Traditions

Apparently Sue’s family used to do this when she was younger:  meet at the pavillion at the Quaker picnic area of Allegany State Park.  Cook up and eat a magnificent breakfast, then head out to hike one of the trails.  Sue revived the tradition and this year celebrated the third Annual Allegany Breakfast and Hike.  I am pleased to say that I have attended all three and that THIS year, I actually stayed for the hike part.

Concetta

Concetta "manned" one of the Coleman Stoves to fry up the bacon. (Womanned?)

Folks bring dishes to pass, but Coleman stoves are also on hand for cooking.

Sue

Sue scrambles the eggs.

It has traditionally been Matthew’s job to deep fry the donuts.  Since he was late in arriving, the girls took over.

Donut Brigade

The Donut Brigade

I liked them dusted with cinnamon sugar best of all.

Donuts

Donuts! (That's my dutch oven... many delicious things have come out of that over the years!)

Patterson Trail

The Patterson Trail

I didn’t manage to snap a shot of the table, laden with food, and surrounded by people having a blast.  I guess I was too busy eating bacon, eggs, donuts, two kinds of apple crisp, and blueberry buckle and washing it all down with orange juice and coffee… which is why I really NEEDED the after-breakfast hike.

We drove through to the Red House side of the park, left 2 vehicles at the Bova ski area, and all piled into one vehicle to drive up to the Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski area so that we could hike the Patterson trail from top to bottom.  My daughter has skiied that section in winter, but I never have.  It is a gentle, easy descent and I think I might want to try it one of these winters!  (I’m intrigued by Snowsnake Run… but I think I’ll come back and do that in Autumn and not try this “most difficult” trail on skis!)

I’m sure the trail has its own winter beauty, but I can’t imagine the trail being any more beautiful than it was in Autumn.

Short Break

We took a short breather where Snowsnake Run re-joins Patterson.

It was a delightful day… surely to be repeated next year – probably the 3rd Sunday in October at 10am at the Quaker picnic area.  Consider yourself invited.  Bring a dish to pass and/or your Coleman stove, your picnic dishes, and your hiking boots.  See you then!

The Woods

A view from Patterson Trail

The Escape – Part II

SNIT tub

Allegany SNIT Program Mystery

We neared the end of the narrow side trail and could see the wider main trail ahead. There in the branch of a tree was a one gallon plastic tub. Hmm… I wondered if it was a geocache. We took it down to have a peak. You could still just barely see that someone had labeled it “ASP SNIT.” SNIT? It was all in caps, so we assumed it was an acronym.

Inside was a laminated photocopy of a section of the same map we were using with an arrow pointing out “You are here.”

When I got home, I googled “SNIT Allegany State Park” and found that in summer of 2009 there had been a “Senior Naturalist in Training” program in the park (click here for the program PDF). I’m not sure how this tub fit into the program, but, well, there you have it.  Mystery solved.

This picture didn’t turn out well because it was getting darker and darker in the woods:

Black Cherry Fruits

Black Cherry Fruits

Have you noticed that the black cherries this year have been heavy laden with fruit?  Seems like every tree I see is just dripping… and the ground under them covered with shiny little cherries.  The animals are enjoying this, as evidenced by this:

Bear Scat

Bear Scat

There were strange new things along the trail that delighted me:

Strange Fungus

Strange Fungus

This weird fungus was something I had never seen before.  All jelly-like and nearly colorless.  I haven’t tried to find out its name yet.  Do you know?  Here’s a closeup:

Weird Fungus Closeup

Weird Fungus Closeup

A little further on beech tree had lost its top…  And look at the way it forced some greenery out the broken trunk in an effort to keep living:

Beech Tree

A crown of leaves atop a broken Beech.

After completing the Sweetwater trail, we drove over to the Stone Tower for another view of the colorful hills.

Stone Tower

Stone Tower - Allegany State Park

I feel blessed to live so near this beautiful State Park, where a couple of hours of walking can so refresh and relax the soul.

View from the Stone Tower

View from the Stone Tower

-##-

An Escape…

Fire Tower Trail

Fire Tower Trail, Allegany State Park

Sometimes when the world is weighing down heavily on your shoulders, the only thing that helps is a little escape… a chance to walk, explore, breathe crisp Autumn air.  A chance to surround yourself with the familiar, yet be open to the novel.

The Art Roscoe Ski area at Allegany State Park is a wonderful place for cross-country skiing in winter.  Turns out, it is also a wonderful place for hiking when there is no snow.

Fire Tower

Fire Tower at the Art Roscoe Ski Area, Allegany State Park

A side trail runs parallel to the main trail and takes you to a Fire Tower.  I pushed my fear deep down into my boots and climbed the stairs, hoping for a glorious vista from the top.  There were hand rails and the stairs were sturdy.  Still, my heart pounded hard and my breath came in short, shallow fits.

It was indeed worth it!  The view from the top was spectacular and very much justified the climb.

The Allegany “Mountains” are really a big old ocean bed that was carved out over time by melting glacier water and various other forms of erosion.  When you climb up for a view from the top, you can see that all the “peaks” are the same height.

View from the Top

View from the Top

It was helpful to have my hiking buddy in front of me on the descent… much easier looking at his backpack than at the steep stairs that went on and on.  Back on the ground, it took a while before the adrenaline left my muscles and I could relax again… and turn my attention from big sweeping views to the forest’s minutiae.

Moth

A tiny moth kept trying to hide from me under the leaves...

Most of the Sweetwater trail is wide and in winter two trails for skiing are groomed making for fast, easy skiing. Along the way we found a narrower trail that crossed Sweetwater. Always favoring the road less travelled, we took a right hand turn.

Peeling Bark

Loose and peeling bark is back-lit by the Autumn rays.

It was late afternoon and the long, slanting rays of the sun were golden, creating vibrant, colorful mini-landscapes.

Icicle Fungus - Teeth you can Eat

The log we chose to rest on was decorated with a familiar "Icicle Fungus"

A bit further down the trail, there was an opening and the combination of “plant” life was simply delightful… Some I recognized and knew the names of… Others I recognized, but have no names for…  And one brand new!  (I put the word plant in quotes… because back when I studied biology the first time, there were only two kingdoms:  Plants and Animals.  And under that scheme… all these things would have been classified as plants…)

Lichens and Mosses

Lichens and Mosses

The first thing I noticed was a thick carpet of lichens – some 6 or 8 inches tall, punctuated with mosses competing for space.  Tucked in here and there were mushrooms… so bitty it would have been easy to miss them altogether…

Mushroom

A tiny mushroom manages to pop up through the thick mat of moss and lichen.

A little trail nibble was provided by a patch of Wintergreen that was sharing the soil with the others.

Wintergreen

Wintergreen... not the juiciest of berries... but a very pleasant flavor.

Very near the bushy-shrubby type lichens were stalks that resembled small cups on stems, decorated with a bit of red.  I’m not sure if they are a structure of the the shrubby type, or a whole separate species…

Cup Lichen

This seems to match other photos I have found labeled "Lesser Sulpher Cup Lichen."

And then there were the Lycopodium…

Ground Pine

These little "club mosses" or "ground pines" are considered "exploitatively vulnerable" in New York State. They have been over-harvested for wreath-making.

If I have seen the next one before, it was never in such abundance and so easy to investigate… It warrants several pictures…

Running Club Moss

Running Club Moss

Oh dear… this post is getting very long and there is still so much more to tell… I guess I’ll click “publish” and tell you more later…