Not all plans materialize. This week, the LASSes were supposed to rent the new cabin at the Girl Scout Camp for 2 or 3 nights, and spend the days skiing and/or snow shoeing…
Didn’t happen. But two of us managed to sneak away for a 5-mile cross country ski at Allegany State Park. We got a slightly later start than we had hoped, due to a flat on Concetta’s brand new van:
Thank goodness for cell phones and tow trucks…
We skiied the Sweetwater and Christian Hollow loops at the Art Roscoe ski area at Allegany State Park. The trails were well-travelled and kind of fast… But we managed not to kill ourselves. I didn’t lug my big camera around the trails this time, but persuaded a stranger to take our picture at the trailhead, at least:
We had a great time. Hey, LASSes, we have nothing else on our calendars until May… Unless… Any suggestions?
Back in October, the LASSes scheduled a hike for today totally forgetting that it would be deer season in both New York and Pennsylvania. We also didn’t anticipate the amount of snow we have! So we had to find a place where we could cross country ski and be safe from hunters.
The Wilderness Lodge turned out to be the perfect place. Located just west of the border between Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania, this privately owned land had several miles of groomed trails. The lodge is cozy and warm and serves wonderful soup, chili, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, and – of course – ALWAYS: Chocolate cake.
It was a picture perfect day.
Here is where there should be a picture of me, except I forgot to hand the camera to someone else to take my picture… I also forgot to take pictures inside the lodge. But if you click here, you can go to the Wilderness Lodge website and see one.
Some of the delightful parts of the hike were planned. Like the Maya Gold bar: organic, fairly-traded dark chocolate with orange and spices by Green & Black. Or the visit by some of Concetta’s and Sue’s co-workers.
Other delightful parts of the hike were completely serendipitous. In fact, there were many moments of serendipity and they seem to filter into my mind at odd times as I remember the hike.
Like Concetta’s godfather is my uncle. And we share cousins. I never knew that!
It was fun having three dogs accompany us for part of the hike. They came out of the woods at one of the sections that crosses private land and took a liking to us. They frolicked and ran ahead, leading the way down the trail as if they had done this a hundred times. I wonder how many other hikers they have accompanied?
Eventually we got to a major road where two more dogs lived. These two were much more vocal and not so happy to see us. They chased two of our companions off, but this gorgeous dog stayed with us. I named her “Dawg.”
Dawg continued with us all the way to the first leanto where she was content to lay in the sun and enjoy the gorgeous view of the pond:
The only time Dawg got riled up was when five mountain bikers came barreling down the hill at top speed. She barked at them as they flew by. Once they had moved on, we all settled down again to snacks, wine, and conversation. It wasn’t long, though, before the bikers returned, one with a blown tube. We offered him snacks while he repaired his tire, and to thank us, he piped us a tune. It was so delightful!
Before we would let the guys leave, we forced them to pose for a photo:
This serendipitous encounter with biking lads inspired us to want to be lasses. And so we named our adventure group L.A.S.S. It stands for Ladies Adventure and Social Society, of course!
There are a lot of reasons why this trail is perfect for beginning backpackers and for teaching youngsters how to backpack.
1-Terrain: Chautauqua County has a “bumpy” landscape, but not a mountainous one. The trail traverses a couple of ravines which means steep down and steep up! But it’s brief. Most of the trail involves gentle inclines.
2-Leantos: If you are trying to minimize weight, what better way than to leave the tent at home. The leantos are well placed along the trail for an easy 3-day hike. We hiked from south to north: 7.5 miles the first day, 10 the second, and finished on Sunday with 6.5 miles. AND – the leantos are pretty accessible. If you want to start a group slowly with only a short walk to camp, there are back roads where you could park so that you have a much shorter hike.
3-Potable Water: There is no potable water at either terminus, but there is potable water at both of the leantos. We each needed to carry only one 32-oz bottle of water. We might have needed more if the weather had been hotter, though.
4-Well Maintained: The Chautauqua County Parks Department does an increcible job of keeping the trails in good shape. Our hike was the week after the leftovers of Hurricane Ike went through. We had to climb over a couple of fallen trees, but the worst of it had already been cleaned up. The leantos and privies are clean (not immaculate, mind you, but as clean as they need to be for camping!). The fire pits are in good shape with sturdy, built-in grates that are hinged and swing out of the way, or quickly into place. And, there are picnic tables!
We were lucky enough to have perfect weather on top of it all. I didn’t even take a raincoat!
The Westside Overland Trail is about 25 miles long and runs north-south through Chautauqua County. While I have made day-hikes out of chunks of it, I have long dreamed of hiking the entire distance, sleeping at the two campsites along the way. Well, I FINALLY did it last weekend!
Concetta and me
Point S – The Beginning! (We hiked it backwards – from South to North)
Girl Scout friend Concetta took a personal day from work so that she could join me for the entire trek; others joined at various points along the way.
I imagine I’ll write more blog posts about this trip… but for now, I’m back. It was fabulous. I had a feeling that the trip would either “get it out of my system” or whet my appetite for more. Yeah. It was the latter. Can’t wait to go again!
Deb, Me, Micaela, Concetta, Lena, Sue, and Chiara (in front)
Point A – The End!
Now that I’ve hiked the whole thing, I’ll have to get around to updating the page at my Hike Chautauqua blog. Eventually… For now… I better go unpack!