This blog is the first in a series, exploring hiking and traveling with your faithful, four-legged, friends in Cortland County. Do you have a favorite trail or place in Cortland County that you love sharing with your dog? Perhaps, you snapped the perfect photo of you and Fido, exploring locally? I want to know about it! Email me at Candace@experiencecortland.com and just maybe we'll see you in your neck of the woods!
Meet Truckee, an 8-month-old Cattle dog mix, I adopted this past spring. Truckee has become quite the intrepid traveler, during his short little life. He loves kayaking, camping, paddle boarding, road trips and backpacking- but most of all he loves hiking. We've spent the summer slowly racking up the miles for the FLT50 challenge (they still count if I had to carry him in my backpack, right?). We're nearly finished now, and thought we might share with you how to get out and safely enjoy hiking along the Finger Lakes Trail, here in Cortland County.
Beginning in Marathon and marching north east to the far reaches of Truxton (including a diverging branch through Cuyler), the Finger Lakes Trail boasts more than 80 miles of maintained and mapped trails through Cortland County. Wandering through gorges, open meadows, hemlock groves and pine forest, besides waterfalls, rivers and ponds - the Finger Lakes Trail offers a diverse selection of landscape to enjoy. At its highest point, the trail crests Mt. Virgil at 2132 ft.
The Finger Lakes Trail is free to everyone, and with dozens of access points, there is certain to be a section that is just right for you. All you need is a map, a few key items in your pack and a sense of adventure.
While the Finger Lakes Trail is easy to access, it doesn't take more than a mile or two before you find yourself in the back country. The American Hiking Society recommends these 10 items to ensure a safe hike;
1. Appropriate foot wear. Make sure your shoes/boots are well broken in, and correct for the conditions in which you'll be hiking (ex. snow, water, mud).
2. Maps and compass. Interactive maps of the FLT can be found on the Finger Lakes Trail website. Make sure to check for closures.
3. Water. Half a liter per hour is recommend, in moderate temperatures. Double that if you are bringing your dog. Often, there are seasonal water sources available along the trail. I recommend a water filter for longer hikes, to keep your load light.
4. Food. Stuff your pack with lots of calorie-dense snacks. Hiking is hard work! Be sure to bring more than you need. You never know if a navigation error or misstep may leave you in the woods longer than you expected. Don't forget to include your dog. He'll need the extra calories to keep up too.
5. Rain Gear and Layers. I always keep a rain poncho stuffed in the bottom of my pack. It makes the perfect impromptu picnic blanket on damp ground and may make the difference in preventing hypothermia. Layers are crucial to regulating body temperature. It can swing wildly between the mountain tops and gorges.
6. Flash Light. I find a head lamp to be perfect for this. You'll always be ready to explore nooks and caves, and you'll never be caught in the dark. Just be sure to check your battery before heading out.
7. First Aid Kit and basic first aid knowledge. I always include Benadryl for unexpected run-ins, and it's especially useful for your dog. Be sure to include his dosage and the phone number to near by emergency vet. Your kit should also include a utility knife.
8. Water Proof Matches. A cotton ball soaked in patrolmen jelly, stored in a zip lock, makes for the perfect, quick fire starter.
9. A Whistle clipped to your pack insures that help can find you more readily. It also works to scare off bears in a pinch.
10. Sun Protection is mandatory, even in the winter. Long sleeves, sun screen and a hat will help keep you safe from the suns rays.
Through years of trial and error, I learned there is also a list of hiking essentials for my dogs. Since it fluctuates by season, I'll share my fall list today.
1. Hunter safety orange. It's hunting season here in New York. Hunter safety orange (or pink) is mandatory for you and your pup! Depending on the temperature, Truckee wears a bright bandana, harness or vest. If I find myself hiking at dawn or dusk, he wears a small flashing light on his collar.
2. A sturdy leash. Not all leashes are created equal. I prefer a leash made of tested climbing rope, 10' long. The combined strength and length allow me to tether him during breaks and to my pack's waist belt while hiking.
3. A well-fitted harness. Harness for hiking should never restrict shoulder movement, as it's likely to cause a shoulder injury during the assents. Anti-pull harness are not recommended. A Y or H harness is often best. Be sure to check for rubbing in armpits.
4. Emergency booties. Snow, sharp rocks, ice and broken glass can injure a paw. They also come in handy for hot road walks and sand.
5. Collapsible water bowl. Unless you're into dog spit in your Nalgene. You're also going to require more than double the amount of water you would carry solo hiking. Really.
6. A bear bell. While bears are not a common threat in Cortland County, alerting wildlife to your presence can prevent dislocated shoulders from an over excited pup. It also comes in handy as a poor mans GPS if your dog happens to slip away.
7. Vet wrap. This is the duct tape of the animal world. It sticks to itself and not your dog. It can be used to make emergency booties, pad a harness, aid in splinting a leg and wrap a wound. I've even used it to repair a pack strap in a pinch.
8. Flea and tick prevention. Lyme's is a tremendous threat to your hiking buddy, especially here in New York. Take it seriously. I also recommend a tick puller that attaches directly to their leash. Check often and check thoroughly.
9. Lots of extra snacks. Hiking is hard for for your pup. Especially if your days are long. I like to bring doggie jerky. It's calorie dense and encourages drinking.
10. Poop bags. Pack it in, pack it out. Enough said.
Be sure to check back in a few weeks, when Truckee and I will share some of our favorite local hikes with you. Happy Hiking!