This blog is the third 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!
WHERE: Main Finger Lakes Trail (marker M19TF) James Kennedy State Forest
HOW FAR: Approximately 2 miles, out and back
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate, many roots and several water crossings
While this past winter may have been fabulous for skiing, its deep snow and consistent cold made it less than ideal for hiking. As I packed my bag for our day hike, my absence on the trail was made apparent by the long stale granola bars in my food bag and unused snow cleats, tags still attached. With a shrug, I tossed them on the counter to be dealt with later. Confirming our 10 essentials were in order and shoving some fresh trail mix and dog treats in my backpack, Truckee and I hit the road. It was 60 and sunny, the quintessential spring day. Perfect for exploring a favorite section of the Finger Lakes Trail.
Windows down, Truckee's nose scenting the breeze, I soaked in the countryside as we cruised north, down Daisy Hollow Rd. The trailhead parking at the intersection of Carpenter Hill was empty, much to our delight. This tiny section of the Finger Lakes Trail was all ours to enjoy.
Since we had spent the winter curled up by the fire, snacking, and reading books about other people hiking (instead of hiking ourselves), I knew a gentle hike was in order for our first excursion of the season. While this section of the FLT (M19) is often linked with the Sweedish Loop to make much longer a loop, I chose to hike it as an out and back. The tent site at the fork in the creek would make for the perfect resting spot and a good place for Truckee to explore.
The meandering trail welcomed us into the forest, providing peek-a-boo views of the tumbling creek below, heavy with spring rain. The trail bed is littered with a mix of red oak leaves, moss, pine needles...and roots. Lots and lots of roots. More roots than you can shake a stick at. I recommend trekking poles if you like looking up or if you have a lousy ankle like me. Otherwise, the views are wasted, gazing at your feet and counting roots, unless you are one of those gazelle-like trail runners.
The descent to the creek bed is undulating and gentle. It winds along the ravine edge and through hemlock groves. Moss and ferns were verdant green against the still mostly slumbering landscape, and bird song and squirrel chatter filled the air.
The first stream crossing was at around .3 of a mile in. If you're careful to stay on the trail, you'll find stones thoughtfully placed to keep your toes dry. From this point forward, the trail becomes a bit muddy in places. Remember to leave no trace and march right through it. This is a rule by which Truckee was happy to oblige. So much for my clean truck. We signed in at the trail register and waded through another tiny stream before finding ourselves at the creek bed.
The creek forks here, combined with the spring rains and rocky beds, is a cacophony of water song. Truckee waste no time forging in and splashing about. He hunts sticks floating downstream, climbs fallen logs, and drinks the cold water greedily. After a while, I bribed him with some treats, and we pressed on over the two footbridges and back up the ravine. I found a sun-drenched spot, looking down over a tiny waterfall, and spread out our mat for snacks and snuggles. It's essential to give Truckee plenty of rest, as he's still just a pup. The goal is to teach him to love hiking. He'd learn to dread our hikes if I allowed him to exhaust himself before the return trek. We lazily munched on trail mix and rabbit jerky, absorbing all the wild goodness we could before retracing our steps and returning home.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
1. Spring equals mud! Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear. I recommend leaving a towel in the car for muddy feet/paws and perhaps a dry pair of shoes.
2. Ticks are predicted to be especially bad this year. Make sure to wear socks and long pants. Treat your dog with a vet-recommended flea and tick prevention regularly. Be sure to check yourself and your furry hiking companion for ticks when you return home.
3. This hike crosses a logging road. You may encounter active logging.
Share your Cortland County hikes with us for a chance to be featured!
Tag @experiencecortland and use hashtag #experiencecortland.