Monday, June 8, 2015

Little Rock City

Trail  through the rock maze Little Rock City State Forest
The past 3 days have been a mix of every kind of terrain imaginable. I've walked easy goin' country roads passing front-yard farms and horse pastures, huffed and puffed up steep seemingly endless forest roads, and slogged through muddy trail and 12 inch deep muddy logging paths.

Trail along an active logging road
And these are just the roads! About which I'd like to make a quick note - I was curious if the northerners living around the FLT would be as willing and open towards a stranger as the southerners were along the MST - this is no knock against the northerners, I express this concern from my own personal experience and northern perspective, we do tend to be a little more leery. the first five miles of my roadwalk 2 days ago, I had 2 cars pull over and offer me help, food, water, and even a cold beer, not to mention a lady holler from her front porch to me, "Have a good day!" If these folks are any indication, I'd say I should be well received in these lil New York towns...ya know...maybe we aren't all that different after all. Well, except for maybe our dogs - they all seemed to be leashed.

Trail through a tornado devastated area-this area was thick with trees except for a wide grassy corridor in this saddle

I've climbed steep leafy trails, and descended through thick woods with barely a path beneath me and only blazes marking the way, strolled through open fields and forests of tall Hemlock and Spruce over soft beds of needles.

Oh and over gas pipelines, and ski slopes, across railroad tracks and past cell towers.

Railroad through the tiny town of Salamanca

But Little Rock City was by far the highlight. I hiked for a long ways along dirt forest road through the park, catching glimpses of what was to come by the seemingly random giant boulders that sat shrouded in the woods by tall trees, ferns, and blackberry brambles. But after a long uphill climb I reached this enchanted place.

Entrance to the rock maze of Little Rock City State Forest
Here the trail wound me through a literal maze of boulders the size of two-story houses. The corridors therein trapped cool moist air and smelled of moss and dirt and stone. At my feet were bright green mosses, large Trillium (Trillium) leaves (the flowers already past), Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana), Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), and Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum).

Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum)

 Atop these giant rocks were forests as well, where these same mosses and wildflowers had made their home as well as Yellow Birch Trees (Betula alleghaniensis) that had found just enough soil to survive as saplings and then when they needed more nutrients inched their roots down the rock faces to the earth below.
Roots of Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

And Ferns. All around me, above, below, beside me - Christmas Fern (Polystitcum arostichoides), Common Polypody (Polypodium virginianum), Sensitive Fern(Onoclea sensibis), New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), and perhaps more.

Reproductive spores on a Common Polypody (Polypodium virginianum)
I awoke to heavy rain this morning where I was camped at an old Civil Conservation Corps campsite in the state forest...lucky for me it was a town day. Even better...a town with a hotel. It is predicted to rain throughout the night and tomorrow morning, so I am happily staying the night in Ellicotville. I also have a whole lot of prep to do as I am branching off and following the Conservation Trail tomorrow or the next day (haven't decided on mileage yet). This trail has less resupply and trickier camping....but I say it's worth it to see Niagara Falls!