Since I was home on a few zero days recovering from a respiratory virus, I took some time to write a summary of the eastern third of the FLT. You can check out my post over on Appalachian Trials by clicking here.
It turns out it didn't end up raining all night. Unfortunately, it DID start thunderstorming at 7 a.m. though. We were already awake and getting our stuff put away when a wicked thunderstorm hit - lightening and thunder, the whole thing! Thankfully, it did stop at 9 a.m., enough time for us to get moving. Unfortunately for me, I woke up feeling not so great. I'd been developing a bit of a scratchy throat since Saturday morning (our first zero) and now, on Tuesday, I woke up with a double earache and a wheeze. We started walking and my cough got worse and the rain started again. It rained for about 45 minutes, enough time for us to get wet on the downhill and then the crazy steep uphill that followed Babcock Hollow Road. This part of the trail is so steep that FLTC crews installed ropes to help pull you up the hill. Thankfully, we've hiked this section before and didn't need the ropes, even though it was raining.
By the time we reached the top of the short and steep hill, the rain had stopped and mosquitoes came back out. If you stopped walking, they would swarm. We kept our heads down and we kept moving, although I was moving at a much slower pace than NoKey was. We reached a seasonal road and we could take two trails - either the main FLT or a branch trail known as the Swedish Loop. We opted for this trail instead of the main FLT since we had already done this part of the FLT. The Swedish Loop was very beautiful and well-maintained - a mix of hardwood and spruce with a nice soft ground for walking. The loop trail met back up with the FLT in only 1.5 miles and we were back on track to hit Daisy Hill Road. We road walked a bit before heading back uphill and then down to the Jim Schug Rail Trail.
When we reached the rail trail we were making great miles, pretty quick too. There was a bench at the end where the FLT meets the road walk and we sat down for a bit. By now I'm coughing and gasping, my throat hurts, and I just feel like crap. The first lean-to of the day was only 6 miles out and I figured we could just stay there. NoKey convinced me that I really needed to get out of the woods and rest. We finished the road walk up to NY 38 and pulled out our "Hikers to Town" sign to hitch into Dryden. We got picked up really fast with the new sign and got dropped off at a gas station/McDonald's at noon.
We were trying to figure out what to do next - I didn't want to spend money on a B&B when home was only an hour away, but we had no way to get home. No buses ran from this area to Syracuse until the following day and we still needed to hitch 10 miles down the road for that. All this changed when a nice man named Dave came over to us. He noticed the AT logo on NoKey's hat and started telling us about his daughter who thru hiked in 2007. We got to chatting and discovered we had all lived in Maine before. One thing lead to another and he said he could give us a ride to Cortland because he was on his way back to work there anyway. He had a Chinese Intern with him, Aman, who was headed back to Syracuse at 3:30. Aman generously offered to drop us off at home if we could wait for him to get off work. We agreed to wait and they dropped us off at a shopping plaza where I went to the drug store for medicine and NoKey went to Big Lots for junk food!
So now we're back at home...again. We are so grateful to all the trail angels we met today who helped us get here and I'm feeling incredibly sad to be off trail. I feel like I'm throwing off our whole hike. I know that hiking when you're sick is hard, but I still just want to be on trail.
We started this morning very early! We got dropped off at Dunkin Donuts on exit 10 at about 6:40 this morning. We got coffees and donuts and left at about 7:15 to walk down the old FLT through Blodgett Mills. We decided to do this to avoid doing a double back on ourselves of about 5 miles. We were making great time on the road walk and we're back in the woods quickly. The trails were in good shape this morning, albeit muddy from all the recent rain. We had beautiful blue skies this morning and made it to a part of the trail we were very familiar with at about 10:45. We took a lunch break in the creek to keep the mosquitoes away and then took off for our big climb of the day up Virgil Mountain and Greek Peak.
We have hiked this entire section of map before, so it was really nice hiking familiar sections of trail. Someone had very recently cut back all the briars and brambles so we were VERY happy! The trail did get a little muddy toward the top, but all in all we made it up pretty quickly. We then began another descent down to a road where we decided to take the high water bypass by walking on a winter snowmobile trail. This whole area recently got hit by a flash flood so we didn't really feel like tromping through washout, especially since we had already hiked this section of trail before.
We reached the next road crossing and were less than a half mile from the shelter in the early afternoon. Since I had to go through and make us a rough schedule of where we would be staying, we called it an early day at 2 pm at the Foxfire Lean to. We pretty much have to stay on the schedule due to lack of places to camp in some parts of the upcoming maps. The weather is also calling from rain from 1 am to about 11 am tomorrow so the shelter seems like a better option than tenting. So far we have only had two days on trail with dry feet... I'm hoping the rain breaks up before it gets here tonight!
We came home yesterday night from McGraw, NY and we will be getting back on trail in Hoxie Gorge. Since we were just going to be road walking to this point, that is why we made this decision. So far, the minimal maintenance in the Catskills and DEP lands combined with the wet (but beautifully maintained!) other portions of the eastern part of this trail have really gotten me in a funk.
I am hoping the days off will recover my feet, which are starting to peel so badly I wonder how in the world there is any skin left! I've never had foot problems on a hike before and I know it's probably just due to the perpetually wet conditions of this trail so far. We are hoping that the summer weather kicks back in soon! I haven't really hit my stride yet on this trail and it kind of has me a little nervous. I think it's probably just due to the fact that my feet feet so miserable, but I'm really hoping to start enjoying myself more soon.
So far we have spent 13 days on trail. The breakdown is five nights in a tent, three nights in a shelter, three nights in private homes, and two nights in a motel. For this reason, we have nicknamed this trail "The American Camino" or "Camino de American" haha! We have been enjoying the road walks into these little towns, but it's going to start getting expensive if we keep going in to enjoy them! We have already had to send back a box full of food due to not being behind schedule, but overindulging in towns to where we don't need our boxes. This weekend home I plan to look more closely at our maps and plan our days loosely to make sure that our resupply plan suits us, especially since we have about a month left to hike on this trail.
We have resealed our tent (AGAIN) to hopefully keep out every single drop of moisture. It's waterproofed very VERY well right now, but due to the high amount of rain it's still getting some minor dripping at night. Hopefully this third time is a charm and we won't need to do it again. We also waterproofed the bottom of NoKey's pack and have washed and dried all our gear. I'm enjoying the comforts of home, but I'm already wishing to be back on the trail. That's the thing about a thru hike, it's all about the journey. Some days on this trail haven't been all that enjoyable, but not every day will be. I'm glad we were able to get home and get some rest so I wouldn't push myself to hard and just want to quit. I was seriously ready to never come back to this trail before we hitched into McGraw yesterday afternoon. Here's to hoping for better weather in the coming weeks!
We were supposed to have rain from midnight until 8 a.m., but we woke up at sunrise to completely dry conditions, albeit overcast. We were elated at the fact that it didn't rain! We packed up and headed out early since we knew today if we pushed it we could go home! We began some easy uphill walking to the top of the first hill, which at the top was just a mud pit. We have deemed this mountaintop squishiness "mountain mush". We slopped our way through the mud, attempting to stay dry but failing when the rocks under our feet would either completely sink or slide away and wash downstream. The trails, however, were maintained as well as they could be. On the other side at the bottom, we walked through a wet field where the water was so deep I sank in mud up past my calves. The grass was nearly as high as my chest!
We began yet another uphill. This hill made me lose my cool. There was an old logging road switching back the whole way up, yet whoever built the trail decided to build it straight up the hill, meaning the entire trail pretty much had washed away due to all the rain. You could see where people had slipped and slid, and even animal prints sliding and slipping, all the way up. WHY NOT JUST USE THE OLD ROAD?! Ugh. Covered in mud at the top of the hill, the trail now WAS following the old logging road next to some private land and barbed wire fences. This guy really doesn't want people on his land! After some more mud, we came down into the Cheningo Day Use area - which doesn't look like it has been used yet this year.
From here, we chose to road walk up Cortland Two Road due to Cheningo Creek being so high and it recommending to do this for eastbound hikers if the creek is high. We walked pretty steeply uphill before coming to the pond where the trail went back into the muddy woods. We climbed another hill before finally coming down to Telephone Road. From here, we could either climb a mountain described as "brambles get thicker", or we could get a ride into McGraw and go home. Since the trail from here would have been a road walk nearly all the way to Hoxie Gorge, we chose to hitch. I threw up my thumb and we surprisingly got a ride pretty quickly from a guy from Delaware. He grew up in the area and said he used to hitch around here all the time. We were incredibly grateful for the ride since the sun had come out and it was noon.
We stopped into Malarkey's Pub and Grub in McGraw and made a few phone calls to arrange our ride home to Syracuse. Daryle and Jenny came and picked us up and brought us back home. They really helped us out yet again and we are SO THANKFUL for them! We really needed some time away from the trail and I'm ready to enjoy a weekend with (hopefully) dry feet.
We got another early start from Bucks Brook, mostly because we knew it was going to rain and we needed to get into DeRuyter for our resupply. We had lots and lots of muddy walking this morning, through fields and private land, but it was mostly level without too much in the way of steep hills this morning. Early on, we passed the Link Trail. This is the trail system designed to connect the Adirondacks and the North Country Trail to the FLT. It also runs up to the Erie Canal system. We joked that we could just walk to the Erie Canal and walk home that way! After crossing the first road, we began to get rained on again. We didn't mind much as this now seems to be the norm for us! We walked through more mud and slop for a while, up and down some rolling Central NY hills, before finally coming to the road we could walk to get into DeRuyter to pick up our resupply box.
We tried to hitch the entire time we were walking, but had absolutely no luck. We were lucky, however, to get into DeRuyter 10 minutes before the post office closed for lunch! At least we had that luck on our side! We repacked our food bags and got out the new maps before we realized we honestly didn't even need the resupply because with all the road walking we would be doing the next few days we would be home in less than 2, instead of the full three we had planned. Somehow, now NoKey had six days' worth of food! Yikes!
We stopped at Sal's Pizzeria on the way out of town - NoKey got two slices and I got a pepperoni roll. Sal said we could recharge our phones while we ate, so we did. We hiked back out of town, again trying to hitch back to no avail. From here, we had a hot, but thankfully not sunny, road walk pretty much to near where we were camping for the night. We passed an Elk Farm and had pretty much no traffic the entire time, so that was nice. When we finally reached the top of Cuyler Hill Road to turn back into the woods, we took a break and checked our phones. I had a message from the President of the FLTC apologizing for the rude behavior I experienced a week ago when I called the office for help on map 28. I really appreciated him following up with me, even though I wasn't the person who called! Donna, the kind woman who called me back when we were out of Downsville, had called and lodged a complaint on my behalf for being treated so poorly by the office worker on the phone. He assured me they were taking steps to make sure this would never happen again and encouraged us to give him a call when we got into his part of the trail. Thank you, Pat!
From here, we climbed up to our first 2000 foot hill we've seen in a while before coming downhill for a few miles into our campsite at Wiltsey Glen. With all the rain, the whole area was pretty washed out again, but our campsite was pretty dry with the leaf and pine needle coverage. We set up camp at 6 p.m. and were shocked that we had done nearly 25 miles for the day with all the road walking to our box in DeRuyter. Even though road walking is hard on us, it does get you pretty far pretty quickly! Tomorrow we are hoping to get into McGraw, NY and find a way to get home for the weekend. I've lost a lot of motivation, probably due to the weather, and am ready to get home and take a break.
We got another decently early start, but not as early as 46er! He was headed out trying to make good miles to get into Bainbridge. He was up nearly before the sun came out! We headed out and did some more fairly level and easy walking for most of the morning. The trails are still incredibly wet and flooded in many parts, but the humidity was gone and the sky was blue today. The thing about it finally NOT raining is that the mosquitos are crazy thick today! They were even thicker when we hit our first road walk.
We got back into the woods and had some fairly uneventful walking. We had slathered ourselves with picaridin to keep the bugs away and eventually walked through a CCC camp and across an old dam before slathering up again. We did a lot more walking through mixes of pine forest and boggy mess before coming to the side trail for the lean-to where we planned to eat lunch. As we headed in we ran into the caretaker for the place and talked to him for a while before taking our break.
From here, we did some steep downhill near a creek with beautiful waterfalls before coming back uphill and through more state forest. This time, the forest was being actively logged and was pretty loud and messy. We hopped off trail and did some road walking until we got away from it and then headed down to the Otselic River. From here it was more up and down before we finally made it to our campsite for the night on Bucks Brook. This looks like the area used to have bigger sites and probably was a side trail (evidence of old signage and colored blazes.) The area is pretty washed out and buggy now though. We set up our tent and cooked dinners. We hungrily ate and climbed in early - 6 pm! It's nice to be away from the mosquitos.
We woke up early again to have breakfast with our hosts before heading back to the trail. We ended up going to a diner with them before being dropped off back at Stone Quarry Hill Road, stuffing ourselves on eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon. We cannot thank the two of them enough for all their hospitality! I really hope we can repay them one day.
We started our hike this morning with a field walk and then a beautiful walk in to a lean-to. It obviously gets a lot of traffic but was clean enough. We did some more walking that was mostly flat through pine forests before coming to a combination trail/snowmobile trail. The trail became steeper downhill and, just as we got to the open part of the road, we were hit with a downpour! We always seem to time our road walks with either heavy rain or blinding sun! Ha! We walked for about 1.5 miles on this open road before turning back to the woods just as the rain stopped.
We reached Bowman Lake State Park and had planned on taking a hot shower here, but we were already soaked so we just sat under the overhang at the shower house, drying out with the hot hand dryers. The state park was completely empty. The snack bar still wasn't open for the summer and the rainy skies probably didn't make for many people looking to go swimming! We began walking uphill through mushy ground and bogs. All the rain has really made for nasty trails - ankle deep mud and stream crossings where the bridges begin in the middle of the stream because the banks have been breached! At least we have water.
Toward the highest point of the day, an old fire tower, we began a road walk and the sun came out. When we reached a paved road we noticed it was only 1 mile from our trail junction down to a restaurant/bar so we headed down to the Balsam Inn for 1.50 beers, chicken wings, and a cheesesteak with fries! We even got a free bowl of popcorn so I consider it time well spent! We walked back up to the trail feeling full and happy.
When we made it back into the woods it wasn't far to the lean-to we planned on crashing in for the night. As we came around the bend and we're looking for the trail up we hear someone yelling "Sprinkles & NoKey?!" It was 46-er, the hiker who helped me out by sending me a spreadsheet with the real mileage and better landmarks for the FLT. He is near the end of his thru hike and we were happy to run into him. It was also very nice to camp with someone too! We talked trail conditions and gear, as well as other hikes we have done. We had a wonderful night getting to meet him!
I also want to take time to mention this AMAZING shelter. An open air privy (with "in use" traffic cone), rocking chair, benches, a picnic table, water feature, and memorial bench for Ed Sidote - Mr. Finger Lakes Trail. This shelter is obviously the pride and joy of the caretaker, who keeps it stocked with firewood and clean drinking water. He even provided a map with the nearest cell phone coverage. Thank you to the Bullthistle Hiking Club!
We got up really early to have breakfast with Steve and Deb, coffee with home fries and fresh cheese. We sat with Steve until around 8, when the post office opened, grabbed our resupply and headed out of town. Some people driving by stopped us to talk as they were from the Yellow Deli - a hostel system with two AT hostels. We headed down the trail from here, road walking out of town. We had a lot of road walking to do today and we got rained on pretty much every time we stepped onto the road this morning. We also missed where the trail went back through a field and ended up doing much longer road walk than anticipated! It was still very pretty as we were walking uphill through a rural neighborhood with lots of field.
We alternated woods and road walking several times and took a high water bypass in the early afternoon. As soon as we were walking on the road I saw a bear go darting across the street. We saw a bag of garbage on the other side of the road and guessed we interrupted his meal. We did a whole lot of road walking from this point before heading back into a sopping wet field and a nasty wet and flooded trail. It was supposed to be scenic waterfalls but it was honestly just a mess. We did some more road walking and decided to check cell phone coverage before heading on.
I had a message from a blog follower saying she could help us out if we were having a tough time finding a place to camp. Since we were on mostly private land and had already done 17.5 miles (2:30 pm), we decided to shoot her a message. She offered to let us stay at her house in their camper and we agreed to meet her at 6 pm at a road crossing. This gave us the energy we needed to do some more uphill pasture walking before coming to a microwave tower (seriously, what are these things?!) and then doing yet another long road walk in the afternoon sun.
Amy, along with her kids, picked us up with cold Gatorade and water waiting. She drove us back to her place and introduced us to her husband who welcomed us with open arms. They fed us dinner, let us shower, did our laundry, and even gave us beer and ice cream until we thought we would explode. We talked about some of our past adventures and showed Amy our gear to help her prep for some upcoming hikes. It was an amazing end to a 22-mile day.
We hit our 100 mile mark sometime this morning! We woke up early, but we wanted ice cream so we couldn't leave until 9 am. We left the shelter and headed uphill through a beautiful spruce forest, weaving in and out of hardwoods and spruce for most of the morning. We walked down into the small and pretty China Gorge, only to climb back out and down to Schear Road to our first stop of the day. Our map said County Cream (aka The Penguin) was a must stop, so we added nearly a mile to our hike to walk down to it. We filled up on chicken tenders, onion rings, French fries, and ice cream. They have the coolest machine that makes nearly 151,000 combinations of ice cream!
After this, we had a full and pretty uneventful walk into Masonville, where two very hot and dehydrated hikers stopped at the General Store for cold drinks. Inside we found more of a food co-op than average general store! It was amazingly refreshing to get natural drinks and sit out of the heat for a few minutes before heading down the long road walk to Bainbridge. Thank you to Kendal, the owner, for letting us sit and talk for a few minutes before heading down the road!
We met a nice couple, Steve and Deb, who said we could stay with them in an extra apartment they owned in Bainbridge while we were there. We started the hot road walk and got picked up quickly by a guy named Nate who asked us if we wanted a ride. Since we were already sunburned and dehydrated we accepted, and he dropped us at the Bainbridge Laundromat. We did laundry and grabbed a bite to eat at Jerry's Inn across the street before setting up for the night with Steve and Deb. We are so thankful to be inside as the recent stomfront moving across the country is pouring rain down on NY yet again. They are calling for rain all night and most of the week. Tomorrow we head west yet again!
We started out the day in a drizzle, but by the time we got about 2 miles in the rain stopped and the skies started to clear. We started this hike on private property and walked back into NYC land. We hit an old road bed and really started making good time before the stinging nettles got high and we had to start bushwhacking through them for a short stretch. We both got pretty cut up, but by the time we reached Loomis Brook the sky had turned blue and we crossed the slick and swift stream to the road.
We had a beautiful view of the Cannonsville Reservoir again. Jim and Monica told us last night that five towns were flooded to create this one in the 1960s. It's a really sad subject for a lot of the locals here and the city buys up every single piece of property they can to make more reservoir.
From here, we went back uphill to our first lean to in several days... To our surprise we saw walkable trails and a very nice place! This is where our hike is changing again. The trail from here all the way to Cold Spring Lean to was beautiful - big bridges over the mud, bridges over the streams, paths cut into the high grass, switchbacks... This is the first time since we started a week ago we have seen maintenance like this since we were on Slide Mountain in the Catskills. We had walkable trail and made it to our stopping point very early in the afternoon. After yesterday's 21 miles an easy day sounded great. We will have a few easy days coming up now if the terrain stays great like this.
I even had time to do yoga tonight in the shelter before dinner!!
Super adventure day! So today was the big day- we had a huge mileage day to make it out of Downsville and off DEP land. We didn't have a set plan, but we had a few idea as to what we could do to get off the NYC owned land.
We began with a road walk out of Downsville before turning up an old logging road and beginning walking uphill. The road got rough and muddy, but since it was an active logging site the road was walkable. After a few miles the trail turned to go downhill and became a DEC horse trail. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to get much use and had become quite overgrown with a few very large blowdowns. We reached the bottom and walked through a big field to a snowmobile trail bridge and a small waterfall on East Trout Brook. We now had another big climb along snowmobile trails before coming to another road before lunch.
We were making fast and easy miles and had already done 12 miles before noon. From here it was easy walking to a cell phone tower before a steep downhill section and a long road walk. The bad thing about the road walking? It was midday by this point, so the midday sun was blazing and we were very hot. By the time we got down Houck Mountain Road to Beers Brook it was about 2:30 and we both had minor sunburns. The road was scenic though and we got a few breezes.
Since we could hear gunshots in the distance, we were supposed to walk the road instead of the trail - the DEP trains on this part of the trail. We road walked on Route 10 and turned up Rainbow Lodge Rd to go the 1.1 miles to Rainbow Lodge. Ellen, a waitress, stopped and asked if we wanted a ride up the road. She was going to the same place so we hopped in and arrived at Rainbow Lodge around 4 pm to delicious food and VERY cold beers. We met the staff and some friendly locals and talked trails with them. We tried to figure out our next move and NoKey was showing someone at the bar on our map where we were trying to go. It turns out the couple sitting next to that person owned the land we were aiming for and offered to let us camp at their property!
We left with them and went with them to their property, which was adjacent to the DEP land where camping is illegal. Severe thunderstorms were forecasted and the couple who owned the land offered to let us stay inside one of their houses instead. This was an incredibly generous offer and we were just floored at how our luck had changed. We walked nearly 21 miles before 4 pm today and were so tired. We had planned on stealthing and setting up after dark. All we wanted was to take off our shoes and instead we got hot showers and a roof over our heads. Thank you so much to the Tarantino's for letting us stay on their property. This incredibly generous act changed our night for the better and we really appreciated it!
We woke up early, around 6:15, and decided that a zero day was in order. After having wet feet for four days and both of us in new shoes our feet have taken a pounding and we both had some pretty bad looking feet. We made a great decision because we ran into a big problem. We picked up our drop at the post office at 9 am after a huge breakfast at the Downsville Diner. We hit the market next door for some zero day provisions and then headed back to the hotel for some relaxation.
We sat down and sorted our box and I started making a game plan for tomorrow's hike. Here is where I hit the snag. If you're heading west out of Downsville there is a horse camp about 5 miles outside town. The map goes on for 12 miles to the next map, which is 25.2 miles. The only campsite for 35 miles is the one just outside of town. The entire map that is 25.2 miles is all land owned by New York City. There is absolutely no camping and they have their own environmental police to bust you for camping (the DEP). Their headquarters is also at the start of this 25.2 mile map. Now we have to figure out where to go. I called a car spotter and he recommended I call a place. That place recommended I drive 11 miles to a campground and didn't quite understand I was on foot and driving isn't possible. I called the Finger Lakes Trail Conference for an idea of what to do next.
The FLTC office turned out to be a dead end and a pretty bad experience. In fact, the woman who answered the phone, when I asked what they tell thru hikers to do in this long section, told me I should have planned weeks in advance and lined up my shuttles to hotels. I asked her if there was a town between Downsville and Bainbridge that I maybe couldn't see on their maps and she told me no in a very firm tone. She told me she couldn't help me and hung up. I was shocked at the treatment I received from the FLTC and I'm really upset that I called asking for help planning our day and they flat out told me they couldn't help me. We again walked back to the hotel.
We decided to blow off steam by taking some kayaks out onto the river. The Downsville Motel is right in the East Branch of the Delaware River and we took some kayaks out on the very small stream coming from the NYC-owned reservoir where you're actually allowed to boat. We had a beautiful view of the covered bridge and even saw a bald eagle flying around. It was a great way to end our long and frustrating day.
I won't tell you guys where or what we'll be doing tomorrow. I will say that this trail, so far, hasn't been the norm for us. We normally run into people who are full of information and very helpful. We've been lost, soaking wet, and now told to fend for ourselves. After nearly 3000 long-distance hiking miles to say we finally have hit a big snag is pretty impressive. I would like to say thank you to the people we talked to today who DID take the time to help us out on the phone - Richard, Tina, and Jim. Thank you! And also a big thanks goes out to Al and his employee at the sports shop/motel who sat down with us and looked at the map and tried to help out.
We made it through the the whole night and woke up to a morning WITHOUT rain! Blue skies awaited us and we got a pretty early start. We began with an immediate steep climb up to Beech Hill, and this climb didn't mess around! We went straight up to the top and walked through rock formations and stinging nettles that were thigh high. Even with my knee length gaiters I still got nailed.
We made it up to Beech Hill and were treated to an amazing view of Little Pond, which is fed by Big Pond, where we camped last night. We had a flat, albeit muddy, section of hiking before ascending steeply, through more rock formations to the top of Middle Mountain, before coming straight down the hill to Mary Smith Road. This parking area was great because there was a bench! A bench is a huge deal to a hiker! We took a short lunch break here to wring out our wet socks before beginning another steep climb.
We once again had an incredibly steep climb up to Mary Smith Hill, which I think could be changed to mountain because this thing was steeper than the last one! We climbed through more rock formations in stinging nettles up to our thighs (noticing a theme yet), only this time we both took a spill or two landing hands first in the nettles too! The steepest section of the entire Finger Lakes Trail (according to our map) was coming down this trail to the next road crossing. It was no joke and it took us longer to get down it (through rock formations and thigh-high nettles) before coming down to Holiday Brook Road. From here, we had a road walk into the town of Downsville, where there was a motel and food!
The road walk was long, but we walked along the Pepacton Reservoir, which is where the town of Pepacton used to be before New York Coty decided they needed the water from the Delaware River more than these people needed a town. The reservoir is HUGE and had lots and lots of "no trespassing" signs since it is the NYC public water supply. This reservoir was beautiful and incredibly clean.
We made it to Downsville at 5 pm and checked in to the Downsville Motel, taking showers and then walking the FLT over the historic covered bridge and down into town to have nearly 1-lb hamburgers at the SchoolHouse Inn, a restaurant that used to be a schoolhouse, built in 1908. We stopped by the fire station, the only place in town with a cell phone signal, to make some texts before heading back to the motel to crash for the night.
It poured down rain in buckets for most of the night, so we were incredibly grateful for the shelter! Another late start waiting for the rain to clear, but it wasn't too bad since we had time and space to dry out our soaked tent in the shelter. We began our day with a wet hike, both of us wearing gaiters since the trail description warned of stinging nettles and briars. The trail was incredibly wet and we even ended up fording a stream by accident looking for the trail - this trail is not well-marked for westbound hikers! After seeing some beautiful small cascades on Beaverkill Creek and walking some old roadbed we came to our first trailhead, which indicated our big climb of the day.
The trail started out fairly gradual but then took a turn straight up the mountain to the highest point on the Finger Lakes Trail - Balsam Lake Mountain, at just over 3500 feet. We didn't go up to the fire tower because it was heavily overcast and we just wanted to get the next 3.9 miles done and hopefully avoid the rain. This section of trail had lots of new growth so the small trees were very thick. Thankfully it was free growth and not a lot of briars like the BMT was. Just as we were about to reach the high point of the ridge again, the sky turned very dark and a thunderstorm rolled in. We met a large group of young guys who said the shelter wasn't close, and we all ran down the mountain in the coldest rain I've experienced in a long time!
About 30 minutes of rain was followed by a short period of sunshine, just in time for us to get to the shelter for our lunch break. We were freezing cold, but we discovered that it was only 2 pm so we were pretty happy about that as we still had about 4.5 miles left to hike and it felt much later. We had some fairly flat walking to Alder Lake and then is when it got bad.
Remember when I mentioned this trail isn't well-marked for westbound hikers? Well, we made an epic mistake. See, our guide is only written eastbound and uses words like right and left, so you always have to read a word and think opposite. We had a short road walk from Alder Lake to our next trailhead and we saw a split in the road with a red disc marker (the trail we were following). Our trail went up and this red marker went up, so we did too. HUGE MISTAKE. I started feeling like something was wrong. I got out the compass and discovered we were going northeast and we are clearly westbound hikers! The road we were on turned west so we kept going. Then we started going downhill very steeply. I stopped. We were definitely going the wrong way!
After I had a mini meltdown and cried a little we had to backtrack. We had easily walked 2.5 miles in the wrong direction, but we kept thinking we were okay because the guidebook was pretty vague : see large rocks on your left, see stone wall on the right. After we backtracked we had lost nearly 3 hours and it was 6 pm. We decided to just go back and camp at Alder Lake and see if those kids who got caught in the rain with us were still there.
This is when we met Richard and Amy. They were just out for a drive and killing time. I told them I'd give them some gas money if they would drive us to the campsite we were supposed to be at and they said no problem. They saved our day in a huge way since we were going to have to do huge miles to make it to our Dropbox after my mistake. We got set up at Big Pond campground and the rain moved in AGAIN while I was filling our water. We ate quickly and jumped in the tent for a late bedtime. Tomorrow we have some big miles to pull if we are going to make it to our drop in Downsville on Thursday. We are an entire day behind schedule due to having such a hard time getting to the trail on our first day and the rain.
Thanks again Amy and Richard for getting us to our trailhead! Always follow your compass, hikers! If something feels wrong, don't keep hiking!
Getting to the trail was definitely an adventure today! NoKey's dad had to work this weekend so our ride to the trail fell through. After getting a friend (thank you, Darryle!) to drive us to Ithaca, we took the bus to Binghamton and then to Monticello, where we got lucky and got a taxi. Lucky is the word I use because we met Rock- he's a hiker and he knew where we needed to go ... Well, sort of! We got us to the YMCA in Frost Valley, which I just assumed would be a building but no! It was an enormous camp encompassing the entire valley, which is on both sides of the mountain range in the middle. In the end we got to the Slide Mountain trailhead, but not the RIGHT Slide Mountain Trailhead. Instead of a 1 mile up and back, we had 4 miles one way to the FLT eastern terminus. We dubbed it bonus miles and walked it happily.
From here, it was 1 mile to the parking lot where we started our very long road walk. We walked about 2 more miles before coming to the only campsite we could legally use, so we gladly stopped since it was already 5:30. We built a campfire and had small dinners before calling it a night.