Further Than Planned

Reading Time: 11 minutes

FLT Map: Baker School House Rd (M20) east to Cheningo Solon Pond Rd (M21)

Baker School House Rd (M20) east to Cheningo Solon Pond Rd (M21)
Baker School House Rd (M20) east to Cheningo Solon Pond Rd (M21)

Hike Stats:
24.57 miles, 2.8mph avg moving, 2.3mph avg overall, 8h:54mm moving, 1h:56m stopped, 10h:50m total time, max elevation 2013ft, total ascent (not recorded), FLT M20,M21

Total trail miles completed to-date: 80.1 (14.4%)

Google: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wWzPeDjonTfXe4Dg9

Further Than Planned

After the last long, and damp, hike I decided on a “normal” 18 mile hike.  The longer distance and the rain had made that hike quite painful and I was not looking to push again for a little while.  The forecast for the weekend was sunny both Saturday and Sunday.  High temperatures on Saturday would be in the upper 70s and on Sunday in the upper 80s.  I decided to go with the “cooler” day and hike on Saturday.

I planned my route to start on Baker School House Road, continue on up to the DEC Truck Trail – my planned turn-around on the last hike – and then on to Cheningo Day-Use Area.  The total round-trip distance would be 18.2 miles.  The Cheningo Day-Use Area appeared to be a good spot for a break and would have good parking for the next hike.

Even though the highs would only be around 80 I wanted to get an early start and hike in the cooler morning temperatures.  It was still dark when I woke.  I made my lunch, packed snacks, and enough drinks for the hike.  After everything was loaded into my car I set out for the trailhead.

I turned onto Baker School House Road and passed under the same canopy of trees that had shed raindrops on me on the last hike.  A short time later I saw the trailhead ahead of me on the left.  I turned my car around and pulled off onto the shoulder of the road.  A large field extended up the hill on my right and away from me.

I pulled on my boots and pack and started into the woods along the field and up the hill; the same trail I had struggled up a month before in the damp and rain.  The weather this time was perfect; it was still cool, only in the low 60s.  The sun was still low and had not yet burned off wisps of fog that hung in the air.

Soon I arrived at the DEC Truck Trail.  It was a small single-lane dirt track that wound its way underneath the thick green canopy of the trees.  I crossed and continued on in the quiet of the early morning.

Sunlight shining through the trees
Sunlight shining through the trees

The trail continued to climb gently for a short distance as it crested the top of a hill.  As I reached the top of the hill the sun lit up the forest around me.  The climb up had been on the south-west side of the hill and the sun, low on the horizon, had been blocked from view.  I made my way down along the trail.  Wisps of fog flowed through the trees as sunlight cast streamers between the branches.

I continued down the hill following a few switchbacks before the trail arrived at the edge of an old unused open field.  The path curved to the left following Trout Brook, a small creek, before making a turn to the right and crossing over.  After crossing the small creek the trail turned left once again and followed along another field, this one in use.

The trail turned left leaving the field behind and continued along through a stand of small trees.  After a short distance it turned to the right and followed mowed path through some tall grass.  A quick climb up under some small gnarled trees brought me to the shoulder of State Route 41.

State Route 41 was a well paved road with a double yellow line down the middle.  It looked as though it had been recently re-done; the pavement was dark black, the lines bright, and the guardrails shiny.  The sun, once again behind another hill, cast the road in shadow.  I walked a short distance down the road to the trailhead and crossed over.

The trail climbed up away from State Route 41 on its way to the top of the hill.  I continued on up the hill for the next 0.8 miles before finally reaching the top; a climb of around 450 feet.  As I crested the hill the sun became visible and shone down through the trees.  I set my pack down and took a break in a warm beam of sun shining through the trees.

After resting and catching my breath from the climb I started off again.  The trail curved around the top of the hill and then began to descend.  A short time later I arrived at Pritchard Brook, another small creek.  I crossed over and then began a gentle climb up to Telephone Road.

Telephone Road, like State Route 41, looked to have been recently re-done.  The paving was much different however.  It was a light-gray stone and tar mix with small loose stones scattered on the top.  I took a few pictures of the road, the sun shining brightly on the tree tops and through a break a short distance away.

I crossed over and continued on up the next hill, Mount Roderick.  After nearly 0.7 miles and 250 feet of climb I came to a small dirt track that my crossing sheet listed as Cortland Two Road.  I quickly crossed over and continued my climb.  Another 0.7 miles and 250 feet brought me to the top of Mount Roderick.

Grave site marker on Mt Roderick
Grave site marker on Mt Roderick

A short distance later I came to a small clearing with a large wooden cross staked in the ground. Sunlight shone brightly down around the clearing and the cross.  Engraved on the horizontal beam of the cross was “1795 SIMEON 1867 . 1795 RUBY ALLEN 1877” and on the vertical “LIDELL”.

I wondered about the cross and who was caring for it.  The area had been cleared of brush and the cross looked fairly new.  I was standing in the middle of the woods with no road, not even a dirt track, in sight.

I left the clearing and the cross behind and continued on.  A little over a mile later I arrived, once again, at Cortland Two Road.  The trail joined the little dirt track on a corner and continued to follow it straight ahead.  I was able to move along quickly as it descended down Mount Roderick.

After a little over a mile I had descended nearly 550 feet.  The trail turned sharply to my right leaving the road behind.  I moved quickly through the woods, the sun shining brightly down through the trees and old leaves crunching under my boots.  The sun warmed the air around me as birds flitted from tree to tree and squirrels and chipmunks scurried around on the ground.

Small pond and wild flowers
Small pond and wild flowers

The trail continued its descent, but at a much more gradual pace.  Finally the trail turned to my left and crossed over a small dam on Cheningo Creek.  A small pool of water sat placidly to the right of the trail.  Wild flowers bordered the pool.  I stopped to take a picture before continuing across.

I left the small pool behind and a short distance later I came to a small dirt track.  The dirt track led me to Taylor Valley Road, a paved road with a double-yellow stripe down the middle.  A grassy area with a small kiosk sat at the corner of the dirt track and the road, while tall evergreens towered over the other side.

Across the road a small drive cut through the towering evergreens.  Just beyond a clearing with a single small pavilion sat, the sun shining brightly down.  I had arrived at Cheningo Day-Use area and my turn-around; it was not what I had been expecting. I had expected to see a larger area with several pavilions, charcoal grills, and maybe even a playground.

Pavilion at Cheningo day-use area on Taylor Valley Rd
Pavilion at Cheningo day-use area on Taylor Valley Rd

My plan had been to stop for lunch at the area, but after checking the time I was surprised to find that it was only a little after 10 am.  Perhaps I had miscalculated.  My GPS unit indicated that I had hiked a little over 9 miles already, could it be wrong?  It did not seem as though I had traveled that far.

It was a beautiful summer day and I felt good and was not ready to turn back just yet.  I had only written down the access points and distances for my planned route, I did not know the distance to the next point.  Most sections between access points are around a mile.  Adding 2 to 2.5 extra miles for an out-and-back would not be too much.

The blazes led me along the clearing under the towering evergreens.  The trail turned to the left to follow the pathway away from Taylor Valley Road.  I came to the end of the pathway and started into the woods and the trail began to climb steeply.  It wound back and forth through a few switchbacks on its way up the hill.  After 0.7 miles I had climbed 550 feet and I was still not at the top.  I was breathing hard and had to stop periodically to catch my breath.

The trail leveled out for a very short distance before starting to climb once again.  Thankfully, this climb was not as steep as the one I had just completed.  After 0.6 miles and a climb of 300 feet I finally reached the top.  I was now 1.7 miles from, and 950 feet above, Taylor Valley Road and I had not yet found an access point.  An access point had to be close I thought to myself, perhaps it was just a little further down the hill.

The trail began to descend.  It turned to the left as I left the top of the hill.  A short distance later it made a sharp turn to the right, continued on for a short distance, and then made another turn back to the left.  The trail began to descend more steeply and I had to brace myself as I continued down the hill.

Foot bridge over ditch on Cheningo Solon Pond Rd
Foot bridge over ditch on Cheningo Solon Pond Rd

After 0.5 miles I arrived at Cheningo Solan Pond Road; I had descended 450 feet.  A small footbridge took me across a deep ditch to the road.  Taylor Valley Road was now 2.65 miles behind me.  This access point had been further than I had expected.  Even with the further distance it was still not yet noon – 11:22 am.

I walked across the paved road on slightly unsteady legs, the descent had worked the muscles hard.  Since it still was not yet noon I decided to walk a little further.  I could look for a good parking place for my next hike and perhaps find a nice place to stop for lunch.  It would also let my leg muscles relax a little before I had to turn back and begin the steep climb up the hill.

I walked down Freeman Road, a dirt and gravel road.  Less than 1000 feet later I came to a split in the road.  The blazes indicated that the trail continued on the left branch of the road.  The road narrowed and grass, brush, and pricker bushes closed in.  The road was only one car-width wide with tire ruts pocked by potholes.  I continued along the ridge in the middle of the tire ruts, the sun beating down on me.  Flies and other flying creatures buzzed around and past me.

Finally I called a halt to my hike; I would not be driving down this road and there was little point to continuing on.  Taylor Valley Road was nearly three miles behind me; it was time to turn back.  I made my way back to the little footbridge on Cheningo Solan Pond Road.  I sat down on the shaded part of the footbridge and pulled my lunch out of my pack.

After I had eaten and rested for a bit I began the difficult climb back up the hill.  I slogged up slowly, pausing along the way to catch my breath and slow my beating heart.  Finally I was back at the top and started my way back down to Cheningo Day-Use area.  My leg muscles were screaming – or maybe it was me – as I picked my way down the steep descent and through the switchbacks.

I uttered a sigh of relief when the trail finally reached the bottom and leveled out.  My leg muscles tight and sore as I walked a little unsteadily down the path to the day-use area.  I turned to walk along under the shade of the towering evergreens sore and tired.  At the small driveway into the day-use area I crossed Taylor Valley Road to the grassy area and kiosk on the other side.

Looking north-west on Taylor Valley Rd at Cheningo day-use area
Looking north-west on Taylor Valley Rd at Cheningo day-use area

I set my pack down and got a snack and something to drink.  It was 9 miles back to my car and I was getting low on drinks.  I had used two Capri-Sun pouches as freezer packs, so I could drink those.  Still I had only brought enough for an 18 mile hike; I had added 6 miles to the hike.  I would have to carefully ration and conserve for the rest of the hike.

After a short rest I headed down the dirt track away from Taylor Valley Road.  A short time later I crossed the small dam on Cheningo Creek and then turned to follow the trail along the side of the hill toward Cortland Two Road.  Upon arriving at the road I turned and began the climb up Mount Roderick.

The dirt road seemed to continue climbing on and on with no end in sight.  I slogged my way up the road slowly, aching and sore, and a little thirsty.  Finally I was back at the top and the trail veered left off the road into the woods.  I needed a drink after the long climb.

After a short rest I continued on, passing by the clearing with the cross.  A short time later I crested the hill and started down.  Soon after I crossed over Cortland Two Road again and continued on down to Telephone Road.  I still had two more hills to climb and I was tired, sore, and thirsty.

Once across Pritchard Brook I started the next-to-the-last climb.  This climb was short, but steep – 350 feet over 0.33 miles.  I slowly slogged up the hill, finally arriving at the top, sat down, breathing hard, and got a drink out of my pack.  It was my “backup” drink, the now-thawed CapriSun pouch, and I only had two.

After another rest and a little bit to drink I continued on heading down the hill on my way to State Route 41.  The descent made my over-used leg muscles burn and my legs shake.  Finally I found myself at the shoulder of State Route 41.  I crossed over and headed down along the mowed path and across Trout Brook.

Ahead of me lay the last climb, and it was a big one – almost 700 feet over 1 mile.  I began the climb, slowly working my way up the hill.  Every so often I had to stop to catch my breath and slow my beating heart.  I really wanted to stop and get something to drink, but I forced myself to wait and continued on.

Finally I reached the top and took out my last CapriSun pouch.  The cold liquid was gone too quickly and seemed to barely make a dent in my thirst.  Soon after I crossed the DEC Truck Trail and was making my way down to Baker Schoolhouse Road and my car.

I slogged down along the field, the shadows growing longer as the sun neared the horizon.  My entire body ached with every step.  Finally I arrived at the road and turned to walk the short distance to my car.  I opened the pack that had been sitting in my car all day; the two drinks in it warm, and guzzled the first one in seconds.  Even though it was warm it felt good.  I saved the last one for the drive home and changed out of my boots in preparation for the drive.

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