Sunday, July 26, 2015

Onondaga and Onward

Me at the southern terminus of the Onondaga Trail - excited to start my final branch trail along the FLT
And now, the Onondaga Branch Trail. I absolutely adored this trail. This branch trail was everything that I envisioned the Finger Lakes Trail to be when I had been conjuring images in my mind, and all packed into a mere 40 miles. I hiked for miles on pristine trail that wound through pure pine woods and rich mixed hardwood forests. I climbed up and down, over and over and over again, atop rolling hills and through shallow valleys. The woods were healthy, abundant with Lycopodium, Mitchella, Eastern Hemlock, Pale and Spotted Jewelweed, flowering Wood Nettle and Bee Balm, golden Agrimony stalks, and even Goldenrod with beginning buds. Oh and Christmas fern, New York Fern, Interrupted Fern, Bracken Fern, and the list goes on. I passed ponds with burping frogs and tall Cat Tails and meadows filled with electric hum of cicadas. Magical.

View from Labrador Unique Area jump-off point (I can only assume for hang gliders? Yikes!)

Looking across one of the Onondaga many ponds
One of the many falls inside Hoxie Gorge State Park

In my travels, I had the incredible fate of meeting up with Tessa Careaga. She was a trail angel in every sense of the word. Despite all this beauty, I was suffering from two days of intense heat. My calves ached, my stomach turned, my feet raw, and every article of clothing I owned drenched in sweat and covered in dirt. Hell, I was covered in sweat and dirt…and exhausted. When I called her from the Skyline Visitor’s Center, where a wedding was in full swing and I had been reduced to such hiker desperation to start scheming by the glow of a nearby soda machine how to score a plate of food from the reception area, she suggested instead of just a shuttle from the Onondaga terminus, I come home with her for the night. She lived just a couple of miles away and on DeRuyter Lake. I threw back the rest of my soda, vanquished my hungry hiker plot, and got to hiking toward Tessa.

Me and Tessa Careaga, a trail angel indeed!
That night we enjoyed our own banquet of fresh grilled vegetables, giant bowls of salad, corn on the cob and Lake Saranac microbrews, all with a view of the lake. I was in hiker heaven. Not to mention a shower, laundry and all that good, good stuff. The next day, Tessa slackpacked me my last 10 miles and then we headed into Cazenovia for lunch and resupply. We zipped around town doing this and that and managed to get it all done in one afternoon and me back to the main FLT junction outside of Cuyler by 5pm with just 5 miles to hike to the Paradise Lean-to. Incredible.

Thank you Tessa, your generosity was such a gift and kept this hiker hiking!

The next day I planned to trek 20 miles to the Perkins Pond Lean-to. However…some more interesting things came up. In the morning I had the pleasure of chatting with Yahoo’s GrindTV reporter, Rob Pursell all the way out in California. He was full of good questions and it was fun to fill him in on the journey while on trail. Here’s a link to that article:

I had also received an email from a blog reader, Char Revette who lives on Paradise Hill. She had invited me over for tea given that I was just a couple miles away. Well tea with a fellow FLT fan sounded better than pounding out the miles on this already late morning. So to Char’s house I went and arrived just in time for more than tea, but lunch! We dined on quinoa and veggie stew, fresh veggies and dip, fresh fruit and chips and black bean salsa. What a treat. I also had the pleasure of meeting Char’s daughter-in-law, Tracy, and 2 grandchildren, Oliver and Reagan. Char is a lifetime member of the FLT and regularly walks the trail, as well as a forager. Thank you for the pleasant stop along the trail – you and your family were wonderful company and your home is beautiful.

Me and Char Revette outside her home on Paradise Hill
Leaving Char’s home I was soon in the Bull Thistle Club’s neighborhood. The trail through here is beautifully maintained and a dream to hike given that from what I’ve seen so far it’s climbs are easy and its woods are filled with miles of rock walls, pines of every kind, and a number of old growth trees that the farmers spared. In the last two days I have met a number of these hard-workin’ maintainers, evident by the register entries I saw at nearly every register stop.

John Carhart hard at work along the main FLT
The first was John Carhart. The moment I stepped on this trail I knew I was on someone’s beloved section of trail. I followed the fat laid stones, cut logs and twigs, and even bark shavings that had been laid atop the muddy shallow spots in the trail until I rounded the bend and met John carrying a 5-gallon bucket of tools. We chatted and I told him I was headed for the Pharsalia Shelter. Although I had already been in communication with Donna Coon, head of the Bull Thistle Hiking Club, John helped to pass the word along that I was officially on their section of trail and where I’d be for the night.

Thank you, John for all that you do….now if we could just get you to lay those logs and rocks the length of the trail that would be splendid! And Donna, although we never had a chance to meet we certainly got to know each other through our multiple phonecalls back and forth. Thank you for being there!

Sharon, Art, and dog Ted at the Pharsalia Woods Lean-to
I spent the night at this lovely newly built shelter, enjoying the handmade rocking chair and small tables inside on which to place my odds and ends rather than in a pile on the floor, and fell asleep to the thwat! and thud! of freshly shaved pine cones that the squirrels dropped from the tree-tops high above once done with their evening snack. And in the morning, I awoke to Art, Sharon, and dog, Ted bearing their own snacks for me and a greeting. Gatorade, honey roasted peanuts and granola bars were on the menu this morning without my having to even pull my food-bag out of the tree. Art constructed the furniture and benches found at this lean-to and both of them regularly maintain this lovely open space. It was pristine. Thank you Art and Sharon for your welcoming and dedicating your care to this shelter and nearby miles of trail!
The sitting area outside the Parsalia Woods Lean-to
Art's handmade rocking chair and nightstand

Please stay tuned for the next most current blog post full of plant pics and yet more faces of the Finger Lakes Trail!

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