FLT Map: McCarthy Hill Rd (M3) west to W. Branch Bucktooth Run Rd (M2)
Hike Stats (Day 1):
15.61 miles, 2.7mph avg moving, 2.0mph avg overall, 5h:42m moving, 2h:02m stopped, 7h:44m total time, max elevation 2168ft, total ascent 2429ft, 155.61ft/mi. FLT M2,M3
Total trail miles completed to-date: 558.1 (94.0%)
s I usually do, I began checking the weather for the upcoming weekend early in the week. Both Saturday and Sunday’s weather looked good for hiking. Saturday’s weather was better. Sunday was predicted to be warmer with a slight chance of showers in the afternoon. I decided to take the opportunity the good weather was giving me and do an overnight hike.
It would likely be my last chance to do an overnight before I completed the trail. Another advantage was that I would chip off more miles and be able to shorten up subsequent hikes — at least a few miles shorter. Based on this, I mapped out a 15 mile route, which would make it my longest overnight trip. Bucktooth Lean-to sat just a short distance from my planned turn-around point.
I prepared my pack the night before. The extra day required that I carry more gear and more water, so my pack would be heavier. I packed a blanket and my camping hammock, extra clothes, matches and a fire stick, and a few other items I would need.
My alarm woke me in the darkness and I was on the road by 3:45 am. The drive was uneventful. I planned to get gas on my way home the next day, so my only stop was at a rest area along the way for a quick bathroom break.
Nearly three hours later I turned onto Hungry Hollow Road and drove past a trailhead that I would be soon arriving at; although I did not see it as I drove past. A short time later I turned onto McCarthy Hill Road, a small dirt and gravel seasonal road. The road curled its way up the hill and a short drive later I arrived at the trailhead.
About 200 yards before the trailhead I had passed another road that branched off McCarthy Hill Road. It was blocked by a barricade and looked like a good spot to park overnight. I turned my car around and drove back to the junction. After pulling my car as far to the side of the road as I could I parked and prepared myself for the hike.
I pulled my heavier pack on and headed up the road to the trailhead (mile 0.0 – 7:00 am). The sun was shining through the trees, but still low on the horizon. The trail made two small switchbacks after leaving the road and then continued to gently descend. It leveled out for a short distance before starting another descent down an old logging skid.
A short time later I arrived at a small stream, water flowing quickly past as it tumbled over large rocks. Just beyond I could see Hungry Hollow Road. I set my walking stick down and dipped my hands into the water testing the temperature; it was chilly. A short climb up brought me to Hungry Hollow Road, another small dirt and gravel road — the road I had just driven on (mile 1.6 – 7:41 am).
Across the road from me lay the entrance to the old CCC Camp Seneca. It was now a day-use picnic area and offered a grassy field that people could tent camp in. I took a few pictures and then started down the road to the left heading for the trailhead. Just before arriving at the trailhead I realized I had left my walking stick back at the stream; I had to turn back.
After retrieving my walking stick I made my way back to the trailhead and headed up the hill. I arrived in an area of small trees, shrubs, and lots of wild berry bushes. According to the map a tornado devastated the area in 2010 leaving the area without any large trees. I continued climbing up the pathways through the shrubs and bushes. The berries on the bushes, wild blackberries, were still green.
The trail made a sharp turn to the left and then continued its climb. Wild blackberry bushes gave way to wild raspberry bushes, ripe with a few juicy red berries. I continued to climb and pulled myself up a steep slope to the edge of a tree line and arrived at a Wegmans Passport rubbing station (mile 2.3 – 7:58 am).
I was hot, sweaty, and breathing hard from the climb. Behind me I could see a hill across the valley; I had climbed over 300 feet in 0.5 miles. I paused to catch my breath, take a few pictures, and snack on a few of the ripe raspberries.
After catching my breath I pushed on up the trail. It continued to climb for a short distance before turning to the right and leveling out. Once on level ground I moved along quickly. The trail wound its way along crossing several small trickles of water.
Ahead of me a boulder rose up out of the ground on my left. Beyond it another larger boulder loomed. As I walked toward the boulder my boot caught on a root and I felt something pull. I stopped to examine my boot and found that the sole had detached from the front of the boot to approximately four inches back. There was little I could do and I hoped that I could just plod along.
I continued on and passed more boulders and crossed several small rivulets of water. Ahead of me large boulders loomed up and I forgot all about my flopping boot. I had arrived at Little Rock City (mile 3.5 – 8:32 am).
The trail wound its way between boulders the size of houses. Narrow crevices opened between the massive rocks and tree roots snaked down the moss covered sides. I looked around me in awe. The sights were incredible and I stopped to take several pictures as I wound my way through.
Ahead of me one of those narrow crevices opened and the white blaze led me straight ahead into it. I walked between the moss covered sides of the boulders as the walls soared above me. Two people could not have stood side-by-side, probably not even facing each other. As I neared the end of the crevice a bundle of roots bulged from one side. I squeezed past and out into another open area between boulders.
It was still early and I had only encountered a few people exploring the area. The trail turned to the right and curved around even more boulders as it climbed. A short distance later I arrived at a dirt and gravel road (mile 4.0 – 9:02 am). The road made a loop and in the middle stood a sign indicating the area was Little Rock City and pointing the way to the trails and a picnic area.
Around the loop sat a number of campsites with picnic tables protected by small pavilions. The sites sat away from the road about twenty feet. I walked around the loop and then down the road, my boot flopping as I walked. A vacant site appeared to my left and I decided to try to fix my boot, or at least keep it from flopping as much.
I set my pack down on the picnic table and opened my supplies pouch. Inside I found some sports tape and used it to tie around the toe of my boot. It was not perfect, but it helped to keep the boot from flopping and curling under as I walked.
After passing a few more campsites the trail turned to the left off the road (mile 4.2 – 9:10 am). It climbed up a short distance and then crossed another small dirt road and onto an old logging skid. A short distance down the skid a lean-to appeared. It was brand new — a dedication ceremony planned for later in August.
I turned to stop at the lean-to and take a short break (mile 4.6 – 9:19 am). I sat down at the picnic table in front of the lean-to and noticed that it seemed a little low. The legs on the table had sunk into the ground several inches. I pulled the table up and moved it a few inches to the side.
After resting I pulled on my pack and started out again. The trail continued on and began to descend. It wound its way around small boulders and rocks before turning slightly and leveling out. The trail continued on along and about a mile later opened out onto a large grassy logging road (mile 5.9 – 10:02 am).
The road descended quickly, but was easy to follow. I thought briefly that the steep climb on my way back would not be fun. Ahead of me I saw a barricade with a stop sign. Beyond the barricade was Stone Chimney Road. No gap existed on either side of the barricade so I had no choice but to crawl under; not an easy feat with a large overnight pack on my back.
I turned right onto Stone Chimney Road (mile 6.4 – 10:14 am). The road had a fresh layer of gravel and had recently been graded. The stones, not yet packed down, stuck up and poked sharply at the bottoms of my boots. I felt every stone and grimaced as each one bit at my feet.
The road descended ahead of me and at the bottom of the hill it transitioned to pavement. Even though the pavement was hard under my feet it felt better than the sharp rocks.
On my right a hole at the Elkdale Golf Club opened up. I continued on down the road and a short time later holes appeared on my left as well. The nice temperatures and sunny skies brought out many golfers and I said hello as I passed by.
Ahead of me I saw the parking area on the right, packed with cars, and the clubhouse on the left (mile 7.4 – 10:34 am). Outside the clubhouse two people were working on a chicken barbecue. My mouth began to water at the smell, but it was still too early and the chicken was not ready yet.
I passed the barbeque and arrived at the intersection of a very busy NY 353. After waiting for numerous cars to pass in both directions I quickly ran across the road — running with a large pack is not easy and it was more of a quick walk than a run.
Once across NY 353 I continued on Woodworth Hollow Road. A corn field opened to my left providing a sweeping view of the valley and hills beyond. A short walk later I arrived at a small parking area next to the Pat McGee Rail Trail (mile 7.5 – 10:38 am).
I turned right onto the grassy rail trail and moved along quickly. A short distance down the trail I saw an old railroad bridge peeking through the leaves. Wooden decking crossed the ground level of the bridge making a flat and easy surface to walk across. A stream below the bridge ran swiftly (mile 7.8 – 10:45 am).
After taking several pictures of the old bridge I continued on down the trail. Periodically signs giving details about the environment of the area appeared. I paused at each to read before moving on. The trail continued on passing into shaded areas and then back into the bright sunlight. Periodically a side path would come in from the left or right to join the rail trail.
Finally after nearly two miles on the rail trail the Finger Lakes Trail turned left to leave it behind (mile 9.4 – 11:16 am). It followed a rough and rocky tractor path for a short distance and then turned right to leave that behind. The trail wound through thick undergrowth and over rough terrain. Pricker bushes scratched at me and caught at my pack.
The trail began to climb and wind its way up a hill. As I climbed I heard faint voices, perhaps other hikers ahead of me. The voices got louder and seemed to be coming from my right rather than on the trail. I could see what appeared to be a logging road and caught sight of movement. A group of perhaps a dozen people on horseback were making their way down the road — theirs were the voices I heard.
Finally the climb ended and the trail leveled out. I was scratched and sweating, and my feet and leg muscles were sore. As I walked the sole of my boot caught and curled under causing me to trip; the sports tape had fallen off and disappeared. I stopped and pulled more tape out and re-tied my boot.
A short distance later I arrived at 4th Street, a paved country road (mile 11.5 – 12:27 pm). I turned left onto the road and soon came to a steep descent. I plodded my way down the steep hill thinking to myself that this would be a slog on my way back. Normally I disliked road-walks, but with my broken boot I was thankful for it; the even surface kept the sole from catching and pulling back.
At the bottom of the hill I came to a junction with another road, Liebler Hill Road (mile 12.3 – 12:46 pm). It joined 4th Street on the right and the two continued on to create East Bucktooth Branch Road. I continued on down the road and after 0.6 miles arrived at the trailhead.
The trail turned off the road to the right just before a driveway. The path was overgrown with tall grass and weeds. I waded in and was soon coated with small seeds from the grass. The seeds covered my legs, arms, and hands.
The trail climbed its way up to the top of a hill. I had marked my map that a tent site was nearby; a backup plan in case the lean-to was occupied. As I neared the mark on my map for the tent site the trail turned to the left and began to descend (mile 14.0 – 1:35 pm). I looked around to try to spot the site, but could see no signs, hopefully I would not need it.
As I started down the trail my boot once again began to flop; the sports tape had disappeared again. I was only about 1/2 mile from the lean-to so I decided to continue on. My boot caught several times and curled under me. Small sticks poked in at my exposed toes and my foot was wet.
The trail turned to the left and then began to descend more steeply. I made my way down slowly, taking care not to let the sole of my boot curl under and trip me. I was ready to stop and set my pack down. Finally, the lean-to appeared ahead of me and I turned right and made my way past a pair of benches surrounding a fire pit (mile 14.9 – 2:02 pm).
I dropped my pack on the floor of the lean-to and sat down exhausted, sore, and sweaty. Before grabbing a drink from my pack I pulled off my boots and wet socks to give my feet a rest. After finishing my drink I began to prepare the site. I pulled my camping hammock out of my pack and hung it between two cross-beams inside the lean-to. Once my hammock was hung I unzipped the bug netting and placed my blanket inside.
On a shelf inside the lean-to I discovered a pair of socks that had been left behind. The socks might be just what I needed to keep my boot from flopping around; the sports tape only held for about three miles. I pulled one of the socks over the toe of my broken boot and it fit snuggly. Exactly what I needed.
I expected to collect wood after I arrived at the lean-to, but stacks of split logs and a pile of kindling sat nearby. My hammock hung, wood ready for the evening, and my boot somewhat repaired, I lay down on the decking of the lean-to to rest. I wanted to crawl into the hammock, but I was still sweaty from the hike and needed to dry off and cool down.
After resting for a little while I decided to test out the sock-cover of my boot and also finish off my hike; I still needed to walk to the road a short distance away. I put on fresh, dry socks and pulled on my boots. My pack remained in the lean-to, I would not need it for the short hike to the road.
I descended down from the lean-to and came to level ground. The trail turned to the left soon after and a short distance later turned to the right to cross a footbridge over a small stream (mile 15.2 – 2:29 pm). On the other side of the footbridge a boardwalk extended the trail to the right along the side of the stream — this would be a perfect place to access the stream later to wash up.
I continued on across the boardwalk and followed the stream a short distance before climbing up a small bank to the edge of a pond. The pond was filled with algae and looked un-inviting. I walked along the edge of the pond and then climbed up a steep bank to the road above.
I arrived at West Branch Bucktooth Hollow Road (mile 15.3 – 2:34 pm). Across the road an active logging operation was underway. I could see a truck a short distance up a newly created logging road. The FLT would have continued on in that direction, however the active logging forced a reroute of the trail up the road for about one mile. On my next hike I would need to follow the reroute and take the roadwalk.
After taking a few pictures I turned back and climbed down the bank. I walked along the pond, across the boardwalk and over the footbridge, and then back up to the lean-to. It was only 2:45 pm, I still had lots of time before dinner.
I crawled into my hammock to take a short nap. After dozing on and off for a while, I left the comfort of my hammock and set about getting supplies ready for the evening. I gathered a few small twigs from the kindling pile and placed them next to the fire pit. My small lunch cooler and a light-weight aluminum cooking set were placed on one of the benches next to the fire pit.
After all was readied I grabbed a washcloth and walked down to the stream. I crossed over the footbridge and onto the boardwalk and stepped off on the bank next to the stream. I removed my boots and socks and carefully picked my way down to the water. It made me suck in my breath as I washed up, but it felt good.
I returned to the lean-to and by 6 pm I had a nice fire going. My dinner, two hot dogs roasted over the fire, cradled in a slice of bread, and smeared with some yellow mustard, tasted amazing. The can of beer I had packed in my little cooler to wash the hot dogs down really hit the spot. After I finished eating I sat watching the fire pop and crackle as the shadows grew longer and the sky began to darken.
The sun set and the final light of the day began to fade. The warmth of the sun gone it began to cool down. I pulled on my sweatshirt and zipped the bottom legs back on my shorts. The peaceful sounds of evening and the exertion of the day made me sleepy and, although it was still early — only 8 pm — I was ready for bed. I let the fire burn down and then crawled into my hammock, wrapping my blanket around me and sleep came quickly.