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.