The Last Hike Before The Last Hike

FLT Map: ASP 3 (M1) west to Coon Run Rd (M1) east to Blue Trail Jct (M1)

ASP 3 (M1) west to Coon Run Rd (M1) east to Blue Trail Jct (M1)

Hike Stats:
19.33 miles, 3.0mph avg moving, 2.3mph avg overall, 6h:32m moving, 1h:52m stopped, 6h:32m total time, max elevation 2186ft, total ascent 2431ft, 125.76ft/mi. FLT M1
Total trail miles completed to-date: 585.2 (98.6%)

Photos:
Google: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZcKPjbm1Pvk3HqSR7

The Last Hike Before The Last Hike
M

y alarm went off in the quiet darkness of early morning. It was still several hours until sunrise. This would be the last pre-dawn start of my end-to-end journey. I set about preparing my gear with a tinge of sadness. Just before 4:30 AM I backed out of my driveway and set off on the long 3+ hour drive west to Allegany State Park.

I was nearing Cuba, NY as the sky was beginning to lighten, although it was still dim. Ahead of me a copse of trees loomed dark in the median between the east and west bound lanes of I-86. A pair of deer stood in the middle of the highway looking directly at me. I hit my brakes and slowed quickly. The deer ran off to the right and I slowly increased my speed once again.

A short time later Google Maps advised me my exit was nearing, however it wanted to take my along backroads and enter the east side of Allegany State Park. I wanted to enter the park from the west side so that I could inspect the cabin area that I would be staying at for my final hike the following month.

I drove on as Google continued to tell me to take the exit. Once past the exit the app recalculated the route to take me in via the west entrance of the park as I wanted. A short time later I passed the large casino in Salamanca where I had started two previous hikes.

I drove on as the sun continued to brighten the sky. About ten minutes later I exited the highway and turned left on NY 280 heading south to Allegany State Park. The little two lane road wound through the woods. A short time later Quaker Lake opened on my left and the road crossed over a bridge as it continued on near the lake.

Ahead the silent and dark check-in booth for the state park crouched low. I slowed as I approached to make sure I did not need to stop, but seeing it closed I continued on past.

The road, ASP 3, wound through the park as beams of sunlight streamed through the trees. I passed by the Quaker General Store and saw cabins scattered around. The cabin I had reserved was just a short distance up ASP 1 which joined ASP 3 near the store. Once I had completed my hike I planned to come back to explore a little.

I left the store and cabins behind and continued my drive through the park. The road curved to the right and then a parking area appeared on my left. Too late I realized that was my starting point. I decided to continue on past and explore the park for a little bit; I had enough time to spare.

A short drive later I came to another check-in booth; the east end of the park. I turned around and headed back to the parking area. It was still somewhat early and only a few other cars were parked in the small dirt lot. I pulled in and then began preparing for the hike (mile 0.0 – 8:00 am).

Trailhead at ASP 3, trail heading east
Trailhead at ASP 3, trail heading east

I shouldered my pack and began walking south down the side of the road to the trailhead. Ahead of me I saw a brown sign with white lettering, “North Country Trail”. Below it an FLT sign was attached to the post. The sign marked the east-bound trailhead, which I would return to later; I was heading west first.

I continued past the sign and then across a small culvert that passed under the road. A short distance on the other side the west-bound trailhead left the road on the right. I crossed over and headed into the woods (mile 0.2 – 8:05 am).

The trail was mostly level and easy to follow and I moved along quickly. Sun shone brightly down through the trees and felt warm as I passed through the beams. Birds chirped and squirrels and chipmunk skittered through the brush and leaves.

Bridge over Coon Run east of Coon Run Rd
Bridge over Coon Run east of Coon Run Rd

Forty minutes later I arrived at a well-built footbridge over Coon Run (mile 2.0 – 8:45 am). I stopped to take several pictures before making my way across. On the opposite side of the bridge a sign post indicated I was at “Coon Run, mile 8.6” — I was very close to the end of the Finger Lakes Trail.

A short hike brought me to Coon Run Road and my first turn-around (mile 2.1 – 8:48 am). The road was a small dirt road. I checked the shoulders for adequate parking. My girlfriend would be meeting me here with my ten year-old son on my final hike so that he could hike the second half of my out-and-back with me.

After taking a few pictures I turned back and stopped at Coon Run once again. I took a few more pictures of the bridge and stream before continuing on.

A short distance from the stream I noticed a brown post with vertical blue lettering, “SPRING” and an arrow pointing to the right (mile 2.4 – 8:57 am). I decided to take a quick detour and check the spring out.

A quick walk brought me to small dip in the forest. Ferns grew around the edges of the dip. A small white PVC pipe extended out of the ground spilling out water in pulses. Numerous small green plants grew around the pipe in the wet ground. The water gurgled and blurped as it spilled from the pipe.

I turned back to the main trail and continued on. Sunlight streamed down through the trees and warmed the air and ground. The air smelled of the sweet scents of early fall.

A short time later I arrived back at ASP 3. I crossed the road, turned left across the culvert, and arrived at the trailhead I had passed by earlier (mile 4.1 – 9:30 am). The trail took me to the right away from ASP 3 and began to climb up Mount Oneida. The air was warming, but thankfully it was not humid.

Small stream south of ASP 1
Small stream south of ASP 1

A good climb brought me to the top and then the trail continued on along a ridge line gently rising and falling. The trail began to descend and I came to a small stream (mile 6.9 – 10:48 am). Small leaves fell through streamers of sunlight. I paused to take a few pictures and breathe in the fresh air.

I crossed the small stream and continued my way along the trail. A short distance later I saw an old lean-to sitting to the left of the trail (mile 7.1 – 10:51 am). I knew from looking at the map there was a lean-to nearby, but this one looked much too old and run down.

Old lean-to south of ASP 1
Old lean-to south of ASP 1

I left the trail to investigate the old lean-to. Moss covered the roof and a few places were sagging down. Grasses and weeds had grown up around the lean-to and a small pine had taken root on the left side. An old blue tarp lay on the dirt floor inside the lean-to.

After taking a few pictures of the decaying structure I stepped back onto the trail and continued on. About 130 yards later I arrived at a junction (mile 7.2 – 10:58 am). The main trail continued on straight ahead. Another trail turned to the the right and led up to a new lean-to, Stony Brook Lean-to. A signpost and Passport rubbing station sat at the intersection.

Stoney Creek Lean-to, south of ASP 1
Stony Brook Lean-to, south of ASP 1

I turned right and climbed up to the new lean-to for a rest break. A picnic table sat in the front and a metal fire ring lay just to its right. I set my pack and camera bag down on the table and investigated the area.

A trail register was mounted on the outside wall of the lean-to. A cast iron pan hung from a hook above numerous cans of food left by a trail angel. Nearby, a privy stood with a pipe rising vertically to vent the pit. Once I had explored the area, I returned to the table and sat down for a drink and a snack.

After a relaxing break I pulled on my pack and descended down to the main trail. I turned right onto the trail and resumed my hike. The trail rose and fell gently as it continued its way through the woods. Sunlight filtered through the trees and create warm smells of early fall.

The trail began an easy climb along a wide path. A short time later I arrived at an old logging skid (mile 8.6 – 11:32 am). The skid was now a grassy path, but infrequent vehicle traffic had created a pair of tire ruts that ran down the middle of the path. I turned left onto the skid and it gently descended its way to ASP 1.

A short time later I arrived at ASP 1 (mile 9.4 – 11:52 am). On the opposite side of the road a large North Country Trail sign stood to the right of the trail. On the left side a smaller mileage sign indicated distances to points ahead and behind me. Bright sunlight shone down on the road making speckled patterns of light and shadow.

Signpost north of ASP 1
Signpost north of ASP 1

I crossed the road and continued on. The trail turned to the right and then I arrived at a junction in the trail (mile 9.6 – 12:00 pm). A black signpost with white lettering on a double cross piece stood at the junction. A trail called “Eastwood Meadows” travelled both to the left and right. The North Country Trail continued to the left.

I turned left and continued along the trail as it gently climbed. A snake slithered quickly off the trail startling me. It had been warming itself in the sun and I had disturbed it as I walked up the trail.

I left the snake behind and continued on along the trail. I entered an area with larger trees which created a cooler and darker environment. Ferns grew between moss covered logs and a small stream wound through the forest. The stream was nearly dry but for a small trickle of water.

A moment later I arrived at the blue trail junction and my turn around (mile 11.6 – 12:43 pm). Sun broke through a gap in the tall trees and light streamed down. On my previous hike it had been cloudy and the area had been darker. I took a few pictures and then started on my way back.

It was after 1 PM and I was getting hungry so I found a spot at the top of a hill to take a break and eat (mile 12.5 – 1:25 pm). After resting and getting some food I continued on and soon arrived back at ASP 1. Once across the road I begin the gentle climb up the logging skid.

Old logging skid south of ASP 1
Trail south of ASP 1

I climbed up the logging skid and came to the right turn that took the trail off the old road (mile 14.7 – 2:19 pm). The trail began its descent and then wound on through the forest. About one-half hour later I arrived back at Stony Brook Lean-to. I climbed the short path up to the lean-to and set my pack down on the picnic table.

After a short break I started out again. I crossed the small stream with the small leaves falling that I had taken pictures of earlier. The trail continued across and then began its climb up to the ridge line.

Ahead of me I spotted another hiker, an older woman, out enjoying the beautiful weather (mile 16.6 – 3:06 pm). She had stopped for a rest and I said “hello” as I caught up to her. Since we were heading in the same direction we decided to continue our walk together. We chatted as we walked. I told her about my end-to-end section hike of the Finger Lake Trail. She was exploring the many trails in Allegany State Park.

Just before we began our descent down Mount Oneida we encountered another hiker coming up towards us (mile 17.5 – 3:30 pm). The hiker was a young Asian man and he had a full overnight pack on his back. We stopped to chat with him and he told us he was planning to camp at Stony Brook Lean-to. I told him about the old lean-to on the left and that the new one was a short distance beyond.

We said our goodbyes to him, wished him a good hike, and continued on down. As we neared ASP 3 we encountered a trio of hikers. They were planning to head up to the lean-to also. I told them that we had just passed another hiker heading there as well, but there might be room to share.

A few moments later we arrived at ASP 3 and turned right to head to the parking area. A short walk up the road brought us to our cars (mile 19.33 – 4:24 pm). I said goodbye to the woman. After changing out of my boots and pulling on a fresh shirt I started my car and headed west on ASP 3 to the cabins I had passed in the morning.

I soon arrived back at the Quaker Area. Cabins dotted the area along with a gift shop and general store. ASP 1 joined ASP 3 and continued on to the right. I turned right onto ASP 1, the cabin I would be staying in was just off the road. I quickly found the cabin, it looked nice, but as I suspected there was no cell service. After surveying the area I turned around, turned right on ASP 3, and started my long drive home.

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