Up The Downhill

Looking down the ski lift from the top at Holimont Ski Area - FLT M3
Reading Time: 18 minutes

FLT Map: Poverty Hill Rd (M3) west to McCarthy Hill Rd (M3)

FLT Map: Poverty Hill Rd (M3) west to McCarthy Hill Rd (M3)
Poverty Hill Rd (M3) west to McCarthy Hill Rd (M3)

Hike Stats:
20.67 miles, 2.8mph avg moving, 2.1mph avg overall, 7h:19m moving, 2h:35m stopped, 9h:54m total time, max elevation 2257ft, total ascent 3847ft, 186.12ft/mi. FLT M3
Total trail miles completed to-date: 543.3 (91.5%)

Google: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8EPQD8r7e7d36ty26

Up The Downhill

y last hike had been stopped short of my planned turn-around. This time I planned to begin my hike at the next access point and attempt to hike east to US 219 and see if the crossing had dried.

I started my long drive a little before 3:30 am. My car had a full tank of gas and I decided to stop for gas on my way back home after the hike instead of stopping in Bath in the morning as I usually did. The air was cool, in the low 60s, but did not feel chilly as I left.

Only a few small pockets of fog dotted the highway. As I neared Bath the sky was just showing the first hint of the coming day. I also felt a little chilly. After turning up the heat a little in my car I checked the temperature on my dashboard readout; it was 58. The temperature had dropped 6 degrees.

I arrived at the trailhead on Poverty Hill Road at little after 6:30 am. The sun was still low and the air was chilly. I kept my shorts on because I knew once I got moving I would warm up quickly. After putting on my boots and pulling on my pack I started walking down the road to the trailhead that would take me east to US 219 (mile 0.0 – 6:46 am).

A few minutes later I arrived at the trailhead. The trail left the road and climbed up through woods next to a house and onto a recently mowed path. A short walk brought me to a field. The mowed path continued on turning left along the edge of the field. I was thankful to the person who had mowed — I did not have to wade through deep wet grass.

At the top of the field I looked to my right and saw a view open across the field. I could see the hills and valleys beyond. A few clouds and some pockets of rising fog dotted the horizon (mile 0.4 – 6:54 am).

View from a field on top of a hill east of Poverty Hill Rd
View from a field on top of a hill east of Poverty Hill Rd

I continued my way across the field and entered the cool and darker woods. Sunlight filtered down through the tree creating beams of light and dappling the ground. The trail was easy to follow and I moved along quickly. After a short distance the trail turned to the left and continued on bearing straight ahead.

After another short walk I came to an old logging skid (mile 1.1 – 7:10 am). The skid descended down to my right and it appeared that the trail might follow it down. The area below me had been logged and only a few trees remained standing. I could see no blazes, but I knew there were a series of switchbacks down the steep slope to the stream crossing next to US 219.

I picked my way down and came to a flat section. After looking around for a blaze I found one on one of the remaining trees to my left. I started my way along the logging skid toward the blaze. The skid had become overgrown with briars and I knocked them down with my walking stick as best I could.

It took me several minutes to reach the blaze. The trail was slanted down the steep slope and I braced myself with my walking stick as I scanned the area for another blaze. I spotted a blaze up the slope from where I stood — not the direction I needed to go. After more scanning I spotted another blaze further down the slope.

Although I found the blaze I could see no hint of a trail. The entire area was overgrown with briars and the slope was steep. After seeking some way to proceed down I finally gave up. I would not be going any further — this section of the trail was impassable.

I bushwhacked my way up the the blaze above me. Briars pulled and scratched at me as I slowly made my way up. Finally I reached the top of the slope and turned to the left. The trail came out through an overgrown area onto the logging skid that I had turned right on earlier.

I made my way back along the trail and turned right to head to the field. A short time later I arrived at the edge of the field and made my trek around the edge on the mowed path. At the top of the hill I took some more pictures before continuing on down to Poverty Hill Road.

Housing development on Poverty Hill Rd (still under construction)
Housing development on Poverty Hill Rd (still under construction)

After reaching Poverty Hill Road I turned right to head back up to where I had parked my car a short time earlier. As I reached the top of the climb on the road I noticed a sign to my right for a new housing development that seemed to be in the initial stages of construction (mile 2.3 – 7:52 am) . The sign consisted of two parts, a gray “L”-shaped part laying on its side and a brown piece on top of the “L”. The brown part had large letters cut out of it spelling out “Trail Heights”.

There were two roads leading into the new development; one on the right side and another on the left just before the parking area I had pulled my car into. Both roads were still only dirt and gravel with no visible signs of house construction. I guessed that the property owner was still selling the plots before they would begin construction.

I turned left off Poverty Hill Road and walked past my car to the trail as it headed west. The trail made its way up an old overgrown logging skid. I waded through deep grass and weeds. The grass and weeds were still wet with morning dew and my legs, boots, and socks were soon soaked.

Housing development plot map west of Poverty Hill Rd
Housing development plot map west of Poverty Hill Rd

The trail continued up the hill running parallel to the left leg of the dirt and gravel road for the housing development. After about 1/2 mile the trail turned to cut across the development road. As I neared the road I noticed a sign posted on a tree (mile 2.8 – 8:03 am). It indicated I was standing in “Plot 20” and displayed a map of the project and the individual plot. I was heartened to notice that the developer had indicated a hiking trail wrapping around the community.

I crossed the dirt road to the other side and continued on up the logging skid. The development road came to an end on my right and I continued on up the hill. I crested the top of the hill and began to descend down.

Memorial bench north of Maples Rd
Memorial bench north of Maples Rd

The trail made a sharp turn to the right and began to descend quickly ahead of me. Just before beginning the steep descent I came upon a memorial bench (mile 3.5 – 8:22 am). On the back rest of the bench was painted, “Rest Remember The Good Days” and on one side “Remembering Tom Kiczek 1990 – 2002”.

I sat down on the bench for a rest, a drink, and an energy bar. After I finished I hoisted my pack and set out down the trail. The trail continued to descend as I carefully wound my way down. Finally it began to level out and I came to a wet area just before reaching Maples Road. I squished through the muddy area quickly and stepped out onto the road (mile 3.9 – 8:40 am).

Looking south-east on Maples Rd at trailhead
Looking south-east on Maples Rd at trailhead

A house sat across the road from me and just a short way to my left a brown barn bordered the road. I could make out an FLT sign posted on the far edge of the barn. Shadows blanketed my side of the road, but the barn and the yard surrounding it were bright with sun.

I walked down to the far side of the barn and then crossed the road. Beyond the barn a yard stretched, but I could see no blazes. I slowly walked next to the barn into the yard and spotted a turn blaze on the side, but I could not decipher where it was directing me. The digital map on my phone seemed to indicate that the trail headed toward the back of the yard, so I walked on through the yard.

As I neared the back I saw a footbridge over a small stream. I continued on to the back of the yard and then walked along the edge until I reached the bridge. Across the bridge tall grass grew in an old overgrown field. I crossed the bridge and waded into the grass. Once again I could find no blazes and was unsure of the direction I should travel.

Finally I pulled out my phone to look at the digital map. The map indicated the trail curved to the right and up the hill. I began walking up the field between bushes and small trees as I looked between my phone and where I was actually walking. The small blue dot that indicated my location began to diverge from the black line of the path — DAMN! I backtracked and took another branch to the right and this time stayed on the black line of the path (mile 4.1 – 8:47 am).

Finally I left the field behind and saw a white blaze on a tree in the woods ahead of me. The trail continued climbing up to the top of the hill. After climbing for a while I crested the hill and began a gentle descent. Ahead of me a small field opened. I walked along the edge of the field to a tractor path that left the field and entered the woods. The blazes indicated that the trail turned to follow the tractor path (mile 5.1 – 9:17 am).

I turned into the woods and looked around for the next blaze, but could find none. I continued following the tractor path slowly, hoping that I had not taken a wrong turn somehow. After nearly 100 yards I finally spotted a blaze ahead.

I continued my way along the tractor path — or perhaps it was an old logging skid — the blazes few and far between. As I walked I began to fume and mutter to myself about the poor blazing. To no one I complained, “proper blazing means that when you stand at a blaze you should be able to see at least one ahead of you and at least one behind you”.

The trail curled its way around the side of the hill and then began to descend. I came to a junction and the blazes indicated that the trail turned to the left and followed a more well-traveled path around through an open field. The new path could almost be considered a small dirt and gravel road.

I made my way around the dirt track, the sun shining down brightly. The air was warm now and under the sun it felt even warmer. Ahead of me I saw a small copse of trees and was happy for the relatively cooler shade — at least until the biting flies began to buzz me.

A silver roof appeared ahead of me. I thought at first that I was looking down on someone’s house. As I drew nearer I saw that it was a water storage facility. A sign on a fence around it indicated it was for the town of Ellicottville.

I continued on down the road and came out into a wide clearing that could have been used as a parking area for many cars. The entrance led me out to NY 242 (mile 7.4 – 10:16 am). A few cars passed by in both directions as I walked down the shoulder of the road.

A short distance down the road I spotted a double white blaze on one leg of a yellow “curve ahead” road sign. Just beyond it I saw an FLT sign mounted on a short fence that led up to a footbridge.

Footbridge over stream off NY 242, trail heading west
Footbridge over stream off NY 242, trail heading west

I crossed the road and made my way up and across the footbridge (mile 7.5 – 10:19 am). It crossed over a quickly flowing stream and opened out into a mowed grassy area. To my right I saw a ski lift for the Holimont Ski Area. Behind the lift was a wooden fence which had two white blazes on it. I made my way around the lift and turned to my left.

Looking up the ski lift at Holimont Ski Area, trail heading west
Looking up the ski lift at Holimont Ski Area, trail heading west

Ahead of me the trail climbed up through an overgrown path to the right of the lift. I waded through the grass and as I climbed I noticed nearly a dozen snow making machines sitting along a line of trees to my left. Weeds and grass had grown up around them, but once the weather turned cold the crew at Holimont would pull them out and the ski season would begin.

I continued on up and came to a dirt road that angled left up the slope. The trail turned to follow the dirt road. I slowly made my way up the hill. The sun was now quite warm and beating down on me. I paused once I was able to find some shade and grabbed a bottle of water.

After a brief rest I continued on up. I passed by a sign for a black diamond run called “Irish Whiskey”. I looked down the run, which was a narrow chute twisting through the trees and said to myself, “Hell No!”. Of course I have never downhill skied, so even the green circle slope that I was hiking up would have been a challenge on skis.

Looking down the ski lift from the top at Holimont Ski Area
Looking down the ski lift from the top at Holimont Ski Area

The trail turned back sharply to the right as it continued to climb. I trudged up around the curve. Finally it began to level out and the trail entered a wooded area. A short walk through the woods and I arrived at a clearing. The top point of a ski lift sat to my right (mile 8.5 – 10:48 am).

I continued on and passed two more lifts. The last lift was the largest one. The trail continued on through the woods and passed by a maintenance shed. A few yards later I arrived at a trail register and a bivouac area. A small pond lay just ahead of me.

After signing into the register I continued on along the edge of the pond on a dirt road. Ahead of me I spotted a pickup truck parked at the far end of the pond. I could see a man and he seemed to have a dog with him, but I could not make out what he was doing.

I came around the pickup truck and saw the man, who appeared to be in is mid 20s, was standing in waders in the water and holding a fishing pole. His dog, a German Shepard mix came to greet me holding a large red ball in his mouth. I said hello to the man and asked how the fishing was. He said he had caught a few large mouth bass.

I said I hoped he had a good day and continued on. His dog began to follow me; evidently his dog was bored with fishing and I looked more interesting — or maybe where I was going was more interesting. The man called him back, “Reggie back here. Reginald, come here!”. The dog looked at me wistfully, but turned back.

I continued on around the pond and looked for blazes. Once again I was unable to find any, so once again I checked the digital map on my phone. I had missed a turn to the left a little further back. So I backtracked to the man and his dog — Reginald “Reggie” — and saw a small post with some white blazes on in the middle of some tall grass (mile 9.3 – 11:16 am).

Reggie started to follow me again, but the man called him back once again. I continued on along. The slope of a dike rising up to my right. I suspected that another pond was beyond the slope. I also guessed that Holimont might possibly use the ponds as a source of water for their snow making; it would be easier to take water from up above than to pump it from below.

I continued around on a small dirt road. Ahead of me I saw two large rocks blocking vehicle traffic from entering a cut through the woods. I walked over to the rocks looking for a blaze. Yet again I had missed a turn. I backtracked and found another obscured post in tall grass. Another opening through the trees lay a few yards back.

I continued on through the trail in the woods and came out into a clearing below another even taller dike. A dirt road came in from my left. As I walked toward the road a car pulled around the corner and drove on ahead of me. The driver pulled over a few yards ahead and got out. I continued walking past him saying hello.

The trail continued along the dirt road below the tall dike to my right. As I walked along the dirt road I thought I heard the sound of children playing. Perhaps there was a beach at the end of the pond?

Ahead of me I saw a parking area with several cars. There was a porta-potty and a portable sink next to a closed gate (mile 9.7 – 11:26 am). I made my way past the gate, spotting a white blaze on a tree just beyond. As I passed through the gate I was able to see that there was indeed a beach. It also looked like there was a class on Stand-Up Paddle Board (SUP) being taught further out in the water.

The beach was filled with families. Several children splashed in the water while their parents sat back on a small strip of sand. A log cabin sat behind the beach. It appeared to be for “administrative use”; possibly the SUP instructors or life guards.

Closer to me a group of people stood in a circle. An older man was talking and giving, what appeared to be, a talk. A few of the people around him were recording his talk. I walked past nodding hello to a number of the group. A short distance later I turned to enter the woods where I thought the trail should go and realized I had once again not seen a blaze.

I pulled out my digital map and backtracked yet again. I walked past the group saying that I had missed the trail and that I had had a difficult time following it today. One person in the group said that they too had not been able to find the trail.

I continued on and found the blaze I had missed which turned to the left. The trail then turned back to the right and entered a pine forest (mile 9.9 – 11:29 am). Several other trails criss-crossed through the area. I made my way along quickly stepping over roots and a few rocks; the ground blanketed with pine needles.

As I continued on along the trail I began to hear a high-pitched whine; it sounded like an alarm. The whine got louder as I continued walking. Finally I came up a small climb — the whine very loud now — and saw a fenced area of a radio tower and building; the whine was coming from the building inside the fence (mile 10.1 – 11:34 am).

Radio tower at Mutton Hollow Rd
Radio tower at Mutton Hollow Rd

I walked past the fenced area and out to Mutton Hollow Road. The road was just a small dirt and gravel road. A large black Suburban was parked along the side of the road. I crossed the road and found that other trails, including mountain bike trails, crossed through the area.

The trail was level and easy to follow and I moved along quickly. I pushed on ahead and soon arrived at a grassy “road”. At first I thought I had arrived at my turn-around, McCarthy Hill Road, but after checking my digital map I realized I still had a short distance to go. This was most likely a snowmobile track.

Indian Pipe plant found at McCarthy Hill Rd
Indian Pipe plant found at McCarthy Hill Rd

I continued on and a short time later I arrived at McCarthy Hill Road, another dirt and gravel road (mile 11.6 – 12:07 pm). After taking a few pictures I turned back. Just inside the shade of the forest I notice some pale white plants growing, Ghost Pipe (also known as Indian Pipe). I took a few pictures of the plant and then continued on.

As I neared Mutton Hollow Road I heard some voices to my left that gave me a start. I looked and saw two men on mountain bikes on another trial that wound through the area. I had not seen them as I moved along the trail. They appeared to be slowed by the rough terrain on their trail and were forced to walk their bikes.

A short time later I heard the high-pitched whining coming from the radio tower and soon after arrived at Mutton Hollow Road. I crossed quicky and plunged back into the forest heading for the little beach area at the end of the pond. I planned to take my lunch break, possibly sitting on the beach.

Finally the whine from the radio tower faded away. A short time later I arrived at the pond area. I turned to head toward the beach and saw that it was packed; it was also still a good distance ahead of me and I just wanted to be off my feet. To my left I noticed two lean-tos facing each other and decided they looked to be a good place for a lunch break. I stepped into the shade of one of the lean-tos, dropped my pack, and sat down on a bench (mile 13.3 – 12:50 pm).

I took my boots and socks off to give my feet a rest and also took the opportunity to change into a new shirt. While I ate my lunch I charged my phone with a battery bank. After a good rest I pulled fresh socks on and put on my boots and headed out.

Looking south along Spruce Pond between Mutton Hollow Rd and Holimont Ski Area
Looking south along Spruce Pond between Mutton Hollow Rd and Holimont Ski Area

I decided to walk along the top of the dike next to the pond instead of following the trail down below. Mid-way along the dike I turned back to take a picture (mile 13.6 – 1:30 pm). Several kayakers paddled around in the pond near me. At the end of the pond I descended down along the side of the dike and passed through the opening in the trees to the next pond area. The opening I passed through was the same one I originally thought the trail passed through on my way out.

I continued back along the road to the first pond. The man and his dog, Reggie, were gone. Mid-way along this pond a small metal dock extended out into the water a short distance. I thought about trying to dip my “chilly towel” in the water; the sun was warm and beating down on me. However, the dock sat too high above the water for me to be able to reach down.

At the end of the pond I arrived at the bivouac area and the trail register. I signed in again and continued on to Holimont Ski Area. After passing the third ski lift I entered the trail in the woods. A shirtless old man was walking up the path toward me. I said hello and continued on, wondering to myself why he was walking through the woods without a shirt — it was warm, but not that hot. He also did not appear to be a hiker as he had no pack or water bottle.

I turned left to head down the ski slope. As I descended I tried to walk in the shade as much as I could, but shade was infrequent. Finally I descended down the overgrown path to the ski lift at the bottom, sweating and hot (mile 15.4 – 2:12 pm). I paused to fiddle with the clasp on the cinch strings of my hat and as I did it popped off. After several minutes of searching for the clasp I was forced to give up and continue on.

I made my way across the footbridge, the small creek running clear and cold beneath me. After crossing I made my way around and down to the steam and wet my towel in the water. The cool water felt wonderful on my hot face and neck. Once I had cooled off a little I left the stream behind and made my way up along the sidewalk along NY 242.

Ski slopes at Holimont Ski Area
Ski slopes at Holimont Ski Area

At the next trailhead I turned right and followed the dirt and gravel road as it climbed up past the water storage facility and into the hot sun again. I stopped for a few seconds in the bright sun to look back at the ski slopes of Holimont and take a few pictures from the other side of the valley (mile 15.8 – 2:27 pm).

My picture taking complete I continued on up and turned into the woods to continue the climb. Finally the trail leveled and I made my way around the hill on the old logging skid. I continued to move along quickly and was surprised by a woman’s voice as I walked along. She was coming up from another path to my right and I had not seen her. We chatted briefly about the heat and humidity and the bugs. Thankfully my hat had kept most of the bugs at bay.

The trail climbed up to the small field near the top of the hill and then another short climb after leaving the field before starting its descent. I continued on down and soon arrived at the overgrown field behind the house on Maples Road. I waded down through the field and then across the small wooden bridge into the yard. An old man was mowing off to my right and an old woman was working around the house.

I continued on up the edge of the yard and past the barn to Maples Road (mile 19.0 – 3:48 pm). A short walk up the road and I turned right to head back into the woods and up Poverty Hill. I picked my way across the muddy and wet area and then began the climb up.

After what seemed like a very long and difficult climb I finally arrived at the memorial bench. I dropped onto the bench thankful for the rest break and quickly drank a bottle of water. After resting I pulled myself back up and continued the final bit of the climb up and over the top of the hill.

The trail began to descend and soon I came to the dirt road that would someday be the main road of the housing development. I crossed the road and came once again to “Plot 20” (mile 20.2 – 4:30 pm). The trail continued on mostly level through the tall weeds and grass, but I knew I was almost back to my car. Finally I saw the car sitting in the parking area ahead of. A short time later I reached my car and finished my hike (mile 20.67 – 4:40 pm).

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