First Hike of 2014

My first hike of 2014:  Allegany State Park, of course.  We started on Coon Run Road, heading out the Fire Tower Trail.  Somewhere before we reached Willis Creek, we needed coffee and donuts.  Here was the view from our log:

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Once we crossed Willis Creek, we headed upstream, bushwhacking at first… but then finding the trail marked “indistinct or abandoned” on our topo map. Someone has been working on it! It was easy to follow – most of the way. Then either we took a wrong turn, or the maintenance stopped.

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After a bit more bushwhacking, we found the lean to:

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The doggies quickly gobbled down a cup of dog food each. We ate our chili a bit more slowly.

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After conversation about the “State of Emergency” the NYS governor has issued, I wrote the following in the trail register:

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NYS Gov declared a state of emergency. What else to do but hike! Started at Coon Run Rd Fire Tower Trail. Followed Willis Creek up to lean to. Stopped for coffee and donuts along the way. Had chili, apples, oranges and chocolate for lunch. Do we know how to handle an emergency or what? ~ J, T, L, and G

IMG_7853The hike was to continue along the North Country / Finger Lakes Trail back to Coon Run Road. We got a bit of a false start, but eventually found the blazes.  When many trees have tufts of fluffy snow stuck to the bark, a white blaze can be hard to find.

There is a feeling of peace and comfort that I get every time I hike the trails at Allegany – but especially when I’m on a ridge that gives me a view over a valley to another hill beyond.  It’s like I’m in a big cradle or being hugged by huge unseen arms.

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And what is it about shadows on sparkling snow that I feel obliged to photograph?

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I hope this first hike of 2014 is just the beginning of many hikes this year!

Happy New Year!

I Come Alive

I awoke to snow on Tuesday morning and I was (to borrow a phrase from Karen Eckstrom) irrationally happy. I come alive in winter. The air is fresh and crisp – not heavy and humid. I sweat only from exertion, not from merely sitting. There are no bugs pestering my ears and neck. And the world is pure and clean. I decided to get to work early so I could start the day with a walk.

The light changed several times during the walk, the sun peeping out sometimes, then clouds dumping more snow at others. Here are the pictures I took in the order I took them so you can walk with me:

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OK, now get to work!

A Difficult Winter

This winter has been rather challenging for me.  A fall back in December threw my spine out of alignment and that has caused all kinds of aches and pains.  It’s hard for me to follow doctor’s orders to rest and let things heal, especially in winter, my favorite season.  So I still attempt skiing and hiking… but I’m slow and it hurts.

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Squirrel Activity Under the Spruces

Still, my last meander with the dogs through deep snow, once powdery, now sinking into a heavy wetness, while physically challenging, managed to lift my spirits, as walks in the woods so often do.

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Snow, once light and fluffly, drapes heavily on branches that long for spring.

The creek tumbled over rocks, trying to ignore the snow.

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The creek rushes on.

I am WinterWoman.  But honestly, I’m ready for spring.

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I sort of feel like this: tattered, torn… but still hanging on…

There. I said it.

This Loop Has No Name

I got “lost” on this loop the last time I tried it.  This time, in addition to the 2 dogs and the topo map, I also brought a human friend… who brought a compass.  This time, while we did get momentarily “lost” a couple of times, we were able to find our way – and that was definitely thanks to the compass!

We hiked the loop in the opposite direction from last time.

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Coon Run Road was not plowed.  I parked the car near the maintenance area and we walked up to the red arrow on the map to start the hike following blue blazes and hiker signs – the first leg of the Park’s Fire Tower Trail.  Due to budget cuts, a lot of the Park’s trails are in disrepair and we encountered a lot of downed branches and trees.  The worst of it was just after we crossed Willis Creek.  The trail appears to go off to the right paralleling Quaker Creek – but then it ends.

We took this as a sign that we should have a coffee break.  Certain members of the party thought that mean a play break.

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After coffee, we re-traced our steps, pulled out the topo and compass, and discovered that our way was blocked by a significant tree-fall! Once we had picked our way around it, I took this picture from the other side:

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Zooming in, you can see a blaze, and an orange flag that someone put there to be helpful.

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Anyway, once we found the trail, we were good to go again… though a few more blue blazes would have been helpful.

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It was this kind of a day – fresh snow, though not a lot of it, setting off the brilliant blue sky, orange-tan beech leaves, and deep green of the hemlock trees. So beautiful.  As with many of the trails at Allegany State Park, there is a lot of uphill climbing on the first part of your walk.  The views from the top are worth it, though not entirely photograph-able…  Still, I try:

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The yellow star on the map above is where the Fire Tower Trail meets up with the Finger Lakes / North Country Trail. This trail is maintained by the Allegany Chapter of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and is well marked with white blazes and well-maintained.

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We followed this to the lean-to at Willis Creek (green circle on the map above), then back down to Coon Run Road at the blue arrow on the map. It took us 6 hours. That’s with 3 snack breaks. And we’re not very fast hikers.

Winter’s Walk at the Gorge

I wasn’t altogether sure I was up for a hike today. I’ve been running myself ragged at work and with all my Women Create activities – to the point of being on the verge of a cold.  But, I mustered some energy and met my hiking buddies for a day at the Gorge.

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Terry always makes me walk places that scare me.  It’s good for the heart.

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We had to hug the wall of the gorge to get past the unusually high water.

Once we got past the scary part there were great photo opps:

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We had a little fire to warm our hands and dry our gloves. (I only sort of melted mine.)

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All in all, we had a blast… especially the dogs:

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Gray Sky Day

I badly needed a walk about… and I ended up spending an hour and a half out on the trails at Audubon before heading to my office.

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You know I love winter, and this mild one has been disappointing to me. The temperature was in the high 40s and the ground was mushy. Still, there was a bit of ice on the pond… and you could see where the muskrats broke through it to get a breath of air.

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As is often the case, the gray, wet day made for vibrant, saturated color.

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Even the rootlets of the poison ivy drew my eye with their rich color.

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And why is it that only the roses are dripping with water?

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The weather forecast is for several more days of high 40s. I wonder if we’ll ever get a good, lasting snow this year…

The Day After the Storm

My sister always loved the day after the storm when the clouds rolled out and the skies were blue and the snow was sparkly. Today was that day. So these pictures are for you, Yvonne!

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Sensitive Fern

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After the Storm “Blues”

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American Beech

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It’s Just Me, Jennifer!

Finally!

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Winter. Finally.

Winter has arrived. Finally. And I have taken full advantage of it. Shoveled my driveway this morning, then drove 35mph on Route 86 to Bemus Point where I took a walk through the snowy woods.

Upon return, there was wood to bring in and the car to un-bury. Next it was on to mom’s to shovel her out (although she had been plowed out in the morning, you couldn’t tell).

Then it was home to process the photos. Beautiful, beautiful day – and it’s still coming down!  Hope to enjoy more fun in the snow tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next… Until March!

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WinterWoman is happy.