Shorter Than Planned

Reading Time: 18 minutes

FLT Map: S. Canada Hill Rd (M4) west to Ellicottville Maples Rd (M3)

S. Canada Hill Rd (M4) west to Ellicottville Maples Rd (M3)

Hike Stats:
16.71 miles, 2.8mph avg moving, 2.2mph avg overall, 6h:01m moving, 2h:32m stopped, 8h:33m total time, max elevation 2106ft, total ascent 3095ft, 185.22ft/mi. FLT M3,M4
Total trail miles completed to-date: 528.6 (89.0%)


Shorter Than Planned

he western terminus of the FLT was getting closer. I was now just under 70 trail miles (140 out-and-back miles) from the end. I wanted to cross off as many miles as I could, so I planned a 22.5 mile hike. The hike would be a solo hike because Chase was unable to join me this time.

I woke at 3 am, ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. After packing drinks, snacks, and a lunch in my bag, I ate a quick breakfast. A travel mug worth of coffee brewed as I took my gear to the car. By 3:45 am I was on the road with my coffee mug sitting in the console.

The temperature was only 64, but the air was heavy and humid. It made it feel as if it were much warmer. I knew there would be fog on the drive. Less than 20 minutes into my travel I encountered the first bank of fog. I continued to drive into and out of banks of fog as I traveled. Each time I slowed my speed and strained my eyes until I broke free.

As I neared Campbell, NY the sky finally began lighten. Although the fog banks remained it was easier to see as I drove through them. I arrived at the exit for Bath and pulled off to get more gas and some more coffee.

As I got back on the highway the sky continued to brighten and the fog began to dissipate. The wind also began to pick up blowing the last remaining wisps away. I turned onto South Canada Hill Road around 6:40 am. The trailhead lay to my left. After turning around I pulled to the side of the road.

Signpost at S. Canada Hill Rd
Signpost at S. Canada Hill Rd

I pulled on my socks and boots, picked up my pack and walking stick, and started out (mile 0.0 – 6:47 am). A quick climb up a bank beside the road brought me to the place Chase and I had stopped for lunch on the previous hike. Just beyond the clearing was a signpost standing just inside of a tree line. The sign post pointed distances both east and west on the trail.

I passed through the small section of woods and then turned out into an old overgrown field. The grass was tall and wet from morning dew. My legs, socks, and boots were soon soggy, but there was no help for it. I continued climbing up through the field.

View across an old overgrown field near the top of Canada Hill
View across an old overgrown field near the top of Canada Hill

Near the top of Canada Hill I discovered another old and overgrown field. A “V”-shaped cut between trees presented a spectacular view to the hills and valley in the distance. I stopped to take a few pictures before continuing on (mile 0.5 – 7:02 am).

The trail descended back into the woods and came to a long patch of Stinging Nettles. I immediately recognized the itchy-sting as I walked into the plants and stopped. The patch continued on ahead of me for another twenty feet or more. After looking around for a way to bypass it and finding none I gritted my teeth and plunged ahead. The itchy-sting would subside after about 15 — 20 minutes.

The trail continued to descend down from the top of Canada Hill. Ahead of me I saw two register boxes, one broken, and an “L”-shaped signpost. The signpost had boards on each leg giving distances and directions (mile 1.2 – 7:25 am). I had arrived at the junction with the Conservation Trail, one of the early sections of the FLT (see History Of The Finger Lakes Trail).

The two registers hung on a pair of trees next to each other. One was a wooden register with its door broken. The other a metal ammunition box. I unhooked the clasp of the ammunition box, but the lid remained stuck. After pulling hard on the lid it finally popped off. The trunk of the tree it was mounted on had grown around the box making it difficult to open.

Inside the register was a notebook to sign in on, and it was completely soaked. About 1/2 inch of water filled the bottom of the box. Signing in on the register was not an option. I closed the box as best I could and made a note to myself to send an email about it to the trail report after I returned home.

I left the signpost and register behind and continued on down the trail. The trail came to a field with a fence and turned slightly left to follow along next to it. Another slight left turn brought me to a tractor path which I followed through a small section of trees and out into an old overgrown field. I saw no sign of white blazes ahead of me and stopped to check the digital map on my phone.

Several deer flies immediately swarmed me. I swatted them away, but they continued to swarm and land on me. I re-holstered my phone — I could check the map later — and walked quickly, swatting at the flies. The tractor path curved around to the right and ended at a road, Fancy Track Road (mile 2.0 – 7:50 am). The flies left me as I stepped onto the road, thankfully they had not bitten me. I checked the map and I was still on track, the trail turned right down the road.

Looking north on the Buffalo & Pittsburgh railroad (no longer used) at Fancy Track Rd
Looking north on the Buffalo & Pittsburgh railroad (no longer used) at Fancy Track Rd

I turned right and started my walk down along the side of Fancy Track Road, a paved quiet country road. As I walked I passed a scattering of houses. The road curved gently to the left and descended. Ahead of me an old railroad track crossed the road, the tracks rusting and no longer used. A few old telegraph poles remained, one broken and leaning dangerously to the side. I stopped and took a few pictures looking down the tracks as they extended away toward the distant hills (mile 2.5 – 8:01 am).

Looking south from Fancy Track Rd near intersection of NY 240/CR 32
Looking south from Fancy Track Rd near intersection of NY 240/CR 32

After taking several pictures I continued on down the road. Ahead of me I could see the junction with NY 240/CR 32. A two-story log cabin style house sat on the other side of the junction. To my left a field extended toward a small red barn. Beyond the barn a notch between two hills gave glimpses of more hills further away.

I turned left on NY 240/CR 32 and a few yards down the road a small dirt and gravel road climbed up to the right (mile 2.7 – 8:07 am). A gate at the bottom blocked further travel up the small road. A white blazed indicated that the trail followed the road up past the gate. I squeezed through a narrow gap on the left side of the gate and continued on up the road as it climbed the hill.

The road began to curve slightly to the right as it climbed and the trail made a turn to the left to leave it behind. A short distance after leaving the road I arrived at another pair of registers with a sign posted above them (mile 3.0 – 8:16 am). Once again one of the registers was wooden and the other an old ammunition box. The sign above indicated this was the Evart Hittle memorial section of the trail, sponsored by the Foothills Trail Club

Looking down on a boardwalk and bridge over a stream west of NY 240/CR 32
Looking down on a boardwalk and bridge over a stream west of NY 240/CR 32

After signing into the register and leaving it behind I came to a steep descent. The trail switched back on itself and I came to a series of boardwalks over wet sections of the trail. The hillside dropped away on my left to small stream below. I could see a set of stairs ahead descending down to the stream, another section of boardwalk, and a bridge across the stream (mile 3.1 – 8:22 am).

I made my way along the boardwalk, down the stairs, and across the next set of boardwalks to the bridge. Along the way I paused to take several pictures. Finally I crossed the bridge, took a few more pictures, and continued on.

The trail once again began to climb, this time at an angle along the side of the hill. It turned and as it neared the top a field of tall grass opened out in front of me. A pair of tire tracks had flattened the grass leading up to the top of the hill. I waded up through the grass following the tire tracks, the grass making a swish-swish sound as I walked through it.

Near the top I passed a lone tree standing in the green-gold grass. I stopped to take a few pictures and then continued on. As I reached the top, I looked back to see an incredible view spread out before me (mile 3.8 – 8:46 am).

Looking across a field on top of a hill east of Brennan Rd
Looking across a field on top of a hill east of Brennan Rd

I continued on down along the edge of a forest and came to a tractor path on my left. Ahead of me and to my right a fence surrounded another field. The tractor path continued on into the woods and the blazes directed me down that path.

After continuing straight for a short distance the trail turned to the right and descended down the hill. I came to an old, overgrown, and barely visible foundation. The trail circled around one side of the old rock foundation, probably an old farmhouse from before the depression. I took a few pictures and then continued on. A short time later I arrived at Brennan Road (mile 4.3 – 8:59 am).

Wild strawberries growing along the edge of Brennan Rd
Wild strawberries growing along the edge of Brennan Rd

I made my way past a power line pole and down the bank to the side of the road. At the roadside I noticed some bright red berries growing close to the ground — wild strawberries. I took a few pictures and snacked on the sweet juicy berries before crossing the road and continuing on.

The trail descended down across a small creek and then began a climb up through a hollow between two hills. I stopped for a quick break and noticed some small wildflowers growing in the shadows. They were small with five white petals. Threads of purple stretched out from a small yellow star in the center. After researching I discovered the flowers were called “Spring Beauty

I left the flowers behind and continued my climb up to Irish Hill Road. The trail leveled out just before arriving at the road (mile 5.4 – 9:32 am). I turned right and made my way along the road for a short distance. Ahead a square piece of wood, like the kind a posted sign would be attached to, was mounted on a metal post. The wood had a double white blaze indicating a turn off the road.

Signs at trailhead on Irish Hill Rd, trail heading west
Signs at trailhead on Irish Hill Rd, trail heading west

At the trailhead, in addition to an FLT sign, a “No Trespassing – Video Surveillance” sign in black letters was posted right in the middle of the trail (mile 5.5 – 9:36 am). I thought that some hikers might have second — and maybe third — thoughts about continuing past the sign; it was a bit “off-putting”. Nevertheless, I continued on past, confident that if the land owner had closed the trail it would have been noted very clearly.

The trail made its way through an old overgrown field. I wound my way around some pine trees turning left and then back right again before entering the woods. After leaving the old field behind the trail began to descend and I came to a logging skid. I followed it and soon it made a steep descent down to a staging area where logs were placed before being loaded onto trucks. The trail turned left and led me out to Cotter Road (mile 6.3 – 9:58 am).

I turned right on Cotter Road, a small paved country lane, and walked down the road along the edge. After walking for some time I finally saw an FLT sign and two double blazes ahead indicating that the trail turned off the road (mile 6.9 – 10:12 am).

I stopped and looked for the next blazes further off the road, but I could see none. Tall grass and weeds grew up next to the road making it difficult to discern where the path led. I plunged into the tall grass and a short distance later found a white blaze on a tree deep in the overgrowth.

After passing that blaze I once again struggled to find the next blaze. Finally I found it, a tree had fallen and had covered the blaze with its still-leafed branches. I broke some branches and picked my way around the tree-fall and up over a bank to arrive at a small stream.

Across the stream I saw the next white blaze. I picked my way across the stream to the blaze and searched for the next one. After walking back and forth searching for the blaze I finally found it leading up a steep bank. I pulled myself straight up the steep hillside thinking that the trail really should have been a switchback and some blazing work was needed.

Deer seen through the trees south of Cotter Rd
Deer seen through the trees south of Cotter Rd

Finally I arrived at the top of the climb and turned right to follow the trail. The trail continued along mostly level as it curved its way around the side of a hill. As I walked I caught sight of some movement ahead. A deer was grazing in the forest. He raised his head and I could make out what looked like six antler points (mile 7.4 – 10:26 am).

The buck noticed me and quickly raced off snorting and huffing. I continued on around the hill and then the trail turned to the right and began to descend. The trail turned back to the left and a short time later I could see and hear busy US 219 through the trees.

The trail continued to parallel US 219 and became rocky, muddy, and slippery. A small tree-fall forced me to climb over the fallen trunk and as I put my foot on the other side I slid; thankfully I grabbed onto the tree and stopped my slide. I worked my way along the section of trail. The blazes seemed to be scattered haphazardly around and the trail itself was difficult to find and often did not follow the blazes. Finally I turned to the right and the trail opened out onto the road (mile 8.1 – 10:49 am).

I stopped before climbing down the bank to the edge of the road to take a moment to survey the crossing. Cars and trucks whizzed by at a steady and frequent interval. I scanned the opposite side of the road for any indication of where the trail went. After searching for several minutes I could not find any blazes and I pulled out my phone to look at the map. The map indicated that the trail crossed and descended down alongside the road.

I left the shadows of the woods and climbed down the bank to the edge of the road as cars zoomed by. After several cars passed by in both directions there was a break in the traffic and I scurried across.

On the opposite side of the road there was a break between two guardrails and an overgrown area with tall weeds. A pathway descended down to the right. I waded through the tall weeds and came to a deep water-filled ditch (mile 8.2 – 10:56 am). After searching for about a minute I saw the next white blaze — on the other side of the ditch.

The ditch in front of me was filled with at least two feet of water and an unknown depth of mud below. I turned back and bushwhacked my way around to the right attempting to find another place to cross. As I pushed my way through the shoulder-high weeds my foot dropped into a hole filled with water. Thankfully the only damage done was a wet foot.

Flooded stream crossing west of US 219
Flooded stream crossing west of US 219

I continued on a short distance, but found my way blocked by more water. I backtracked once again and returned to the bank beside the ditch. There appeared to be a slightly drier piece of land just to my right. I edged out and carefully stepped across the shallow sections of water. Slowly I made my way around to the right until I came to a small log that crossed the ditch.

The log was stable and I could possibly step across it, but it was narrow and the ditch on either side was filled with at least two to three feet of water; not counting the mud. I thought about attempting to cross on the log, but if I slipped I would be up to my thigh in water. The distance was too far to jump across and there was no room behind me to get a running start. I could not cross.

Disappointed I made my way back around to the bank and began walking back up toward US 219. I looked down at the stream and the deep ditch continued to meander along. There appeared to be no place where I might be able to cross safely. Finally I was forced to concede that I would have to turn back 3.2 miles from my planned turn-around.

Once back at US 219 I again waited for a number of cars to zoom by before quickly crossing. I climbed up into the woods and started my way back along the rocky, slippery, and muddy path that paralleled the busy road. My feet slid several times before the trail finally turned uphill and the ground became more solid.

I continued on making my way along the side of the hill and then the trail turned to my left and began its steep decent down to the stream next to Cotter Road. The steep bank was slippery and I had to slowly and carefully make my way down. I was almost halfway down when my feet slid and I started sliding down the hill. Thankfully I kept my balance and stopped sliding after a few feet.

I finished the descent and turned to the left to pick my way along the edge of the creek. A short distance along I found the crossing, stepped across a few rocks in the shallow stream, and climbed my way up through the tree-fall. After making my way past the tree-fall I continued on through the tall weeds to Cotter Road (mile 9.5 – 11:56 am).

I turned right on Cotter Road and started my walk along the edge of the road. A little over ten minutes later I arrived at the logging road that was the next trailhead. I followed the logging road to the staging area and decided to take a break. A number of logs still lay in the staging area, so I made my way over to one and sat down (mile 10.3 – 12:10 pm).

I pulled off my damp boots and socks to let me feet dry. My feet had become all wrinkly from being in the wet socks. While I rested I grabbed a drink and an energy bar from my pack. After resting for a few minutes I pulled on new dry socks and hung the damp socks from loops on the back of my pack. I jammed my feet back into my boots, picked up my pack and my walking stick, and began the steep climb up the logging skid.

Turtle found in a wet area along the trail between Irish Hill Rd and Brennan Rd
Turtle found in a wet area along the trail between Irish Hill Rd and Brennan Rd

I continued my climb up to Irish Hill Road and then turned right down the road. A short walk and I arrived at the trailhead that left the road heading east. The trail descended down through a small hollow and I came upon a wet section of the trail. A pool of water spread across the trail. I had passed by the pool earlier, but now there was a new addition. In the middle of the pool was a turtle (mile 11.7 – 12:57 pm).

After taking a few pictures of the turtle, I continued on my way and soon arrived at Brennan Road. I crossed the road and stopped to pick several of the wild strawberries growing there for a quick snack. The sweet juicy berries were a wonderful pick-me-up.

I left the berries behind and started my climb up the hill. At the tractor path I turned left to follow it out to the field. I needed another break so I sat down on a tree that had fallen across the tractor path (mile 12.5 – 1:21 pm). After a drink and some pretzels and peanuts for a snack I picked up my pack and turned to head toward the field. As I turned I saw two creatures further up the trail between me and the field.

I could not make out exactly what they were. One looked lean and my first thought was mountain lion, but that did not quite fit. I stood up on the fallen tree to get a better vantage. As the creatures slowly made their way toward me I was finally able to better make out what they were; a pair of dogs. Phew! But still I was wary.

I jumped down off the tree and began making my way toward the dogs. When I was about thirty feet from them they noticed me. They both barked, but not a warning or aggressive bark; just announcing themselves. I continued to walk forward at a steady pace and I talked to them as I did. When I got too close for their comfort they would fall back and bark at me. We continued this “dance” until we were at the field.

One of the dogs moved out into the field and the other moved off to my right — the same direction I needed to go. He stayed close to the tree-line and began to circle back around. I really did not want to be between the dogs; I did not think they would attack, but better not to chance it. As best I could I kept my eyes on both dogs and continued to talk to them. Finally I was past and they both moved off to my left into the field.

I could hear the dogs bark occasionally as I made my way up the field through the tall grass, but soon I lost sight of them and they moved on to other things. After cresting the top of the hill and taking another picture of the view before me I continued on down to the edge of the field. I had to search for several seconds to find the blaze that led me back into the woods.

Looking across a field on top of a hill east of Brennan Rd
Looking across a field on top of a hill east of Brennan Rd

The trail continued on into the woods and then turned to the left angling down along the edge of the hill. Soon I found myself back at the boardwalks and the footbridge (mile 13.5 – 1:53 pm). I made my way across the footbridge, climbed the staircase, and then turned to walk along the boardwalks. A short distance later I once again arrived at the memorial sign and register.

I signed in on the register; the pen I used leaked all over my fingers and I had blue stains which I tried unsuccessfully to clean off. The trail continued on and I arrived at the small dirt road that led down to NY 240/CR 32. I could hear people to my left working, possibly mowing. I turned right and made my way down the dirt road. The gate at the end was now open and I walked easily through to the road (mile 13.9 – 2:06 pm).

I turned left onto NY 240/CR 32 for a short distance and then right onto Fancy Track Road. I crossed the old railroad track and continued on up the road. Finally I found myself back at the trailhead that turned left off the road onto a tractor path through an overgrown field.

I followed the path around through the field. Thankfully this time I was not attacked by deer flies. As I came around the corner in the field and headed toward the woods I saw a woman coming toward me — another hiker (mile 14.7 – 2:22 pm). I said hello and she asked if I was hiking the Finger Lakes Trail. I told her I was and she said she was too, but had gotten turned around and had gone in a circle. She asked if I knew where the path was. I told her I was on my way back and I had the track on my phone and she could hike with me if she liked. She agreed and we set off.

As we hiked we chatted and introduced ourselves; her name was Julie. Soon we both realized that we had not seen a white blaze for a while. We stopped and looked around and then backtracked to where I had first met her. Julie caught sight of a blaze along a fence line. We followed it and soon found blazes ahead.

Looking south-east across an old field west of S. Canada Hill Rd
Looking south-east across an old field west of S. Canada Hill Rd

We continued on along the trail chatting as we hiked. Two more times we lost the trail and had to backtrack. Finally we crested Canada Hill and began our descent. Ahead a view opened out between the trees looking down on the road. I stopped to take a picture before we continued on. A short distance later we arrived at the field I had waded through at the beginning of the hike. Another view presented itself and we both stopped to take some pictures (mile 16.6 – 3:14 pm).

The trail left the field and entered the woods. Ahead the sign post that overlooked South Canada Hill Road stood beside the trail. I looked down on the road from next to the sign and saw my car parked on the shoulder. We made our way down to the road, said goodbye, and she headed up the road to Sunset Hill Road where she had stowed her bike (mile 16.7 – 3:20 pm).

I opened my car and dropped my pack in the back seat. After changing into a clean shirt and swapping my boots and socks for sandals I was ready to head home. However, I had not taken photos of the flooded stream at US 219. In my attempts to find a way around and the frustration of being turned back I had forgotten to take any. I knew I needed some at least to submit with the trail report. After mapping a short drive to the trailhead I pulled my car onto the road.

About ten minutes later I passed the trailhead on my left. After turning around I pulled off in the gap between the two guardrails moving my car as far to the right as I could. I jumped out and quickly walked down to the stream. After a few picture I made my way back up to my car. Soon I was on my way home, arriving much earlier than I had planned, with a shorter hike than planned, but still crossing off a few more miles.

4 thoughts on “Shorter Than Planned

  • I’m planning on hiking from Salamanca to Franklinville at the end of August. Let’s hope it dries up a little by then.
    Thanks for the great read.

    • Hi Scott, I have not finished writing the story, but my next hike after this one I started at Poverty Hill Rd and decided to hike east to US 219 and see how far I could get. The trail just east of Poverty Hill Rd was quite well maintained. A newly mowed path went up around a field just to the east of the road. I got to the top of the switchbacks above the stream and US 219 and had to stop there. This is the area that had been logged – hence the reason for the closure (see the trail condition notices). There was no active logging, but the area on the steep slope was completely overgrown with briars. If the switchbacks had any benching the trail had eroded. I turned back after trying to bushwhack my way down only a few yards because it was unsafe. So, bottom line, you’ll have to take the road walk around that section. At Poverty Hill Rd you’ll need to hike north to Lindberg Rd and then head south on US 219. Be aware US 219 is very busy. In my opinion the section from the top of the switchbacks down to US 219 is impassable and I would not recommend attempting it even if the stream has dried up.

  • Thanks for letting me know. I now have 30 days (give or take a few) to plan on what I’m going to do for this hike. Side Note: I’m planning on being on trail 4 to 5 days.

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