Last week, I worked 6 days. So my weekend was Sunday-Monday. Monday dawned foggy with promise and I decided to take myself on a little hike. OK, a LONG hike. At Allegany State Park.
My companions – canine only.
The hike turned into a wee bit of an adventure with being “lost” a part of the bargain. I didn’t have a solid plan as I started out. I knew I wanted to hike to the Willis Creek Lean-to. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure if I would just hike back out again and go to some other part of the park – maybe Thunder Rocks… I had the whole day to myself and no one but the dogs to answer to, so it didn’t matter what I did!
Golden-crowned kinglets were the first to greet me as I started out.
When I got to the lean-to, I discovered campers. It was 10:30 and they didn’t appear to be awake yet. Hmm… I ate a snack by the creek and pulled out my most wonderful topo map of the park. (You can buy yours by clicking here.)
I had forgotten that the Finger Lakes / North Country Trail meets up with the Park’s fire tower trail. I decided to hike to the intersection, then back to my car along the Park trail and then back up Coon Run Road. Perfect!
Now, hiking in Autumn can be rather challenging. Especially on a sunny day. First, the trail disappears under a thick blanket of leaves:
And second, the sun is either in your eyes so you miss the trail markers completely, or it is making strange patterns on the trees that you easily mistake for trail markers! The FLT/NCT blazes are white.
I am a grateful member of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and the North Country Trail Association because I appreciate the work they do to keep the trails open and well marked. The white blazes on the trails at Allegany State Park that are maintained by the FLT group are fresh and easy to see and I whisper grateful Thank Yous to the crew every time I hike one.
That being said, I got briefly lost when the trail took a sharp turn. I was distracted by a gorgeous view and incredible fall colors! But thanks to my trusty map, I found the steep climb I was supposed to be taking and when I got to the top, I stopped for lunch… and to take off the long underwear that I needed in the morning, but certainly didn’t any more!
The last leg of the trail should have been easy. Sadly, though, many of the Park trails have fallen victim to state budget cuts. There were so many downed trees and missing trail markers. And when I got to the crossing of Willis Creek, I think I got distracted by an older, abandoned trail – which eventually just ended completely.
I knew if I followed the creek upstream, I’d eventually find the lean-to again and could follow the FLT/NCT back to my car. Unfortunately, this strategy left a bad taste in my mouth! When I got back to the lean-to, the campers were gone… but not their garbage… but that is a rant for another day.
My hike was delightful. I saw deer, grouse, squirrels, a pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, juncos, nuthatches, and chickadees. It was a great day and a great way to celebrate my birthday (a few days early). And such adorable hiking companions.
I don’t know what Terry’s dog is doing this evening, but Lolli is snoring!