My longest hike had been 16 miles back in June. I decided that I wanted to push and see if I could do 20 miles. It would be a long day and I knew I would be hurting after, but I wanted to cross that milestone. As it was late summer I had a lot of daylight, so I would have enough time to make the long trek.
Authors Note: I am writing this in February 2018 and a lot has faded from my memory, but I will try to record as much as I can. Memory is an odd thing; I recall more of this hike than any of my other hikes that first year. Perhaps it was because it was my first 20 mile hike. For whatever reason I remember very clearly many parts along the hike. However, the section between the top of Star Stanton Hill Road and Robinson Hollow Road on my return trip is mostly a blank.
After eating a good breakfast I set out, heading north up I-81 until I reached the exit for NY 79. I drove west on NY 79 until I reached the Tioga County/Cortland County border, and the trailhead that Tim and I had turned around at on the last hike. Six hundred feet beyond the trailhead was a pull-off area which I turned into and parked.
It was still cool and there was a little fog in the air, but the sun was strong and was burning it off. The air had that warm summer morning feel; I knew it would be a warm day. I shouldered my little backpack, heavy with my lunch and lots of water, and started east down the busy road. Cars whizzed past me as I walked toward the intersection of Robinson Hollow Road.
At the intersection I turned left leaving the busy NY 79 behind me. I continued on down the road past a number of mobile home trailers and small houses. The road curved to the right and crossed over a small stream. A short distance past the stream a house with a well manicured lawn and flowerbeds sat to the right. Across the road I found the trailhead. The grass had been mowed short making it easy to leave the road.
I turned and began a climb up what I guessed might have been an old logging road once upon a time. The trail continued to climb up a few hundred feet before turning to descend down and cross over a small gully. After crossing the gully the trail turned left and began another climb following up along beside the gully. The gully slowly faded and became nothing more than a low spot in the forest. The trail turned and crossed over the low area and continued to climb.
As I neared the top of the hill the trail began to level out. I came upon an old rock wall and stopped to take a few pictures before moving on. After passing through the old rock wall the trail began to descend on its way to Harford Slaterville Road. As I neared the road I waded through some tall grass interlaced with pink and white wild flowers. A small pool of water and a marshy area bordered two sides of the raised trail and a pair of dead pine trees stood in the still water on my right.
The sun shone brightly as I made my way across the road. I started up a climb as I left the road behind. The trail continued up the hill until finally it leveled out as it crossed the top. It wound its way along the tops of the hills for a distance until I came to a register that sat beneath a tall microwave tower.
I stopped to sign in at the register and read a previous note that mentioned wild raspberries growing nearby that had made a great snack. Sadly it was past the season and there were none left. I took a few pictures of the tower and noticed a large bird’s nest high up on one of the cross beams. I thought it might be an eagle’s nest, but the occupants were nowhere to be seen.
The trail continued on along the tops of the hills staying mostly level. It began to turn to the right and shortly after came out on a small dirt road that was little more than a tractor path. There were two dirt tracks where vehicle tires had passed and a thin strip of green down the middle. To either side of the road several feet of shoulder extended to meet with the trees. I continued down the road as it curved to right before heading straight. It was warm and I could feel the heat radiating up from the ground.
As I continued down the hill the road changed from a dirt track to a rough-paved road. I looked back toward the top of the hill and could see the microwave tower in the distance; it looked small and far away. I passed by a few houses and the road turned back to the left. Ahead of me I could see the intersection of busy NY 38. At the intersection I waited for several cars to pass by from both directions before I quickly crossed to the other side and turned right.
A very short walk along the side of NY 38 led me to the intersection of Purvis Road. I turned left down the road leaving the busy NY 38 behind me. A large field of tall green corn stalks bordered the road on my right. I followed Purvis Road around as it curved to the right and continued on between two fields; the corn field on my right and an open field of grass on my left.
I looked over the corn field to the hills beyond and I could see the microwave tower that I had passed by earlier. It was now very small and seemed very far away. I could hardly believe that I had come that far. And then my second thought was that I had a long way back.
There was no shade on the road and I was out in the open with the sun beating down on me – and it was hot! My skin felt warm and I could feel a sunburn starting on my neck, arms, and face.
I continued on down the hot country road looking ahead for even a little shade. The corn field ended and gave way to another open field. Finally after what seemed to be a very long walk some trees appeared and the fields ended, but it was now a little after noon and the sun was nearly overhead. I walked near the edge of the road attempting to get what little shade there was. Soon after the road turned slightly to the left and descended a little as it ended at the intersection with Lake Road and East Lake Road. Lake Road continued on to the left heading north-west while East Lake Road continued on to the right heading… well, east.
Across the road stood a tree with an FLT sign and four white reflector strips to indicate a turn in the trail. I stepped into the shade under the tree, dropped my pack and took out some water. I rested under the tree as I drank my water and allowed myself cool down a little.
After a rest I pulled my pack on again and left the shade of the tree. I once again was out under the sun. East Lake Road turned slightly to the left and a short distance later I came to the Jim Schug Rail Trail. The rail trail was not what I expected; I had expected a nice paved path, probably with families out walking. Instead it was a dirt and gravel path with two tracks where tires had passed and I encountered no one else out on the trail.
I walked down the trail and a marsh opened up to my right. I saw an old dead tree pointing into the air with sun-bleached wood. A little farther along the trail I found another dead tree, but this one had fallen into a small pool of open water. Lush green growth surrounded the small pool.
I continued on down the trail and came to a bench at the side of the trail. It was after noon now and I was getting hungry. I decided now was a good time to take a lunch break. Although the sun was warm there was a light breeze. I sat down and pulled out my lunch. While I ate my cell phone rang, my friend Erin was calling. I answered and told her I was out on one my “crazy” hikes, trying to do 20 miles. We chatted for a few more minutes and then said our goodbyes. After a little rest I packed up and started off down the rail trail.
Not long after I arrived at Lake Road; the left branch of the road I had come to at the end of Purvis Road. The rail trail continued on across the road, but the FLT turned to the right heading up the road.
I walked up past some fields and a house before coming to the next turn off. The trailhead left the road on the right and headed across a field. I debated on whether to turn back now, but it looked like there was another road on the other side of the field. I decided to keep on going; there was no parking available at this trailhead, so I thought perhaps that road would offer better parking.
I tromped across the field walking next to a barbed-wire fence. Every so often a white blaze marked the top of a fence post guiding me on. As I neared the far side of the field I realized that what I had thought was a road, was actually just a tractor path between fields. I decided that I had gone far enough, if I pushed further I would risk having to walk in the dark.
I turned back and stopped to take a picture looking across the field at the houses along Lake Road. Dark green hills dotted with lighter green fields rose up behind the houses. Insects buzzed around in the grass of the field and birds flitted about as I walked back across the field to Lake Road. I turned left and started heading down Lake Road and back to the rail trail. The road stretched out ahead of me and I paused to take a picture
I made my way back down the rail trail to East Lake Road, past the bench I had stopped at for lunch and past the marsh that bordered the trail. I arrived at East Lake Road and turned right on the road. A group of tree cast some shade over the road and I decided to take a break under their cooler darkness.
After a short rest I continued on and came to Purvis Road. I turned left and started the long, hot, slog on the open road. It was hot as the sun beat down on me. I moved as quickly as I could, but I was tired, my feet were sore, and I still had a long way to go.
Finally after a long walk in the hot sun I was back at the intersection of NY 38. A very short walk along the road and I came to Star Stanton Hill Road. I turned left and started my climb up the road. A short distance beyond the intersection I found some trees shading the road and stopped to get some water and take a break. I was hot and tired from my long walk out in the sun along Purvis Road.
After resting for a while I set out again up the road. The pavement ended as I climbed and the road changed to the dirt track I had walked down earlier. The sun reflected back off the light-colored dirt and rocks. I could feel the heat radiating up from the ground. A number of orange butterflies flitted around landing now and then. I tried to take a picture and after a few attempts was finally successful.
I continued on up around a bend in the road and passed back into the woods, happy for the shade and cooler air. A short time later I passed back under the microwave tower. I continued on past and began my descent down the hill to Harford Slaterville Road.
After crossing the road I started a climb up another hill. I was tired and sore and really just wanted to stop, sit down, and take a nap, but I had to keep going. My feet were on fire and hurt with every step, but I just continued to put one foot in front of the other.
I started heading down making my way along a small gully. I crossed over and climbed a short distance up the other hillside before heading quickly down on my way to Robinson Hollow Road. After a quick decent the trail began to level out and finally opened out on the road.
I reached for my sunglasses that I had hooked through my belt while I had been walking through the darker woods and found that one of the lenses had popped out – ugh! And they were prescription sunglasses.
The lens was lost and I would never find it; I had no idea where it had popped out. I continued on down Robinson Hollow Road passing by the mobile home trailers as I neared NY 79. Now that it was late afternoon people were out and about. They watched me curiously, and maybe a little suspiciously, saying nothing.
I arrived at NY 79 and turned right heading up the road to my car. I strained to look ahead trying to see my car in the distance. Every step I took hurt. Finally, I could see my car parked in the pull-off area ahead. A short time later I was back at my car and dropped my backpack and changed out of my boots and sweaty shirt. I was hot, sore, and a little sunburned. I knew by the time I got home I would be extremely sore and hurting.
After arriving home I brought all my gear in and took a long shower. Once I was finished with my shower I got some dinner and hobbled over to my recliner chair. I ate dinner and soon began to feel drowsy. Even though it was only a little after 8 pm, I was ready for bed. I hobbled my way up the stairs to my bedroom, grunting in pain every step of the way. I fell into my bed and was asleep almost before I closed my eyes.
The day after the hike I could barely move. I hobbled down the stairs and did very little for the entire day. It took me nearly a week to feel “normal” again.
Since this hike I have completed many 20 mile hikes, several over 20 miles, and even one “marathon” hike of 26.9 miles. I also ran my first half-marathon in 2015, ran another in 2016, and two in 2017. All but one of my hikes in 2016 were 20 miles or greater, the one that was less was 19.2 miles. I no longer have the same aches and pains I did back then and I recover from long hikes quicker.