Friday, June 26, 2015

From the Falls to the Gorge

Niagara Falls 
After 3 long days of slackpacking....oh did I mention my father came to join me at the falls to help me with one of the Conservation Trail's most challenging aspects - finding someplace to sleep during the long road walks...I reached Niagara Falls. It was just as majestic as I had envisioned it to be even with the plethora of people running around snapping selfies. No. I mean it really was grand. Can we really grumble that 1000's of people, from all nations and walks of life, want to come marvel at this natural wonder? I'm just glad this many people still care to see such a spectacle of nature.

However, it was bit like the Niagara Amusement Park with all the attractions that one could participate in or attend. We did almost all of them...and in one marathon afternoon.

We were sure to take a ride upon the Maid of the Mist which literally takes you down to the base of the Falls in all the Niagara River spray, hence the complimentary blue ponchos

My father at Cave of the Winds - I thought this was by far the best of all the attractions. This boardwalk you see is rebuilt every single year and winds around the base of the Falls far more than this photo can show. On this "ride" you not only get a poncho but a pair of sandals as you literally stand in the falls. It felt epic to have those falls splashing down my face.

A view from the base of the Falls - all the little white specks you see are the 20,000 birds that visit the rocky shores of Niagara daily, to the right is a view of the Canadian border 
Another high point of my visit to Niagara was completing the 180 mile Conservation Trail (60 miles of which run along with the main FLT). We were a lil nervous we were going to cross over into Canada on accident and not be able to get back over as there is nothing more than an open gate for a visitor to pass through however, to get back into the States is a whole other story, especially with my not having a passport!

Me at the Canadian border - northern terminus for the Conservation Trail
I like to say a big thank you to my father, trail name House the Cat, for his help in making these last miles on the Conservation Trail fun instead of logistically stressful. Thank you!

I would also like to say thank you to Dick's Bicycle Shop, the Grandfather of Bicycles himself had a new water bladder overnighted to me when my other one got snagged on a blackberry bramble some miles back. And I had just happened to pass by his shop in Tonawanda while on trail one morning.
The Boyce Hill Lean-to - complete with handmade bench and stout fire pit. This is the first fire I have lit on the trail as I am normally too tired at the end of the day. However at this shelter I found a stack of dry kindling and logs piled inside as well as a firestarter, not to mention a can of heavy-duty bug spray and a candle to read by.  A nice return indeed.

After this side-trip adventure, I headed back to the main FLT. Oh sweet main trail. It felt so good to return to my eastwardly direction and the well-maintained, easy to follow trail. I have had the pleasure of staying in a number of lovely lean-to's along my route since such as the one you see above. I've also had the pleasure of staying with and meeting some new awesome and integral figures to the Finger Lakes Trail...
Dick Hubbard and I at the Camp Rd access point on the FLT
Dick Hubbard, executive director of the Finger Lakes Trail, and his wife Mary-Jo were kind enough to invite me into their home for the evening...and during a Father's Day dinner party to boot! The whole fam was incredibly fun and I had the opportunity to talk trail with the man who orchestrates for, strategizes about, and gets his hands dirty maintaining the trail. Dick and I will be setting up some good outlets to spread the word about the trail as well as my upcoming book over the course of the hike. Thank you Dick and family for your hospitality and support!
The day after my stay with Dick I began my journey on my second branch trail of the FLT, the Letchworth Trail. This trail travels 26 miles through Letchworth State Park, coined the Grand Canyon of the East. Irene Szabo, an FLT and North Country Trail volunteer and editor for both newsletters that these conferences issue to members, picked me up at the trail junction and drove me to the northern terminus where I would hike south back to the main trail. Besides shuttling me, Irene and her 15 1/2 year old dog, Sandy, were excellent company and I enjoyed not only trail talk with Irene who has also completed the trail but a walk at the county park with Sandy. Irene has also been helpful via email in answering a good number of my questions regarding the trail. Thank you, Irene!

A view from just one of the many lookouts along the northern portion of the Letchworth Trail

Mount Morris Dam at the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park

The Letchworth Trail follows along the rim of the gorge that is the pathway for the Genesee River, so powerful and wide that for many years, along with heavy rains, caused major flooding downstream. The Mount Morris Dam, built in 1954, now regulates how much water is allowed through at once. The FLT headquarters is located just across the parking lot from the dam as well, so if you come out to Letchworth, be sure to stop in and say hi to Dick and crew. The Letchworth Trail has thus far, been one of my most favorite portions of the trail - to walk alongside this gorge for miles is incredible, and then to duck into the woods for many miles more on pristine trail with more creeks tumbling over flat shale rock than roads to cross, a treat in and of itself.

A view from the front door of Bossard's Cabin - a privately owned hunting cabin (with four walls!) along the trail which the landowner opens up to thru-hikers. It literally abutts a cow pasture, one of which named Dylan, was particularly friendly, reaching over the fence for a lick whenever he had the chance. Thank you for Bossard's Cabin - without the tree canopy, this was first place I was able to see the moon and stars while on this trail!
Now with the Letchworth Trail complete, I am now back on the main FLT at least for a few more days, after which I'll be embarking upon the 54 Bristol Hills Trail. I have been enjoying sunny, yet cool, weather, and gorgeous trail. The mountains and climbs seem to be getting steeper, the terrain rockier bringing with it the piling of rock walls, and the streams clearing rather than running brown, rich with tannins and seems I'm getting closer to the Catskills.

Before I go... I have a few more to which I'd like to express my gratitude...thank you to Greg and Karen Lovejoy who graciously offered me the use of their power outlets at their house up the road when I was denied (for the first time ever) by the owner of convenience store to charge my phone. Thank you also to Gary, a driver for Maplevale Farms, whom I met at the Sierra Inn in Swain, for the friendly conservation, helping me fill my water bottles, and handing off a slice of pizza to me at the end of my long day. And thank you to my fellow thru-hikers, Shepherd and Star Left who have been a true delight to cross paths with every day and who were so incredibly generous as to offer their vehicle this morning for town resupply while they finished their miles. They too are keeping a trail journal of their adventure from Niagara to the Gulf which can be found here: or at Lastly thank you to Wally Wood, first president of the board for the Finger Lakes Trail, for dreaming up this skin-shredding, muscle-building, heart-lifting beautiful trail!

Monument to Wally Wood, first president of the board for the Finger Lakes Trail and to have the idea to build a trail across New York State - this can be found near the Hesse Lean-to. 
With a full hiker belly, I am also happy to share that I have been eating well out here. The wild edibles have been plentiful and I am enjoying not only some of my faves from the Mountains to Sea Trail, but a host of newbies as well. Stay tuned for a post, filled with lots of pics, about wild edible backpacking treats!


  1. Hey heather this is Gary, it was awesome to meet and get to know a little about you.. Safe travels