Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trail Angels and...Hikers of the FLT!

Joe Daley of Ithaca, New York
Over the last week and a half, I have crossed paths with only a handful of folks, but each and every one has been quality - among them trail runners, long-distance hikers, landowners, and even trail angels.

Joe Daley was the first other trail user I met. I had hiked just 5 miles outside of Ellicottville and was camped at a designated site that looked like it hadn't been used in a loooonnng  you can imagine my surprise when Joe came running full speed through the trees as I sat at the grown-over fire ring cooking my dinner on my lil alcohol stove. I just about leaped out of my skin! Turns out Joe has been running the Finger Lakes Trail for 10 years and after realizing just how much he had done, decided he may as well make a point to complete it! Over the last month he has been running 2-3 days a week, about 10 miles each day....and I was the first person he had seen as well. It was so nice to meet you, Joe. I'll be sure to connect with you in Ithaca!

Laura's Ellicottville Country Store and Diner at the intersection of Route 240 and 242
When I found myself suddenly walking miles of road due to a reroute on the trail I had the pleasure of walking right by this country store located at the intersection of 240 and 242 just outside of Ellicottville. Laura, owner of the Ellicottville Country Store and Diner offered me water and place to sit while I'll took a short break. Her store is a collection of handmade crafts, antiques, and delicious treats. Attached to the store is a diner, open Thursday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch that regularly receives a full house. Thank you Laura! And when my next book comes out you can expect to find it here!

I experienced good fortune again when losing track of the trail off of Warner Gulf Road, and after walking several miles up a trail that proved not to be the Conservation Trail, I walked for another mile and half by road to arrive in the center of the town of Holland. It was pouring rain and I dashed into the local pharmacy for assistance with my directions and again, some water. I never got the name of the nice girl who worked behind the counter there but she never batted an eye at my bedraggled self and was helpful as could be...thank you awesome pharmacy person!

In this same town, a nice man named Chad who worked for the town pulled over and offered me a ride one mile up the hill to the next access point on Vermont Road. It was still raining and I was exhausted. Thank you, Chad!

Just some days ago, I ended up going longer mileage than expected due to poor water along the roads that I had thought I would depend upon for hauling to camp. At 7:00pm and 17 miles for the day, when faced with going another 2 miles to a possible water source, Tim on Bear Road came through with filling up my water bottles and friendly conversation. Thank you, Tim!

Shepherd, Star Left, and Mike

And....on this same day that Tim graciously assisted me with fresh water, I met Sheperd near dusk hiking the opposite direction along the Conservation Trail. I was hiking quickly to beat the setting sun, thinking only of where to get my next H20 and lay my tent for the night when Shepherd emerged from the brush and declared, "So there is someone else hiking this trail," in quiet awe. "Well, my God, there is." I answered. We spoke only briefly as the mosquitoes had found us and we both had miles to do but in that short time he told me of he and his partner's, Star Left, mission and of a man named Mike who lived on Bailey Road who, by random meeting, was hosting them for the night. He said that he was sure Mike would be happy to have me too and they were as eager to talk to another hiker as I was.

Shepherd and Star Left are hiking, in one continuous trek, from Niagara Falls to the Gulf of Mexico by linking the Conservation Trail to the Finger Lakes Trail to the Crystal Hills Branch to the Great Eastern Trail, and then by Shepherd's path that he has traced himself by smaller trails and connecting roads. They expect to be to their destination by November.

Unfortunately, I did not make it to Bailey Road that night and thought perhaps I had missed my one and only chance to chat with my fellow thru-hiker peeps. But the next morning as I was just a few steps into my hike for the day I met Star Left who was out doing her miles for the day. We talked excitedly and she decided she'd turn around and walk back to Mike's on Bailey Road with me so that we could all compare notes.

The gourmet meal cooked up by Mike - pancakes with fresh bananas, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, cheese, and Field Garlic (Allium vineale), and grapefruit.
Compare notes we did, but that was not all that went down. Mike was incredibly gracious and cooked up this incredible meal you see above on just one burner in a small trailer that he's calling home while he renovates his childhood home on the same land. We shared the space with chickens and kittens and a goat and dined outside at a makeshift table using what we could find about the property. We ate and chatted and laughed and swapped stories and honestly the whole experience was timeless. I could have been anywhere at all and it mattered not. Thank you Mike for sharing your space and your food and your company. Thank you Shepherd and Star Left for your company and pointers and for bringing me to Mike's and hopefully I will see you further down the Finger Lakes Trail!