The Last Overnight (Day 2)

FLT Map: Bucktooth State Forest Lean-to (M2) east to McCarthy Hill Rd (M3)

Bucktooth State Forest Lean-to (M2) east to McCarthy Hill Rd (M3)

Hike Stats (Day 2):
14.98 miles, 2.7mph avg moving, 2.0mph avg overall, 5h:38m moving, 1h:41m stopped, 7h:19m total time, max elevation 2156ft, total ascent 2876ft, 191.99ft/mi. FLT M2,M3
Total trail miles completed to-date: 558.1 (94.0%)

Photos:
Google: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5kRPeR4gbsJQYqs2A

The Last Overnight (Day 2)

…Continued from Day 1

I

t was the middle of the night when I woke, darkness still surrounded me. I shivered and pulled the blanket tighter around me and over my head. The wind hissed through the pine trees above; which I thought was odd being the middle of the night — usually the air was still unless rain was on the way.

I pulled the blanket tighter, closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. However, nature called to me and pried my eyes back open. Finally I had no choice but to unwrap myself from my blanket, unzip the bug netting of the hammock, and fumble in the darkness with my flashlight for my boots. After pulling on my boots I walked to the privy.

As I walked back to the lean-to the wind continued to hiss through the trees above me and drops of rain began to splatter down. I climbed back into the hammock and bundled myself back into my blanket. As I closed my eyes and started to drift back to sleep a loud BANG jolted me awake; a pine cone from one of the pine trees had fallen on the metal roof of the lean-to.

BANG! BANG! More pine cones dropped from the heights above. Then the sound of light rain began to patter around me and the wind quieted. I drifted quickly back to the peace of sleep.

I woke to gray skies a little after 7 am. The air was damp and cool from the rain overnight. I unzipped myself from the hammock and walked over to the fire pit. Surprisingly hot coals remained buried under the ash. In short order I had stirred the fire back to life and heated water for breakfast; hot chocolate and instant oatmeal.

After finishing my breakfast I packed up the camp in preparation to head back to my car. Before leaving I grabbed a cloth and headed back down to the stream to wash up once more. The water felt chilly and I gasped as I rubbed the cloth over my face and chest.

I climbed back up to the lean-to and pulled my pack on. The wet cloth I had taken with me to the stream was hooked through a loop on the shoulder strap of my pack. In a side pocket I slid in a half empty bottle of water. After one last look around the campsite I started out on the climb up to the top of the hill. As I left the lean-to behind and turned onto the trail I checked my phone, it was 8 am (mile 0.0 – 8:03 am).

Field west of E. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd
Field west of E. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd

The climb up to the top of the hill got my heart pounding. Although it was cool, the air was damp and humid and I was sweating by the time I reached the top. I made my way down the hill, wading through the tall grass and weeds as I neared East Branch Bucktooth Hollow Road.

At the road I turned left and began the long trek to the next trailhead (mile 1.9 – 8:59 am). I was thankful that it was still cloudy and cool; it made the road walk a little more bearable. As I continued up the road I saw a woman with a Golden Retriever mix walking toward me. We said hello and she commented that the weather was great; I certainly agreed.

Intersection of 4th St (right), Liebler Hill Rd (left) and E. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd (behind).  Electric sub-station at the corner.
Intersection of 4th St (right), Liebler Hill Rd (left) and E. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd (behind). Electric sub-station at the corner.

Soon I was at the intersection of 4th Street and Liebler Hill Road (mile 2.6 – 9:12 am) . 4th Street climbed up away to my right. I was not eager for the climb, but once again glad that it was still cloudy and cool. I began my slog up the steep slope of 4th Street.

The road climbed 460 feet in just 0.7 miles; the trailhead lay another 0.1 miles beyond the top. I slowly plodded up the road, occasionally taking a sip from the water bottle I had placed in the side pocket. Although it seemed as though it took much longer, I reached the trailhead twenty minutes after starting the climb (mile 3.4 – 9:32 am).

Once off the road and back on the trail I dropped my pack. I finished off what was left of the water in my side pocket and pulled another drink out. The climb had left me sweating and hot. I counted the remaining drinks I had left — two Capri Sun pouches (used as freezer packs, now unfrozen), two bottles of water, and two sports drink bottles. I would need to plan out my drinks carefully.

Fog drifting through the trees east of 4th Street
Fog drifting through the trees east of 4th Street

After finishing my drink I replaced the now empty water bottle with a new one in the side pocket. I set out and soon came to the rugged section that descended down to the Pat McGee Rail Trail. The trail twisted and turned through the trees and rocks. Leaves dripped water on me as I brushed by and fog drifted through the trees.

I pushed through the pricker bushes and arrived back on the small rocky tractor path that would lead me to the rail trail. A short distance later I turned right and began the long walk along the Pat McGee Rail Trail (mile 5.4 – 10:31 am).

Note: From Lee’s Hollow, west of the Pat McGee Rail Trail, to the end of the hike I did not take any more pictures. I had planned to take more pictures especially in Little Rock City, but I was too exhausted by the time I reached the old railroad bridge.

On my hike out the trail had been easy, albeit somewhat flat and boring. The return was torturous. The ground felt hard and unforgiving under my feet; not helped by my broken boot. I plodded along, hot and sweaty, looking for a small stream to wet my cloth in that might give some relief.

I finally found a small shallow ditch alongside the trail and dragged my cloth through the water. After wiping my face with the wet cloth I continued moving along the trail. Finally the old railroad bridged loomed up ahead of me.

I made my way halfway across the bridge, dropped my pack, and sat down (mile 7.0 – 11:01 am). I drank the rest of the water in the bottle and a Capri Sun. As I sat I snacked on some raisins, peanuts, and pretzels. Once more I tallied my water supply. I had one Capri Sun, one water bottle and two sports drinks left.

After finishing my snack and drink, and feeling a little more energized, I climbed to my feet and picked up my pack. The first few steps hurt and I felt stiff and sore. I hobbled along until the muscles loosened and I was able to walk more normally once again; my feet and legs still hurt, but I could move more easily.

A short distance later I arrived at Woodworth Hollow Road (mile 7.3 – 11:16 am) . The rail trail continued on straight across, but my path took me to the left onto the road. I made the short walk to the intersection of NY 353. As on my way out, I waited for a number of cars to speed by before I could cross. I walked as quickly across as I could, but my feet hurt with each step.

The chicken barbeque that had just been starting the day before was now gone. I thought about stopping at the golf clubhouse restaurant, but I really just wanted to get back to my car. My body hurt and I was hot and sweaty. I was also afraid if I stopped for too long I would not be able to finish my hike.

I trudged past the clubhouse and on up Stone Chimney Road past several of the golf holes. A few golfers were out playing and some said hello to me as I passed. Finally I came to the end of the paved section of road and, with dread, began the dirt and gravel section.

Stone Chimney Road climbed after leaving the pavement behind. I felt the stones under my feet as if they were hot coals. I gritted my teeth and slogged ahead climbing my way up to the trailhead. Finally the barricade that blocked the grassy logging road appeared to my left (mile 8.3 – 11:38 am).

Crawling under the barricade was not an option in my mind; if I got down I might not get back up. Instead I pushed through brush at one side of the barricade and made my way around. I left the barricade behind and started another long climb.

I slowly made my way up the old logging road, sipping at my water now and then. The road climbed 280 feet over 0.6 miles. Two-thirds of the way up I stopped to take a short break to catch my breath. I was sweating and hot and breathing hard. After a few swallows of water I pressed on up the climb.

Finally I reached the next trailhead (mile 8.9 – 11:54 am). The grassy logging road continued on up the hill, but a mowed path turned off to the right leading to the trailhead. I continued on along the trail as it wound its way through the forest, climbing slightly up the hill. I stopped two more times to wipe my face and neck with the cloth, now only slightly damp.

The trail began to climb more steeply up around larger rocks. Ahead of me a hiker in a bright yellow North Country Trail shirt was descending toward me. I stopped to say hello and noted that it was quite humid. He gave me some encouragement that I was almost to the the top.

Finally the trail leveled out and a short time later I arrived at the new lean-to west of Little Rock City (mile 10.2 – 12:34 pm). I sat down on the decking of the lean-to and removed my boots, sock, and my sweat-soaked shirt. The sock I had pulled over the toe of my broken boot was beginning to fray, so I pulled the remaining sock over top of it. It was then that I noticed one of my hiking socks, which I had pulled through the loops on the back of my pack, was missing — UGH! The socks were not cheap; each pair cost about $24.

I finished the last of the Capri Sun pouches and a sports drink; all that remained was one bottle of water and one sports drink bottle now. After a rest I pulled on my shirt from the previous day; it was dirty and smelly, but dry. Since I now had no extra socks I could only pull on the socks I had been wearing which were damp and uncomfortable. I jammed my feet back into my boots and set off.

A short time later I came to a small dirt road and turned right. I walked about 0.1 mile down the road before I realized I had made a wrong turn. Extra walking was not what I needed. Upon returning to the trailhead I discovered that the trail continued on across the road. I turned right and re-entered the woods continuing on.

Another short walk and I descended down onto the road to Little Rock City (mile 10.8 – 1:09 pm). I plodded along the side of the road and a car pulled up alongside me. The driver rolled down her window. She asked me if this was the road to Little Rock City. I told her it was and that the loop was just ahead. She thanked me and she drove on ahead.

A short time later I was at the loop at the end of the road. The woman, who had passed me just a short time earlier, and her companion were parked and they were getting their dog out of their car and leashed. I passed by them and said “hello again”. They joked that they should have just followed me.

I entered the trail to the boulders of Little Rock City and was soon winding my way through. As I wound along I encountered a few families out enjoying the area. The children raced ahead of their parents chasing each other through the maze of boulders. I had planned to take more pictures on my way back through, but I was too tired.

Soon I left the massive boulders behind and continued on winding through the woods. I crossed a few small rivulets, the first few barely a trickle. Finally I found one that was just deep enough to wet my cloth in. The water felt ice cold; it must have been a spring.

A short distance later I found another small bit of water and pulled out my chilly towel. This water was not as cold as the previous. I squeezed the water over my head letting the cool water run down my face and neck. After drenching myself I draped the towel over my neck and continued on.

The trail continued on around the hill and arrived at the Passport rubbing station above the tornado devastated area (mile 12.8 – 2:05 pm). I took another rest break before heading down and drank half of the remaining bottle of water. A number of wild raspberries grew nearby and I snacked on several, their sweet juices wonderful.

I started off once again making my way down the maze-like paths. As I walked down I stopped to snack on raspberries along the way. The raspberries eventually transitioned to wild blackberries, but those were still green. Finally I turned left and could see the CCC Camp Seneca ahead of me.

The trail turned right and opened out onto Hungry Hollow Road (mile 13.4 – 2:27 pm). I crossed and came to the stream that ran beside the road. After setting my pack down I took my towel, wet it, and squeezed it over my head repeatedly. I drank the last of my drinks; they were gone too quickly. Once I finished I pulled my pack back on and started up the trail.

I had just left the stream behind when I heard a rumble of thunder. The forest had darkened and it was quiet and still. I continued on up the old logging skid — only 1.5 miles to my car. Another rumble of thunder sounded and I decided I should stop and stow my camera in a plastic bag and pack it away.

Once my camera was safely stowed I shouldered my pack again and started up the trail. Within seconds I heard the sound of rain falling through the leaves. A few seconds later the first drops hit me and a steady rain began to fall. I was soaked within minutes, but it felt good.

Thunder continued to rumble as I pressed up the hill and the rain continued to fall. It seemed as though I should have reached the road, but the trail continued on. At a more sheltered area of the trail I pulled my phone out to check the map; the marker showed me almost on top the road. I moved on quickly with newfound energy… and the trail continued. Where was the damn road!?

I checked my phone again, and the marker appeared nearly on top of the road; it had to be close. I continued on and so did the trail. I started swearing under my breath; where was the fucking road!? The trail made a switchback to the left and then right and finally the road appeared (mile 14.9 – 3:13 pm)

Muddy rivulets streamed down the dirt and gravel McCarthy Hill Road. I slogged down the side of the road to where I had parked. The rain continued to fall steadily and booms of thunder echoed through the forest. Finally my car appeared ahead of me (mile 15.0 – 3:23 pm).

I opened the back of my hatchback and it provided a small amount of cover. After swapping sandals for my soaked boots and socks, I changed into a dry set of clothes I had left in the car. All of the wet clothing and my soaked pack I stuffed into the back of the car. I closed the back and jumped into the driver’s seat.

After taking a few moments to drink a bottle of sports drink I had left in the car and take a few breaths I started the engine. The rain began to fall harder as I pulled out onto McCarthy Hill Road. The wipers on my car were on high and streams of muddy water flowed down the road. Seconds later bright bolts of lightning flashed and a loud crack of thunder followed. I had made it back to my car just in time.

I continued driving down the road and soon arrived at a paved road that took me to the highway. As I approached the highway on-ramp I passed by two gas stations. Something looked off with the stations, and then I realized they were both dark; they had lost power.

I merged onto the highway with the rain still falling. As I continued east the rain began to lessen to just a spattering of drops. Ahead of me dark clouds hung low over the hills. Several brilliant bolts of lightning flashed hitting the tops of the distant hills. The lightning continued to flash as I drove on, spiking down from the clouds.

As I neared Corning the clouds opened up again and a deluge let loose. I slowed the speed of my car and increased the speed of my wipers. A few drivers had decided to pull off to the side of the road and wait it out. Finally as I neared Elmira the rain let up to a light drizzle.

I was nearing Owego — 25 minutes from home — when the clouds grew darker once again and lightning began to flash. Thankfully I pulled into my driveway and unloaded my car before another rain and lightning storm started.

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