, given Erwin's discomfort with exposure.  Frankie is interested in hiking Angel's Landing, of course, and Erwin has conceded that I can take him up when he is older.  However, he wasn't willing to budge on Frankie hiking it at seven years old.  And I agreed that it wasn't necessary on this trip: once Erwin agreed to Observation Point, it just wasn't worth arguing about.  Observation Point is no consolation prize - I was truly excited for this hike. 

April 20, 2018

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Since I had picked the Observation Point hike, and Erwin really wanted to see the valley, I deferred to him on the selection of this trail.  According to the trail map/brochure, the Riverside Walk is 2.2 miles roundtrip, an out-an-back leading to the entrance to the famous Narrows.  Of course, what Erwin really wanted was to hike the Narrows, but on this cold and rainy morning, it wasn't a real option for us.  We knew spring isn't the ideal season for this hike, especially given that we travel with our boy: water levels are highest this time of year and cold, too.  Frankie has no body fat and would quickly get chilled, even if the air temperatures were 40 degrees warmer.  So we settled for just seeing the portal.  This time. 

Pa'rus Trail and the Junior Ranger Program

With only two full days to spend in Zion National Park, we had carefully planned how to allocate our time: one day would be dedicated to hiking Observation Point; the other day would be spent hiking shorter trails in the valley bottom and allowing Frankie to complete the Junior Ranger program.  This is something I remember very fondly from family trips to National Parks as a kid, so I wanted to make it a priority to give Frankie the same opportunity.  We had originally planned to hike Observation Point today, thinking crowds would be less on Friday than on a weekend, but it was raining this morning and forecast to be nice tomorrow.  We decided to save Observation Point for the nicer day, thereby minimizing potential risks associated with slippery rocks near steep drop offs.

April 8, 2018

NCT: Nelson Road to RR Sign

For this hike, Frankie and I ventured to a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that follows the Link Trail along the old Lehigh Valley Railroad.  I parked at Nelson Road, and we hiked west and then south to the bench for a picnic lunch.  From there, Frankie decided we should walk over to the railroad sign for a quick visit, and after that, we returned back the way we came.  This route is a slightly shorter variation of a similar solo hike I did two years ago, when I continued on past the railroad sign to Quarry Road so I could enjoy the spring wildflowers in the forested section past the railroad sign.  No wildflowers out there today!  It's the winter that refuses to quit, which is actually what led us here: there is still snow in the hills south of Syracuse where the NCT follows the Finger Lakes Trail, and we've reached the point of being done with all that.  Plus, Frankie has done both the adjacent sections, so this hike filled in a gap for him.

March 18, 2018

Frankie's First Time Cross-Country Skiing

Growing up, our family cross-country skiied together often.  My parents had me on skis at a very young age.  I don't even remember the process of learning - it was just something we always did.  Many a Christmas morning featured new ski equipment under the tree.  It was not a hobby shared by many college friends, though, and not something Erwin grew up doing.  As a result, I fell out of the habit of skiing as an adult.  I have had fleeting thoughts about getting back to it over the years, but my equipment dates back to junior high and the boots were a bit snug last time I used them, many years ago.  Plus, we have had a long series of winters with paltry snow cover.  I just never seemed to make it happen. 

March 7, 2018

South Trail, New Woodstock

South Trail is a multi-use rail trail that follows the abandoned Lehigh Valley Railroad from New Woodstock north to Ballina Road.  This a 3.3-mile trail is part of the network of properties protected by the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation.  It was my first visit here.  However, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) follows the old Lehigh Valley Railroad between Cazenovia and Chittenango, so I had an idea what to expect when I planned this hike: flat and easy.  We received quite a lot of heavy snow in the last week, and I expected to be snowshoeing.  Parking for this hike is available at New Woodstock Lumber, and that clinched my decision: plowed lot, easy grades for snowshoeing.  Unfortunately, there was yet another winter issue I failed to anticipate... snowmobiles. 

February 28, 2018

Main Trail, Highland Forest

Highland Forest is the oldest and largest of the Onondaga County Parks.  Although the park has seen a lot of improvements over the years, including construction of the large Skyline Lodge, I still find the trail system a little odd.  The website has a ski conditions page that is updated daily, and from checking this site in advance, I knew to expect a detour on the Main Trail.  This was somewhat of a disappointment for me, as I have been looking forward to this hike for some time, but I decided to go anyway.  I asked about the detour when I stopped in the Lodge to sign the register and pay my $3 use fee, but oddly enough, the friendly staff seemed to know little about it.  They assured me it was well marked and wouldn't add much distance to the hike, but couldn't show me anything specific on the map. 

February 18, 2018

Family Hike at Green Lakes

The boys had been planning on taking a walk to hunt Pokémon today.  I haven't installed the Pokémon Go game on my phone because I am not remotely eager for more screen time, but Erwin and Frankie play together on Erwin's phone.  I strongly disapprove if they take it out in a restaurant or similar inappropriate settings, but one aspect of the game involves rewards for distance walked, so it does get them out moving more.  I often tag along on such walks if I'm not at work, because I like walking and we can all hang out together.  These Pokémon walks are often downtown, or to/around campus, so they can visit the "stops" and "gyms" in the game, which tend to be located at landmarks such as sculptures and buildings.  Unfortunately this means there generally isn't much overlap between Pokémon hunting and hiking.  I was pleasantly surprised when Erwin announced he wanted to go somewhere more interesting, and decided on Green Lakes.  Apparently this State Park is crowded enough to attract Pokémon?  No matter to me.  A busy trail is still better than a sidewalk! 

February 17, 2018

Bog Trail in February

Extenuating circumstances made us wing this hike rather than plan ahead.  Friday afternoon Erin got a call from daycare saying Alden had a fever and red eyes.  Neither of those appeared to be true Friday night when he was home, but since it was unclear if he'd be up for a hike today, I didn't set Frankie's alarm for this morning.  When morning rolled around, Alden still displayed no signs of sickness, and both boys wanted to hike.  However, without the alarm (and without me getting up even earlier to prepare Frankie's breakfast so it would be waiting for him when the alarm went off), we were running way behind schedule.  Beaver Lake was the obvious choice: short hike, short drive, and of course, the Bog Trail is a perennial kid favorite. 

February 14, 2018

FLT/NCT: Carson Road to Cortland 9 Road

In inclement weather, I am somewhat cautious about driving off to hike solo in areas with poor or no reception.  After several Wednesdays off where snow, freezing rain, and/or a school snow day keeping me from hiking, I finally had a decent day for a solo hike.  I decided I would head back down to Tuller Hill State Forest to check out the next section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  The online maps for the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), which carries the NCT through this area, show parking at the intersection of Carson Road and NY Route 392, "nearby at restaurant."  I thought a restaurant parking lot would be reliably plowed out.  Famous last words?  Because when I arrived, the restaurant was clearly closed, with large for sale signs posted out front.  The lot appeared not to have plowed all winter, and was completely inaccessible in my little car. 

January 28, 2018

NCT: Canastota Creek

For this hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), we parked at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Canastota and hiked to Nelson Road and back, for a total of 4.8 miles.  I hiked this same stretch of trail in April 2016, but hadn't brought Frankie there before.  I knew he'd enjoy it because so much of the hike follows Canastota Creek.  It is a basic hiking equation: kid + water = fun.  Upon arrival, I was pleased that the gate to the cemetery was open, as it contains the hiker parking lot.  When I was here last January, there was a sign saying the cemetery was closed in winter, so I'd been planning on parking at the nearby Aldi's instead, but this was much better.  The trail starts off good right away with some bog bridges across a wet spot.  Bridges are another feature that Frankie enjoys. 

January 24, 2018

Jones Hill, Tinker Falls, Labrador Hollow

My original plan for the day was to park at the Tinker Falls trailhead, and hike the spur trail to the top of Tinker Falls, then pick up the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) south toward Shackham Road.  This did not work out, because although it was cold today, and snowing rather hard, yesterday it was 50 degrees and raining buckets, meaning a lot of our lovely snow melted off, raising the creek levels.  I didn't feel comfortable attempting the creek crossing solo in high water conditions with the frigid temperatures.  I scouted upstream a bit, but there isn't much space before hitting private property, and downstream is Tinker Falls with it's 50 foot drop.  No thanks!  So what to do instead?  I decided I would climb Jones Hill as Plan B.

January 20, 2018

Three Rivers in the Snow

After a long stretch of bitter cold weekends, we finally got a gorgeous winter Saturday, sunny and mild.  Erin and I were determined to get the out with the boys.  After much hemming and hawing, we decided to go to Three Rivers and park on Sixty Road, following the "turtle hike" trail west from the parking lot.  We wanted to go somewhere the snow wouldn't present too much of a challenge for Alden and where the trailhead was plowed, but after two Bog Trail hikes in December, we also wanted some variety.  We hike at Three Rivers frequently, so it's not terribly exciting, but it's woods (which always beats paved trails) and we've been avoiding it all fall because of hunting season, so hadn't been in a while. 

January 10, 2018

Jones Hill on Snowshoes

After last winter's dearth of snow, I was super excited to finally have enough snow for snowshoeing, and determined to get out and enjoy it.  I was also longing for the peace and solitude found along the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and/or Finger Lakes Trail (FLT).  However, many access points are along rural roads with limited snow removal, and I didn't want to get stuck.  I decided I would hike part of the Onondaga Trail, because it passes right across the top of Tinker Falls.  The Tinker Falls trailhead is along State Route 91, so is reliably accessible.  These trails are the busiest on the entire FLT/NCT network (at least of the parts I've hiked so far), and I did encounter six other hikers, but the guarantee of clear parking made the tradeoff worthwhile.  Plus, I'd never been up Jones Hill in deep snow before, and was excited for the winter views. 

January 1, 2018

New Year's Day at Woodchuck Hill

Another cold day, colder even than our Bog Trail hike the other day.  Too cold for Erin, Alden, and Keith, but Mary and I both wanted to get out, and Frankie always has energy to burn.  My mom and I were waffling about whether to drive somewhere or just walk in the neighborhood.  This issue resolved itself tidily when Erwin spoke up and volunteered to drive us to Woodchuck Hill Preserve.  Like the rest of us, he had cabin fever and wanted to get outside.  Plus, we'd gone to Woodchuck Hill a few weeks ago with Frankie, and found an interesting crossing: a passage.  We started exploring the other side of the drainage, but had to turn back as we approached White Lake.  Erwin and I were both very curious about what lay beyond our previous turnaround point, and were eager to explore further.