December 11, 2019

FLT Roadwalk: CR53 to Midlum Road

I discovered the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) due to its partnership with the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), which follows the FLT from the Pennsylvania state line in western New York all the way to Cuyler Hill State Forest, where the NCT diverges, following the Onondaga Trail north while the FLT continues east.  I hiked all of the Onondaga Trail, which is itself a branch trail of the FLT, in 2016, and started my explorations west along the FLT in Cuyler Hill State Forest.  Ever since then, I have been hiking new sections of the FLT, but always westward, on the portion followed by the NCT.  As I have fallen in love with the NCT, I realized that all the parts I love best are actually part of the FLT.  And as my drive times to reach new sections of FLT to the west have increased, so has my desire to start exploring the FLT east of Cuyler Hill. 

November 20, 2019

Two FLT/NCT Roadwalks, with Bonus OCD

It has become my custom to use hunting season to complete roadwalks in my section hiking of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT).  The gaps I went after today are big ones, not in distance, but in significance... because I have now hiked every single foot of the North Country National Scenic Trail between the two green marks on the map below, from partway through Danby State Forest in the southwest corner, to the end of the Erie Canal section in the outskirts of Rome, in the northeast corner.  So even though it was cold and rainy, it was an exciting day for me! 

November 7, 2019

FLT/NCT: South Danby Road to Route 96B

For this hike, I parked on in the small NYSDEC lot on South Danby Road and hiked east on the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), which carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).  After about 1.0 mile, the trail turns north, then after a bit more, crosses the seasonal Travor Road.

October 26, 2019

Coney Mountain

After completing Goodman Mountain, we hopped in the car and drove a mile or two down the road to the trailhead for Coney Mountain.  This small lot was full when we passed it this morning on the way to Goodman, with cars parked along the road, but the crowds had thinned out by the time we arrived and there was plenty of parking available now.  It was almost 2:15 pm when we signed the register to begin our hike.  I wasn't concerned about the time, since this is such a short hike: 1.1 miles to the top with about 550 feet elevation gain.  Even with our slow pace, we summited in less than 45 minutes.  

Goodman Mountain

Ever since hiking Mount Arab last year, I've been meaning to get back up to this area to hike the other two peaks in the Tupper Lake Triad: Goodman and Coney Mountains.  For various (mostly boring) reasons, this fall has not included nearly enough solo hikes to keep me happy, so I enlisted Frankie to accompany me on a weekend adventure.  I had suggested a loop hike of the Finger Lakes Trail and Gorge Trail in Robert Treman State Park, but Frankie had a different idea: he wanted to go the Adirondacks.  Sure thing, buddy!  I offered him the idea of Coney and Goodman and the boy was into it, so we had ourselves a plan. 

October 19, 2019

Baltimore Woods: Field to Forest and Boundary Trails

Last time we hiked with Erin and Alden at Baltimore Woods, I had suggested that next time, whenever that might be, we should meet at the lower entrance and hike some different trails.  Under the influence of our small creatures of habit, we tend to get stuck in ruts of hiking the same favorites over and over, neglecting other very nice trails.  Today we remembered our vague plans and got to experience the pleasure of the Field to Forest and Boundary Trails.  Hurray! 

September 28, 2019

NCT: Shackham Road (South) East to Powerline

I had a short block of free solo time today, which is unusual on a weekend, as I prioritize spending time with Frankie whenever I can.  However, Erwin was taking him to a football game, and football is one of my least favorite sports balls, so I elected not to tag along.  I wanted to be home to see Frankie when they returned, so had only a few hours, a block of time I might ordinarily elect to use for a bike ride, but I have learned that game day traffic and related shenanigans (tailgating, illegal parking, drunken frat boys, etc.) make such rides less enjoyable.  I have some weeks coming up where a solo hike won't be an option for one reason or another, so I decided to squeeze one in today.  I wouldn't have time to drive all the way down to Danby State Forest to continue my explorations there.  But I could certainly get down to Morgan Hill, so that's what I did.

September 20, 2019

NCT: Forestport to Booneville

This section of North Country Trail (NCT) follows the Black River Canal, so I knew the trail would be very flat and easy.  I also knew, from previously hiking the Erie Canal Trail sections of the NCT, that the towpaths aren't my favorite type of hiking, so when I saw that this section is also open to bikes, I immediately decided to drop a bike.  This would let me cover the miles on foot, but would save me from doing so twice, as I typically go both out and back on solo hikes.  Because I wanted to knock out 10 miles and this is quite a drive from home (plus the extra time required to load the bike on the car), I waited until a day when Frankie had an after school activity.  Then I drove to Boonville, locked my bike up at Erwin Park, then drove to Forestport, and parked at the dam.  I would hike to Booneville, then retrieve my and bike back to my car.  Voila!  It worked like a charm. 

September 11, 2019

FLT/NCT: Ridgeway Road to NY Route 96B

I began this hike on Ridgeway Road, at the same trailhead I used this spring when I finished the last Shindagin Hollow State Forest section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT).  This time I hiked west, up and over Eastman Hill and into Danby State Forest, before dropping down Heisy Road into the next valley.  I completed the short roadwalk along NY Route 96B, then took the short section that bumps back into a pipeline right-of-way.  When the trail again comes back out to 96B, I turned back and retraced my steps, as the trail crosses the road here and climbs over the next ridge.  That will be my next exploration down this way. 

September 7, 2019

Jones Hill from Spruce Pond

After taking Erin and Alden up Jones Hill back in July, I started thinking about other hikes down that way that we could take them on.  Morgan Hill State Forest is one of my favorite places outside the Adirondacks, so it is natural to want to share it.  It is too far a drive from their house to be a regular destination, especially given that Alden struggles with motion sickness.  However, Erin seemed willing to give it a go today, and her friend James decided to join us; apparently he loves Morgan Hill, too, so it was a great opportunity for Frankie and I to meet him.

September 1, 2019

Bear Den Mountain

We have been coming up to the High Peaks region at this time of year for a long, long time, and always like to mix it up, hiking both big and smaller mountains, and squeezing in a paddle, too, if we can manage.  This year I was eager to check out Bear Den Mountain, which I learned of through its inclusion in the Lake Placid 9'er hiking challenge, which describes the peak as "a hidden gem."  An off-the-beaten-path destination was exactly what we wanted for the holiday weekend, so I added Bear Den to our itinerary.  And boy, did it deliver!

August 29, 2019


5,114 feet  |  ranked 2/46 in height  |  6th peak climbed (repeat)

This is the fourth consecutive Labor Day weekend that Frankie has wanted to climb a High Peak, so of course I was thrilled to take him up another mountain.  He really wants to do Marcy, just because it is the biggest, but the length of the approach intimidates him, so he decided to wait until he is 10.  But Algonquin is a short hike for such a big mountain and he was sure he could handle that.  I tried to steer him toward Wright, leaving Algonquin to pair with Iroquois later, but for various reasons, that did not work out.  But we did make it up Algonquin...

August 2, 2019

Gray and Skylight via the ADK Loj

4,926 feet  |  ranked 7/46 in height  |  33rd peak climbed 
4,840 feet  |  ranked 4/46 in height  |  34th peak climbed 
In what has become an annual tradition, Erwin took Frankie for a summer visit to the beach and family in South Carolina, and I stayed home to work... and snuck off to the mountains for a solo hike.  I waffled a bit, indecisive about where I would hike.  Last year I car-camped off Corey's Road and felt a little self-conscious showing up at the alpine flora workshop afterwards so unwashed; Corey's is primitive camping with no running water, so I was several days without a shower, inclusive of climbing Donaldson and Emmons on a muggy day where I sweated buckets.  Irregardless of the baby wipe "bath", I surely reeked with a vengeance.  I thought perhaps I should stay somewhere with water this year.  Then I struck on the brilliant plan to stay at the Heart Lake.  The campground was already fully booked, but I could get a bunk at the Loj for two nights.  Sold!

July 24, 2019

Goodnow Mountain

Frankie and I had been thwarted on a previous attempt at Goodnow, when the trail and fire tower were both closed due to active maintenance - meteorological equipment was being replaced on the tower, and there were safety concerns about falling objects.  So today was a little bit of redemption, the views that much sweeter for having to wait.  We did this as a day trip, driving up to Newcomb, hiking, then driving back home.  That's a long day, with more time in the car than hiking, but it was totally worth it to scratch this lingering itch.  And the views here really are fantastic!

July 13, 2019

Jones Hill & Tinker Falls

This was our first weekend home after returning from Europe, and Frankie and I wanted to meet up with Erin and Alden.  Alden is about the same age Frankie was when he first climbed up to the hang glider launch spot on Jones Hill, so I suggested that.  Labrador Hollow is a substantially longer drive from Erin's house than from mine, so she drove to our house and then rode with Frankie and I the rest of the way.  I was last up here in January 2018, so was pleased to return after such a long absence.  Jones Hill is a hike worth revisiting again and again.

June 30, 2019

Jungfraujoch to Mönchsjochhütte

We needed a break from the unrelenting heat, and decided a trip to the "Top of Europe" might be just the ticket.  This is a very popular and very expensive activity.  We booked our tickets at the tourism office in Lauterbrunnen, where the staff is very patient and helpful, and selected an early morning departure.  There is a lot to see at Jungfraujoch, both inside and out, and just getting there is quite the journey.  The train ride is about an hour and a half in each direction, including a transfer to a different train at Kleine Scheidegg.  I absolutely love trains, so the entire journey was very exciting for me.

June 28, 2019

First > Bachalpsee > Waldspitz > Bort Traverse

We arrived in Europe in the midst of a massive heat wave that would unfortunately last the entire duration of our trip.  The only time the temperature did not hit the 90s was our last day in Zurich before flying home.  When we were staying in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, it was close to 100 degrees every single day.  This was crushing for me, as we had to scale back some of our planned adventures.  For example, I had been hoping to hike from Schynige Platte to First, a high alpine route with spectacular view that would start with a 19th-century cogwheel train ride and end with a gondola ride.  However, that hike is 10 miles with 2,700 feet elevation gain and not a speck of shade.  It seemed like a lot to ask of an 8-year old on a 98-degree day.  So I did some research and found a shorter route that would still take us to the stunning alpine lake, Bachalpsee, but would be less likely to result in heat stroke.

June 25, 2019

Furstin-Gina-Weg via Berggasthaus Sareis

We planned this trip after randomly finding a good deal on flights to Zurich, and impulsively purchasing them -- last summer.  The Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland and the Alsace region in France were quickly penciled in as our main destinations, but I lobbied hard to include a stop in Liechtenstein.  Erwin was skeptical at first.  Several otherwise reputable travel bloggers have written that there is little to do there, and he wasn't interested in visiting just to check another country off a list.  Well...that wasn't what I wanted either!  I wanted to hike the Furtin-Gina-Weg.  So I sent him some links, which he skimmed over.  He was intrigued enough to do some further research of his own, which involved watching some youtube videos, and then he was fully on board.  I then moved on to phase 2 in my (obviously successful) campaign: an overnight stay at a mountain hut.  By September 2018, I had booked us a family room at the Berggasthaus Sareis for the very first night of our trip.  

May 8, 2019

FLT/NCT: Shindagin Hollow State Forest from Ridgeway Road

Continuing my westward exploration of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), this would be my last new section of trail partially within Shindagin Hollow State Forest.  On my last hike here, I had turned back at the top of Braley Hill, not at a road crossing.  Today I parked at the trailhead on Ridgeway Road and hiked east until I reached the trail junction on the top of Braley Hill, then re-traced my steps the way I came.  Much of the hike was through private property; only the eastern extent lies within State Forest lands.  I am so grateful to the landowners who so kindly allow these hiking easements.  The trailhead on Ridgeway Road is right off someone's driveway.  What gracious folks!

May 5, 2019

NCT: Emhoff Road to Clark Road

For this hike, I parked at the Emhoff Road crossing, and Frankie and I hiked south to Clark Road and back.  This section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) follows the Link Trail, which takes its name because it connects the Finger Lakes Trail and the Erie Canal Trail.  I had offered Frankie several hikes to choose from and this was his selection for today.  He had hiked the adjacent section to the north in October 2016, and the section to the south into Cazenovia for dinner with Erwin last November.  So this hike filled a gap for him (I had hiked it previously by myself).  It was overcast and I carried our raincoats, but we never needed them.

April 24, 2019

FLT/NCT: Shindagin Hollow Road Out-and-Backs

For this Finger Lakes Trail hike, I parked on Shindagin Hollow Road in Shindagin Hollow State Forest.  It was to be another double out-and-back, as has been a trend lately.  First I followed the white blazes northeast, until I reached the charming lean-to that had been my turnaround point two weeks ago.  Then I re-traced my steps to the car, crossed the road, and continued northwest up some steep slopes, passing an old foundation.  I crossed Braley Hill Road, and kept going until I got to the high point of Braley Hill, then turned back toward my car and the long drive back for school pick up. 

April 21, 2019

NCT: Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area

Frankie and I often take an Easter hike (which is exactly like an ordinary hike except it involves a lot more candy).  Today we convinced Erwin to join us.  We went to Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area, parking at the trailhead for the Link Trail on Irish Hill Road.  For the first part of the hike, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) follows the Link Trail.  Then on Holmes Road, they diverge, with the Link Trail continuing south and the NCT following the Onondaga Trail southeast.  We took the NCT into the woods.  I keep meaning to come back and hike the Link Trail south from here, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.  I'm just a little too obsessed with the Finger Lakes Trail. 

April 10, 2019

FLT/NCT: Shindagin Hollow State Forest from Old 76 Road

Today I returned to the Finger Lakes Trails, Map 18, to hike the next section.  I parked on Old 76 Road and did out-and-backs in both directions.  There has been a lot of that lately, and while I prefer a cleaner section break, random turn-around points are becoming necessary more often because my drives are getting longer -- this trailhead is an hour and 20 minute drive from where I drop Frankie off at school at 8 am.  This leaves me less and less time to actually hike before I need to rush back to shower before school pick up at 3 pm.  The obvious solution would be to hike closer to home, but I will admit that I am completely hooked on the thrill of exploring new trail, extending my line further and further.  So I will keep up the madness for now.

April 6, 2019

Camillus Forest Unique Area: Trails #1 and #5

For today's adventure, Frankie and I met up with Erin and Alden at Camillus Forest Unique Area.  This was terribly exciting for me, since I can't recall ever having visited before, despite it's relative proximity to my house -- there is easy highway access and we were there in less than 20 minutes.  Erin and Alden had been here before, but only on the lower trails.  Erin suggested making a lollipop loop, where we followed the #1 trail up to the junction of the #5 trail, then followed that clockwise back to the same junction, then returned to the parking lot the way we came via the #1 trail.  This was a perfect adventure for all of us, because we all got to explore new trails, and the #5 trail goes through the old-growth forest that led to the protection of this property.

April 3, 2019

FLT/NCT: Potato Hill State Forest

This hike represents another link in the chain, another new section of Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) and North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) explored.  So as not to leave a gap, my goal for this hike was to hike back into my turnaround point on my last FLT/NCT hike, when I'd had to turn back prematurely due to time issues, then continue westward into new territory.  It was a gorgeous gift of a day, with blue sky for miles.  I parked at the trail crossing on Blackman Hill Road, and set out to the north, following a thin hedgerow across a wide sweeping field. 

March 13, 2019

FLT/NCT: Tarr-Young Natural Area

A myriad of commitments has kept me from my solo weekday hikes, and when a free day finally arrived, I was far past ready for it.  I have been impatient to continue my explorations on the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), which carries the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) westward.  After my long absence, I hadn't exactly forgotten the challenges of winter hiking on the FLT, but let's just say I was in denial.  The problem is access, since many of the trailheads are on narrow country roads, often seasonal dirt roads, with limited shoulder parking.  Even where such roads are plowed, the narrow shoulders are often filled with snow, leaving no space to safely park.  I experienced this difficulty today, and wasted a lot of time driving around after the first two spots I tried were completely inaccessible.  Then I remembered the small parking lot that served as my turnaround point on my last FLT hike in Robinson Hollow State Forest.  It has a southern exposure and was available.  Phew!  Finally I could get out of the car and start hiking.

February 23, 2019

Baltimore Woods: Valley and Overlook Trails

Baltimore Woods is a nature center and natural area managed by the Central New York Land Trust.  Despite Frankie attending summer camp here for the last few years, and it being in semi-regular (though infrequent) rotation, I have somehow never dedicated a full post to our hikes here.  Today we met Erin and Alden, and made our default circuit.  This loop follows the Valley Trail down the steep hill, then crosses the stream and turns right, following the Boundary Trail east until the small gravel bed on the left.  With the labyrinth buried under the snow, we moved on, climbing up the hill on the Overlook Trail.  Of course we stopped for a snack at the eponymous overlook, then continued along, dropping back into the valley and following the Boundary Trail until the turnoff to the other side of the Valley Trail, which we climbed back up to the parking area at the top.

February 18, 2019

Snowshoeing Lake Bonita

I have to work tomorrow, so today had to be our travel day to get us back home.  I had been planning to stop and hike another small mountain on the way home, the way Frankie and I did with Belfry and Mount Arab.  Unfortunately it was snowing pretty hard and Erwin decided he wanted to take the Northway and the Thruway home; he'd driven through some rough conditions on Route 8 on the way up Friday night, and thought the highway would be in better shape.  I had a Plan B for just that circumstance: Severance Hill in the Schroon Lake area -- it's right off the Northway, so I thought it would have easy access.  Wrong!  The parking lot hadn't been plowed, and not just from today's snow.  It didn't look like it had been plowed all winter.  Erwin stopped at Stewart's in Schroon Lake, and we tried to come up with a Plan C, but couldn't think of another option that wouldn't involve back roads.  I was devastated.  Even a milkshake failed to raise me from the depths of despair.  We got back on the highway and kept driving south.  The highway was a mess.

February 17, 2019

Big Crow Mountain

Big Crow Mountain is another one we hiked back in 2011, with Frankie riding up in the Kelty backpack carrier.  It was super hot and muggy that day, with haze smothering the High Peaks, but it was evident that the views from the summit would be spectacular on a clear day.  I've been wanting to come back ever since, and was hoping we'd have a clear day this weekend to try to get those views.  Big Crow fit our criteria perfectly to continue our first foray into Adirondack winter hiking: it represents a known entity, and is a short hike with views.  The bluebird skies that so thrilled us in the morning didn't end up lasting all day, but the views were still orders of magnitude clearer than our first hike up.  And Frankie got to hike another new peak.

February 16, 2019

Baxter Mountain

December and January were excruciating for me with insane work deadlines and crazy overtime.  I finally hit my targets and things eased a bit, but I badly needed help de-stressing, a distraction.  What could be better than the mountains?  We have never spent much time in the Adirondacks in the winter.  We spend time outside year-round at home, but truthfully, I have always been a little intimidated by my perception of the heightened dangers of winter in the back country.  However, we've talked about it sort of idly for years, and finally decided to give it a go with a long weekend so Frankie wouldn't miss any school.  Turns out President's Day weekend is a crazy time up there, and everything in Lake Placid was booked, but we were able to secure a cozy little room at the Keene Valley Lodge.  We have stayed here before, and it's a perfect base for adventuring. 

January 12, 2019

Northern Exposure Trail, Beaver Lake

Frankie got his first pair of snowshoes as a Christmas gift when he was three years old.  Obviously he has grown a lot in five years, so it seemed like a new pair was in order.  I wanted to get him cross-country skis, too, but my December (and this January too) involved way too many extra work hours to have time for figuring out skis.  I did manage to get him the new snowshoes to put under the tree though.  Then we just had to wait for some good snow.  We wanted to meet up with Erin, so we could pass Frankie's old snowshoes onto Alden, who is 3 years old now and ready to start his own snowshoeing adventures.  I suggested Beaver Lake, because there are two seasonal trails designated for snowshoeing there.  It is fun to go out on trails that only exist in snow cover, secret passages that are all but invisible other times of year.