FLT Map: Stebbins Rd (M5) west to Upper Bear Creek Rd (M4)
22.72 miles, 2.9 mph avg moving, 2.1 mph avg overall, 7h:54m moving, 2h:43m stopped, 10h:37m total time, max elevation 2101ft, total ascent 2538ft, 111.71ft/mi. FLT M4, M5
Total trail miles completed to-date: 511.3 (86.1%)
inter finally lost its grip on the area and the snows had melted. The weather forecast for Sunday wasn’t perfect. Temperatures would start in the upper 30s at the beginning of the hike and then rise to the low–mid 60s by afternoon. Unfortunately, clouds were expected to fill the sky by late morning.
Well before dawn I made my lunch, packed drinks for the hike, and loaded all of my gear into my car in the darkness. The long 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead was uneventful. A few patches of fog covered the highway forcing me to slow my speed for a few minutes. At Bath I pulled off the highway to stop for gas and a little more coffee at the Kwik Fill. After fueling up I pulled back onto the highway just as the sky began to lighten.
I arrived at Stebbins Road as the sun was beginning to shine through the trees to the east. After pulling on my boots and hoisting my pack onto my shoulders I headed west on the trail, the sun at my back. My shadow stretched out long in front on me.
A short walk from the road I found a trail register (mile 0.1 – 7:39 am). I opened the register, retrieved the book, and signed in before heading on. Shortly after the register I arrived at a small stream. A single 4×4 beam had been placed across the stream. The opposite side was about two to three feet above the side I stood on.
I carefully balanced my pack, camera, and walking stick as I stepped onto the beam and quickly crossed. Once across I continued on through the woods. The trees only had the first hints of new buds on them. The sun shone weakly through the bare limbs; high clouds had already begun filtering the light.
The trail descended down into a hollow and a stream ran through the middle. Cold, clear water ran quickly around the rocks as I stepped my way across. Patches of sunlight dappled the ground on the far side of the stream (mile 0.9 – 8:01 am).
Once across the stream I climbed up again and continued on through the forest. Although the sun was filtered and weak it still felt nice. Birds chirped in the bare trees. A short time later I came to another hollow, this one deeper than the previous. A small patch of snow still remained near the stream. I carefully picked my way down the slope, the old dry leaves treacherous and slippery under my feet.
The trail continued next to the stream for a short distance. The sounds of babbling water followed me as I walked along. After following the stream the trail finally crossed and climbed up the other side.
I made my way up the hill and a pine forest rose up ahead of me. The shadows under the pine trees were dark and quiet. I could feel the cold air flowing out from the shadows and smell the sharp tang of pine.
The trail turned to enter the pine forest and the shadows wrapped around me as the temperature dropped noticeably (mile 2.0 – 8:35 am). The ground was still frozen under the layer of pine needles beneath my feet and it creaked and groaned as I walked across it.
The trail began to descend toward Pete Hill Road and I found my path partially blocked by a tree fall. A pine tree had snapped off about 15 feet above the ground and the top had fallen across the trail. I picked my way around the fallen tree and continued on. Once past the tree fall I found the trail ahead of me covered in a layer of ice. I set my feet carefully as I walked so that I would not slip and made my way down the trail and past the ice.
The pine forest ended at a small dirt road, Bush Hill State Forest Truck Road (mile 2.4 – 8:45 am). The road continued on ahead to a barricade and Pete Hill Road. A pickup truck was parked just beyond the barricade and tent was pitched in a grassy area to the left. The white blazes led straight past the tent. I saw no activity in the tent and decided to walk down the dirt road and past the barricade instead of following the blazes around the tent.
On the other side of Pete Hill Road I found a signpost with distances to places ahead of, and behind me (mile 2.5 – 8:48 am). I continued on past the signpost. The trail wound its way along through the woods and after a mile I arrived at a clearing. The area was somewhat overgrown with briars. Fortunately it was still early in the season and they had not yet started growing. I imagined how thick, tangled, and prickly the area would be later in the year.
After leaving the briar patch behind I came to what appeared to be a campsite (mile 3.8 – 9:21 am). Three metal chairs surrounded a fire pit with a grill hanging between a tripod. A large chimney cooking area sat a short distance away along with lots of cut and stacked logs. A sky-blue sign hung on a tree, “Welcome Hikers. Leave nothing behind except memories & footprints”.
I dropped my pack onto the ground next to one of the chairs and sat down. In my pack I had a thermos of hot coffee and some homemade granola bars. The hot coffee tasted like heaven. After a short rest I once again pulled on my pack and continue on.
The trail left the white blazes to follow a new route that had yet to be blazed. Pink flagging tape marked the way. The top few inches of the ground had thawed and was wet and muddy, but beneath that it was still frozen and hard. My feet sank into the mud and slid in random directions. It made walking treacherous and difficult; like running on cold and slippery sand.
I finally arrived at a dirt road that wound through Harwood Haven Campground (mile 4.5 – 9:56 am). A left turn took me down the road and past numerous empty sites. There were a few trailers that were probably left year-round, but no one was around. At the bottom of the hill I turned right onto a road called “Moonlight Drive” as indicated by a sign that stood nearby.
I continued on through the quiet campground, past the office and little camp store, and out to the main entrance. At the main entrance I turned left onto NY 98. It was a quiet road, paved, with a double-yellow line down the middle and a wide shoulder that I could easily walk along.
A short distance down NY 98 I came to the intersection of Kingsbury Hill Road (mile 5.3 – 10:13 am). This road was also paved, but without the middle line. I turned left onto the road and continued on. I made my way along the road and past several houses. At one house a man was working outside and his dog began barking and making its way toward me. The man bellowed at the dog to get back, which the dog ignored causing the man to bellow even more.
Finally after walking along the road for a little over a mile I arrived at the trailhead (mile 6.5 – 10:36 am). A wide pathway turned off the road to the right and continued on into the woods. A short distance from the road a tree had fallen across the path. I set my pack down and sat on the log for a rest and a drink. A few yards beyond I noticed a trail register mounted on the side of a tree.
Once I had finished my drink I pulled my pack back on and walked over to the register. I pulled the register book out and signed in. As I flipped through the previous entries I noticed an entry from a fellow FLT-er and the End-to-End coordinator, Jaqui Wensich. I took a picture and planned to send it to her after I got home; Jacqui and I have corresponded on several occasions and it is always nice to find an entry in a register book from someone you know.
I placed the register book back in the plastic bag and closed the door. Not long after leaving the register behind I came to an old logging skid. Tire ruts had filled with water and mud oozed everywhere. I heard a loud squawking sound coming from ahead of me. At first I thought it was a flock of turkeys, but as I got closer to the mud puddles and water holes I saw dozens of frogs leaping into the water; it had been the frogs making all of the noise.
I continued picking my way along the old skid. My path frequently zig-zagged back and forth in an attempt to avoid the water and mud. Several times I was unable to avoid it and plunged into cold squishy mud. Thankfully I missed the deepest sections and my feet stayed dry.
The trail continued along climbing slightly up over a hill and then began to descend. As I picked my way down the trail my feet slid and slipped on the mud and old leaves. I kept my balance, but finally the mud won and I went down. Fortunately I landed on soft ground. I picked myself up and brushed the leaves and bits of mud off.
Just beyond where I fell the trail turned sharply to the left and then continued straight for a short distance. After the short walk I came to a tractor path. The trail turned right and headed down along the edge of the woods. A yard opened up on my left and I could see a house not far away (mile 9.4 – 12:15 pm).
The house had a second floor deck and a little girl was outside playing on it. A few seconds later and her mother appeared. She noticed me and waved saying “hello”. I waved back and said “hello” too and then continued on down the edge of the woods and yard.
As I walked along I noticed a number of chickens had appeared. They all began moving toward me. As I walked more and more chickens appeared and they began to move faster, all converging on me. It was “the attack of the chickens!” I suspected that they thought I might have food. The little girl yelled something from the deck, but I could not make out what it was. It sounded as though she might have been scolding the chickens and telling them to leave me alone.
The path led me down the hill and to the driveway for the house. I continued on down the driveway. Another house sat to my left, screened by tall pine trees. I could see a few people out in the back yard through a break in the pines. I waved, but they either did not see me or ignored me.
The driveway continued on and passed a small cemetery on the right before ending at NY 16 (mile 9.6 – 12:21 pm). This road was a paved road with a double yellow line down the middle – and it was VERY busy. Cars zoomed by in both directions one after the other. Finally a break in the traffic appeared and I crossed quickly to the other side of the road.
I turned right and walked along the shoulder of the road past a few houses. Cars continued to zoom by me in both directions. Ahead I saw the junction of NY 98 on the right; the same road I had walked along earlier. Beyond the junction the road curved to the left and the shoulder narrowed. I stepped into the front yard of a house and walked along in the yard to give enough room between myself and the traffic.
The shoulder widened again as I came around the corner and the road straightened. I moved along quickly wanting to leave the busy road as soon as possible. Finally I saw the intersection of Bear Creek Road ahead of me. I turned left off NY 16 and left the zipping cars and road noise behind me (mile 10.3 – 12:32 pm).
Bear Creek Road was paved, but with no middle line. I continued along the road as it passed between fields. The road rose to cross over a set of railroad tracks. The tracks looked rusty and infrequently used. I continued on past more fields and then the road curved to the right and entered a wooded area.
Finally I saw the double white blaze on a tree ahead of me indicating a turn. A small parking area stretched away from the road to the left. At the back of the parking area a barricade blocked cars from going further. Just beyond the barricade a small creek ran, Bear Creek I presumed. A small footbridge had been built to help hikers across the creek, but it had broken in the middle and sagged into the water.
I had reached my turn around point (mile 11.5 – 12:55 pm). After taking a few pictures I turned back and began the long road walk down Bear Creek Road. I crossed the railroad tracks and a short time later came back to the busy NY 16. Once again I had to wait for traffic to break so that I could cross to the other side.
I made my way along the edge of NY 16 and soon arrived at the junction with NY 98. Fortunately I arrived at an opportune time — no cars were turning onto NY 98 — and I was able to cross quickly. A short distance later I found myself at the driveway I had come down earlier.
I turned left and walked up the driveway, once again happy to leave the busy road behind me. The driveway turned right and I continued on straight ahead up the hill along the edge of the yard. As I neared the house where the little girl had been playing the chickens again took notice and began to converge.
I continued on up past the house and onto the tractor path leaving the chickens behind me. The trail turned left into the woods and I continued along until I came to a tree that had fallen across the trail (mile 13.7 – 1:41 pm). The fallen tree made a good make-shift bench. I decided to stop and have some lunch and take a break. The sun was hidden behind clouds, but the temperature had risen into the upper 60s.
After finishing my lunch and resting for a short time I pulled my pack back on and started off on the trail. I turned right and began to climb up the hill, passing the place that I had slipped and fallen. The water filled ruts and mud once again forced me to zig and zag across the trail looking for the best footing.
Finally after slogging around and through the muck I found myself back at the trail register just off Kingsbury Hill Road. I signed the book once again and took another short rest at the fallen tree. After resting I turned left onto Kingsbury Hill Road and started another long road-walk (mile 16.4 – 3:20 pm).
The country road was quiet and I moved along the side of the road quickly. I passed the house where the dog and owner had both “barked” — neither were outside. Soon I arrived at NY 98 and the short walk to the campground.
Since the walk to the campground was short and it was on the same side of the road as the intersection of Kingsbury Hill Road, I decided not to cross to the other side. I walked along the wide shoulder and soon came to a double white blaze. The trail had left the campground prior to going out the main entrance, but I had missed it earlier. I crossed an overgrown field and climbed up a small slope to the campground and the campground road, “Moonlight Drive” (mile 18.1 – 3:54 pm).
After a short climb up through the campground I turned right leaving it behind and followed the path with the flagging tape. I slipped and slid as I climbed along the trail. My legs and feet sore and aching. I had forgotten how difficult these long hikes were.
Finally I arrived at the little picnic/rest area with the metal chairs surrounding the camp fire (mile 18.9 – 4:17 pm). I dropped my pack and fell into one of the chairs. I pulled a bottle of sports drink and a banana from my pack. After downing the sports drink I pulled out a bottle of water.
Once I had finished my banana and the water I forced myself to my feet and pulled on my pack. I still had about four miles left to go. I slogged along passing through the clearing with the briars and then finally arrived at the signpost near Pete Hill Road (mile 20.3 – 5:05 pm).
The tent and pickup truck that had been at Pete Hill Road earlier were now gone. I cross the road and looked at the steep bank leading up to the clearing where the tent had been. It was only a few feet high, but I was tired and decided to walk around rather than try to climb up.
I made my way around the barricade and on up Bush Hill State Forest Truck Road to the trailhead. The ice that had covered the trail earlier had melted some, but there was still a good amount remaining. I carefully placed my feet and climbed slowly up the trail. Soon I was past the ice and arrived at the tree fall. I picked my way around and continued on up the trail through the pine forest.
The ice under the surface had melted somewhat and a few small puddles of water pocked the ground. The creaking and cracking I had heard earlier was not as frequent or as loud. A short time later I left the pine forest behind and made my way down through the first hollow.
I slogged up the other side slowly, focused on making it to my car. The trail climbed over the top of the small hill and then descended back down to another hollow and stream. I carefully stepped across on rocks in the stream and started the last climb.
I finally found myself back at the 4×4 beam (mile 22.6 – 6:05 pm). The beam sloped down and away from me. I stopped and considered how best to cross. My legs were tired and unsteady and attempting to balance and walk across was not going to be easy, if I even could. Finally after deliberating I decided my only choice was to put one foot out as far as I could and run-jump the rest of the way across.
I took a deep breath, put my right foot on the beam and pushed off. By sheer luck I managed to jump the rest of the way across and landed without hurting myself. I settled my pack, heaved a sigh of relief, and continued on.
A short time later the trail register near Stebbins Road appeared. I stopped one last time, pulled the register book out, and signed in. I made my way past the register and finally to Stebbins Road. My car sat just up the road where I had parked it what seemed like such a long time earlier.
I was happy to arrive back at my car (mile 22.7 – 6:11 pm). After placing my pack in the back seat, I swapped my boots for sandals and changed my shirt. I sat down in the driver’s seat and drank a bottle of sports drink. After I had finished my drink I opened another bottle for the drive home and started my car. The sun was beginning to sink low as I pulled away from the side of the road and started my long drive. I knew it would be dark before I arrived home.