Inspired by two women who completed the Experience Cortland GeoTour in only 8 hours, I decided enough with the procrastinating and explore the trail myself. Or at least explore portions of it. The Experience Cortland GeoTour features 20 stops that take you all throughout Cortland County. For my journey, I chose 5 stops that I thought would take me to the more unique, less frequented spots in Cortland County.
Experience Cortland created our GeoTour early on in 2012 and the popularity has been growing ever since. Each year we welcome travelers from all over, most who specifically travel to Cortland County to complete our GeoTour. What is Geocaching? Using your smartphone or GPS device, geocaching is an outdoor activity that uses GPS coordinates to navigate you to containers called “geocaches” or “caches” at certain spots. Experience Cortland uses mostly tin type boxes and each contains a log sheet where you sign your name and date your visit, and often people leave a small trinket behind. I left some Experience Cortland stickers, which seemed appropriate. What makes the Experience Cortland GeoTour different? Besides journeying through some of the most beautiful vistas in Cortland County, this GeoTour incorporates unique local history and involves solving a puzzle. Setting Out I printed my Experience Cortland GeoTour map, highlighted my 5 spots, and I was off. Full disclaimer that I am a newbie geocacher. The spots I chose took me to the four corners of Cortland County. The first geocache I went in search of was number 3 on the list: “The Crossroads.” Noted as one of the best panoramic views, the Crossroads refers to where Clock and Sperry Roads meet the Mc-Graw-Marathon Road. I had made sure that I download the geocaching app (free on iTunes and Google Play) and created my free account before I started. To search for a geocache on the Experience Cortland GeoTour I went to the search bar and choose to search by Geocache types. Here you can enter the specific geocache number. For driving locations, the app is synced with Google Maps. Once the geocache comes up on your screen, you can select the arrow at the very top to open Google Maps and it will give you directions. This worked for me since I was driving. Once you reach the destination then you select “start” to help guide you right to the geocache. This GeoTour will take you to the lesser known spots throughout the county I realized. “The Crossroads” is in a special part of Cortland County when I passed an Amish horse and buggy on my drive. I kept with the theme of the lesser known parts of Cortland County as I entered in my next geocache, “Hannah’s Stump.” Here, Google Maps decided to take me down a seasonal road, Pine Hill Road. Normally, this would be fine. My jeep drives all kinds of different roads in snow and ice, so a rocky seasonal road would not be an issue. But my jeep is in the shop. I was borrowing a car that let’s say I wasn’t 100% certain would make it. The road leads you down underneath the I-81 highway just south of the Hoxie Gorge area. Eventually you do make it out and onto Route 11 near Marathon. I stopped just before that to snap some pretty amazing photos of the creek that runs right next to this road. Again, one of those hidden spots that I might never have found if not attempting the GeoTour. Moving on… “Hannah’s Stump” has an interesting history, or perhaps more folklore, and is set in a lovely spot off of Route 392 (which if you kept driving would take you to Virgil). Unique history? Hannah’s Stump tells the tale of Isaac Bloomer proposing to Hannah Towbridge. “Say yes or I jump!” Those could have been Hannah’s last words…but they weren’t. Hannah threatened to jump if Isaac did not propose to her. Isaac Bloomer dropped to his knee. Right then and there to propose marriage to save the poor girl’s life. At least that’s how the early 19th century tale goes, and it very well may be true. Town records show that Hannah Towbridge of Gridley Hollow and Isaac Bloomer were married and likely lived an abundant pioneer farm life. Twentieth century locals embraced and shared the legend of Hannah’s Stump, as well as the good berry picking and camping that can be found at the base of the cliff and adjacent winding road and stream. The road was eventually straightened and the physical location of Hannah’s stump vanished to progress. Regardless, if the geocacher looks upstream through the new bridge to the stone embankment beyond, one might conjure up the essence of Hannah’s Stump. This geocache is also near the site of the Old Stone Mill, a prosperous Virgil enterprise built by Gaius Ruddin in 1856. In later years, the mill was known as Angell’s Mill and the Rockdale Mill. During the famous flood of 1935 the raging stream ran its banks, the surrounding area was washed out, and the mill was destroyed. I travelled just over the bridge that crosses the Tioughnioga River and parked a little bit up from there. I found the geocache safely secured, and no, I won’t tell you exactly where. Here I decided to leave a couple of “Experience Cortland” stickers in the box as our trinkets for the next geocacher. The rest of the journey took me to the Glen Haven Schoolhouse. Unfortunately, here I lost cell service and so had trouble finding this geocache. From there I travelled to Truxton and the tribute to John J. McGraw. The John J. McGraw Memorial Monument in Truxton is a tribute to hometown hero and 30-year manager (1902-1932) of the New York Giants baseball organization. My last stop took me to the town of Willet and the “Field of Dreams.” The Willet Ball Field grand stand was built in the early 1940s from salvaged lumber from the old icehouse at the former Reed Ice Cream Plant. The hunt for this geocache required climbing the actual grandstand. Again, I won’t tell you the exact location, but I was close to giving up before an idea struck me to where it might be, so be sure to persevere in your search. The Experience Cortland GeoTour started in 2012, and is still popular among geocachers today. People have traveled from neighboring counties and states to find all 20 caches. The tour is also an opportunity for Cortland County natives to rediscover hidden spots. I made the journey alone, but it would be much more fun with friends, or the whole family. Along the way you’ll pass local Cortland County favorites like Anderson’s Farm Market, Dave’s Veggies, Poole’s Drive In, and Dragonfyre Distillery, making the Experience Cortland GeoTour worthy of more than just a one-day adventure.
...I took on the "Experience Cortland GeoTour" today. A total of 20 Geocaches throughout the four corners of Cortland County, as well as downtown Cortland. We knew so little of this region before the GeoTour, but now we feel like we've been in every nook and cranny of Cortland County. This GeoTour exposed us to the beauty of this part of New York State and the FingerLakes Region.