Stiles, Pastures, and Switchbacks

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FLT Map: England Hill Rd (M8) west to NY 70 (M8) and east to Slader Creek Rd (M9)

England Hill Rd (M8) west to NY 70 (M8) and east to Slader Creek Rd (M9)

Hike Stats:
21.18 miles, 2.9mph avg moving, 2.3mph avg overall, 7h:20m moving, 1h:49m stopped, 9h:09m total time, max elevation 2181ft, total ascent 2409ft, 113.74ft/mi. FLT M8, M9
Total trail miles completed to-date: 457.6 (77.5%)


Stiles, Pastures, and Switchbacks
The weather for Saturday promised to be great for a fall hike; upper 50s for the start of the hike and highs in the mid 70s.  I decided to start later than my previous hike and planned to arrive at the trailhead by 8:30 am.  My hiking gear loaded, I set off in the pre-dawn darkness at 6:20 am.

I did not have enough gas to make it to the trailhead and about 25 minutes later I pulled off the highway in Waverly.  The highway signs indicated two different gas stations were available; one which I had a discount card for.  I passed by the first station, which was not the one I was looking for and was also quite expensive.  After a few minutes I still had not found the gas station.  I made a few turns and after a few more minutes of driving around I came to a different station.  It was not one that I had a discount card for, but it was cheaper than the first one.

I filled up and returned to the highway.  As I merged on it was as if someone flipped a light switch; one moment it was dark, the next it was light.  The rest of the nearly two-hour drive was uneventful.  I left the highway in Hornell and headed north on NY 36 and then turned onto NY 70.  My GPS alerted me that my next turn was ahead; England Hill Road.  I turned right and had to make a quick turn to the left as the road paralleled NY 70 and climbed steeply up the side of a hill.

Steep slope on England Hill Rd looking north from the intersection with NY 70
Steep slope on England Hill Rd looking north from the intersection with NY 70

The road immediately turned into a single-lane seasonal-use dirt and gravel road.  I switched on the AWD on my car and churned my way up the road.  After several minutes the road leveled out and I passed by a pair of fields on my left.  Not long after I saw the parking area on the left with two vehicles and the gate at the end of the road.

I pulled in next to a large black pickup truck, parking closest to the gate.  The other vehicle was a Subaru and a man stood next to the car changing out of his camouflage gear.  I assumed he had been turkey hunting; it was turkey season and hunters usually are out before dawn and near sunset when the turkey are most active.  Once I had changed into my boots and got my pack settled on my shoulders I set off past the gate and into a large open field beyond (mile 0.0 – 8:37 am).

It was cool and cloudy – I hoped it was only fog that had not yet burned off.  The weather forecast had predicted that it would be warm and sunny.  I made my way along the dirt road that ran down the center of the open area and came to a turn in the trail.  The dirt road continued on, but the white blazes led away to the left into the woods.

Reflection in a small pool of water at the top of East Hill
Reflection in a small pool of water at the top of East Hill

A short distance into the woods I came upon a quiet pool of water (mile 0.6 – 8:52 am).  The trees with their fall foliage surrounding the pool were reflected back on the mirror-like surface of the water.  I stopped to take several pictures, including some of the reflections, before continuing on.  The trail was wide and level and easy to walk.  As I passed through the woods I came upon an old root ball from a long gone tree; the moss-covered root tendrils stretching like crooked fingers.

The trail opened out next to a pond and looped around to the opposite side (mile 0.8 – 8:59 am).  I paused to take several more pictures before completing the walk around.  On the other side the trail entered the woods and turned to parallel the pond.  As I walked down another wide and level path I could see the water laying still and quiet through the trees.

The trail turned and left the pond behind.  After a short walk through the woods and I came to a narrow, but very long, field.  I turned into the field and came to a 90-degree turn to the right.  The field began to descend shortly after the turn.  As I walked down the field I passed by a small pool of water, mostly filled with cattails.  The field ended and the trail entered the woods once again.

Switchbacks on the way down East Hill, trail heading west
Switchbacks on the way down East Hill, trail heading west

I continued heading down the hill through the woods and came to a steep area with switchbacks weaving down the slope.  After going back and forth several times the trail began to wrap around the side of the hill.  In several places the trail was little more than a sliver.  I stepped over a fallen tree and continued across a dry gully.  The trail continued its descent and then made one final turn to the right before opening out onto NY 70 at a drainage grate (mile 2.3 – 9:38 am).

I crossed the grate and over to the other side of the road and walked along the shoulder as cars whizzed by.  After a short walk I came to the intersection of Kennedy Road; a small dirt road with a hand-made wooden street sign painted orange with black lettering (mile 2.4 – 9:40 am).  This was my first turn-around for the day.  I had not parked at an end point because I had been unsure of the parking.  There was ample room for parking on the side of the Kennedy Road – I would be using this as a starting point on a future hike.

I took a few pictures and started back up NY 70.  It was still cool and cloudy and I hoped that it would begin to clear soon.  After a short walk along the shoulder of the road I arrived at the drainage grate and climbed back up the trail.  Soon I found myself back at the dry gully and crossed back around to the fallen tree.  The trail was quite narrow and I decided to try to move the tree out of the way.

The tree was small and I was able to start rocking it back and forth and move it a little.  A sharp sting on the backside of my arm halted me immediately and I noticed that I had disturbed some ground bees.  I quickly moved back, but now I could not pass and would need to find another way around to get back up the trail.  A short walk down the dry gully and a steep climb up a leaf covered slope brought me back to the trail.  I continued on up through the switchbacks rubbing at the sting on my arm as it throbbed.

The climb was vigorous and I was breathing hard and sweating as I neared the narrow open field.  I found a tree that was across the path and sat down on it (no bees this time) to take a breather and cool down (mile 3.2 – 10:05 am).  I exchanged my sweat-soaked shirt for a dry one and open a bottle of water.  After sitting and resting for several minutes I picked up my pack and started up the trail.

I entered the bottom of the narrow field and climbed up past the small pool of water with its cattails.  As I climbed the sun began to break through the clouds and a breeze started to blow.  I turned the corner in the field and then turned back onto the trail leading to the pond.  The sun started to shine and illuminate the bright fall colors around me and I could see the pond through the trees.  The trail turned and opened out onto the path that wound around the pond (mile 4.0 – 10:30 am).

Pond on East Hill
Pond on East Hill

I stopped to take several pictures of the pond as I walked around before the trail turned and headed back to the small pool I had taken the reflection pictures at earlier.  Upon reaching the pool I stopped once again and took a few more pictures, this time with some blue sky in the background.

After leaving the pool behind I arrive back at the open area with the dirt road down the middle and turned to head back to the gate at the top of England Hill Road and my car.  The sun was beginning to warm the air and I knew that I would want to switch into shorts soon.  I moved along quickly, but the gate was far ahead and it seemed to take a long time to reach it.  Once I passed the gate I stopped at my car for another break (mile 4.9 – 10:52 am).  The hunter and his Subaru were gone now leaving only the big black pickup.

I decided to switch to shorts and unzipped the bottom portion of my pants before heading out again.  I started down England Hill Road, the same road I had driven up earlier on my way to the parking area.  The road provided some beautiful fall scenery with bright colors arching over the dirt road.  I stopped several times as I continued to head down the road to take pictures.

As I got closer to the bottom of the road and the intersection with NY 70 I lost the signal on my cell phone.  I was not very concerned; on many sections of the trail I would lose signal and in a mile or two would regain it, the only exception being the Catskills where there were longer “dead zones”, but that was expected.

I finished the last steep descent to arrive at the bottom of the road and the intersection of NY 70 (mile 6.9 – 11:40 am).  I took a few pictures looking back up the England Hill Road.  A few cars passed by and I crossed over to the other side of NY 70 and started toward Swain, NY.

After what seemed like a long walk down NY 70 – it was only one-third of a mile – I arrived at the junction with CR 24 and turned left to head into the small village of Swain.  I came to Mill Street and turned left down the street (mile 7.5 – 11:53 am). I checked my phone again for signal and was surprised to find I still had no service.  Swain is a Ski Resort area and I expected that there would be cell service in town.

Ski lift at Swain Ski resort
Ski lift at Swain Ski resort

A ski lift climbed up the slope to my right as I walked down Mill Street.  The ski area was quiet now, but in winter I could imagine the frenzy of activity.  As I neared the end of the street I saw a woman outside doing yard work.  Her dog was near her on a leash and he began barking furiously at me.  She pulled him back and apologized saying that he thought he owned the street.  I laughed and told her it was OK, just a dog being a dog.

At the end of the street I came to a dirt turn-around area and a set of open gates.  On my left rose a large crumbling concrete bridge abutment from a long-disappeared railroad overpass.  I passed through the open gate and past the abutment and looked around for the white blazes of the trail.  I saw one painted on a power-line pole to my right and another across a field.

Old Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern railroad bed
Old Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern railroad bed

I started across the field, wading through deep grass in places.  At the other side the trail entered the woods and climbed up to an old railroad bed, the Pittsburg Shawmut & Northern railroad (mile 8.0 – 12:02 pm).  The path was easy to follow and the railroad bed climbed gently up along the side of the hill.  After a short walk the trail turned right leaving the railroad bed behind and descended down to cross a small stream, dry at the moment.  I looked up to my left and understood why the trail had left the railroad bed, there was a large gap where a bridge once would have been.  The only way around was to come down and cross the stream.

I walked up the other side and came back to the railroad bed once again.  It continued to climb gently and then began a turn to the right following the contour of the hill.  I hoped that I might get cell signal as I came around the hillside.  A quick check showed there was still no signal.

Ahead of me trees and brush thickened and the trail narrowed.  Shortly after I arrived at a trail register and stopped to sign in (mile 9.4 – 12:30 pm).  Just beyond the register some steps led up to a dirt road.  I climbed up the steps and then headed down the dirt road to Monegan Road.  At Monegan Road I turned left and headed down a steep grade to the intersection with CR 15B (mile 9.9 – 12:45 pm).

The sun was bright and I squinted as I looked down the paved road.  As I walked down the shoulder of the road I passed by a goat farm.  There were a number of children’s toys in the pen; I guess the “kids” like playing too [the pun was there].  I continued on into the small hamlet of Garwood; a cluster of a dozen or so houses.  A number of people were out doing yard work and enjoying the warm fall weather.

Just before CR 15B crossed over a small stream I turned onto Gates Road (mile 10.5 – 12:56 pm).  The white blazes took me past several houses and then the road became a driveway leading up to a house and barn.  Still the blazes directed me ahead up the driveway and past the house.  Just beyond the house I found a trail register (mile 10.8 – 1:02 pm).  I stopped to sign in and while I was signing the book my phone began to chime; it had signal again.

Stile over fence
Stile over fence

I passed through an open gate near the register and up a tractor path.  The trail followed the tractor path a little ways up the hill before turning off into the woods.  In the middle of the woods I came upon a stile over a fence.  I stopped to take a few pictures and then climbed over.  Several yards beyond the stile I came to the corner of a field (mile 11.8 – 1:32 pm).

I started across the field heading for the white blazes on the other side.  The grass in the field was very short and “clumpy” in places.  Not far into the field I discovered that this was not a field, but rather a cow pasture; a cow had left a large pile of dung.  I continued across and on the other side I turned back to see a panorama of brilliant fall colors.  I took a few pictures and then headed into the woods.

The trail climbed steeply up through the woods and came to a junction with a blue-blazed trail.  The blue blazes led off to the right and the white off to the left.  I turned and followed the white and came to a closed gate at the bottom of another field (mile 12.0 – 1:39 pm).  I looked around for either a way around or over the fence, or for blazes that led around the fenced area.   Finding none, I checked the map and it showed that the trail led through the field ahead of me.  I unhooked the gate, passed through, and secured it behind me.

This field was also another cow pasture.  I climbed the hill keeping close to the fence.  The ground was uneven from the cows that had trampled over it.  I had to walk carefully to avoid twisting an ankle or stepping in a “cow patty”.  I reached the top of the hill, still in the pasture.  My plan had been to stop at the top of the hill for lunch, but since there was no shade and I was in the middle of a cow pasture I discarded that plan and decided to continue on.

Looking down a run between two cow pastures
Looking down a run between two cow pastures

Just over the top of the hill I came to another closed gate.  Beyond the gate a run between two cow pastures descended down the hill.  The run was overgrown with weeds and burrs.  I carefully made my way down through and came to another stile.  I climbed up over and down into yet another cow pasture.  This one smaller and I could see the road just below me.

I made my way down along the edge of the pasture and to a third stile.  Again I climbed up and over.  On the other side was Freiner Hill Road (mile 12.4 – 1:51 pm).  Some boys were playing in the yard of a house across the road.  Another older boy was mowing the grass along the edge of the road.  I turned and followed behind him for a short distance until I saw a pair of white blazes indicating a turn.

After turning right into a field I looked for more blazes, but was unable to find any.  I thought there might be some in the woods that bordered the field and pushed into the brush at the side. My only discovery were some picker bushes that gave me a few cuts on my legs.  The cuts bled while I continued walking down the field before finally stopping as I reached the bottom of the field.

At the bottom I found an FLT sign and a blaze, I had been heading the correct direction.  I came down an embankment onto Slader Creek Road and turned right to walk along the road.  A short distance down the road I saw several cars parked along the edge.  At first I thought there must be a party, but then I remembered that the FLT was hosting a hike series this weekend.  The route for the hike was the same route I had taken during my August hike.  The difference being this was their end point, but it had only been my turn-around and half-way point.

I reached the fence I had stopped at in August and took a couple of pictures before turning back (mile 13.0 – 2:03 pm).  I climbed back up the embankment and past the FLT sign.  As I walked up the field I looked back to see a view over the field and hills.  I stopped for a few pictures and then continued on up to Freiner Hill Road.  At the road I turned left and was soon back at the stile to the cow pasture.  I climbed up and over and then up the pasture to the next stile.

As I climbed over the second stile my GPS unit dropped and I had to climb back down to retrieve it.  I climbed back up and stopped at the top to take a few pictures looking back over the road behind me.  After carefully climbing down I was back in the run between the pastures.  I made my way up through the weed and rough terrain.  It was hot in the open and I was happy to find a little bit of shade now and then.

Finally I arrived back at the fence to the next pasture.  I unhooked the gate and continued on through, closing the gate behind me.  I made my way through the pasture and the next fence and into the woods.  The coolness of the shade from the trees was welcome after being out in the fields.  I came to the blue trail junction and headed down to the first pasture I had encountered.  I decided to stop at the edge of the woods for lunch; it was probably the best spot (mile 14.0 – 2:33 pm).

Field and fall colors
Field and fall colors

After eating lunch and resting, I readied myself and headed across the field.  My feet and legs were sore and my muscles were tight causing me to hobble and limp across the field until the muscles began to loosen and I could move more easily.  After leaving the field behind I came to the last of the stiles and climbed over.  The trail continued down the hill and came back to join the tractor path before finally passing through the gate next to the house at the end of Gates Road.

Goats and their toys along CR 15B
“Aww come on dad, let the ‘kids’ play” – Goats and their toys along CR 15B

I stopped at the trail register near the house to sign in again and then headed down Gates Road (mile 15.0 – 3:33 pm).  At the intersection with CR 15B I turned to head back through the Garwood.  I passed by the goats again and then back to the intersection of Monegan Road.

Monegan Road began to climb shortly after leaving CR 15B.  I trudged up the climb slowly under the hot sun.  By the time I reached my turn onto a small dirt road I was tired and sore.  Thankfully the small road was level and I was able to move faster.  I continued on through the shaded road and then came to a corner and the road began to climb.  This section did not look familiar to me so I stopped and looked around for blazes.  After checking my GPS unit I realized I had missed a turn.  I backtracked a few yards to find the steps leading down to the trail register and the old railroad bed (mile 16.4 – 4:04 pm).

I signed in at the register and then continued on along the easy and gently descending path of the railroad bed.  The trail veered off to the left and down across the stream to pass around the missing bridge and then back up the other side.  Soon I was back at the field near Swain Ski Resort.

I crossed the field, past the old crumbling concrete, and back onto Mill Street.  The dog who thought he owned the street was no longer outside and I continued on down into the center of Swain.  At CR 24 I turned right to head out to NY 70.

I crossed to the other side of NY 70 and walked along the narrow shoulder as a few cars whizzed by.  After about one-third of a mile I arrived back at England Hill Road (mile 19.1 – 5:02 pm).  I slowly started up the steep grade of the road.  Thankfully the steep section was short, but the road continued to climb; I had nearly two miles of climb ahead.  It seemed to just keep going up and up and up.  I kept looking ahead for the road to level out.

England Hill Rd
England Hill Rd

Finally the road began to ease its ascent.  Ahead of me I saw a man on a bicycle heading towards me.  We each said “hello” as he passed by.  I wondered if he had ridden up the hill on his bike; it would have been a tough ride, even walking was a long slog.  Not long after passing the man on the bike I came to the first of two fields before the parking area; I knew I was almost back.

I left the first field behind and a short distance later came to the second field.  It seemed to take me forever to walk the distance of the second field, but finally I was past it and I could see cars in the parking area ahead of me.  The black pickup was still there and a new car.  I made it to my car and dropped my pack happy to be back (mile 21.1 – 5:49 pm).

After changing into a dry shirt, swapping boots for sandals, and getting some water, I set out on my two-hour drive home.  It had been a nice day for a fall hike.  I knew this would probably be my last hike of the season.  Over the winter I would start planning out the hikes for next season.  I now only had about 130 trail miles left to complete.

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