The Last Long Road-Walk

Looking south-east on Sawmill Run Rd
Reading Time: 13 minutes

FLT Map: NY 417 (M2) east to Bucktooth State Forest Lean-to (M2)

NY 417 (M2) east to Bucktooth State Forest Lean-to (M2)

Hike Stats:
22.83 miles, 3.2mph avg moving, 2.6mph avg overall, 7h:11m moving, 1h:34m stopped, 8h:45m total time, max elevation 2166ft, total ascent 2725ft, 119.36ft/mi. FLT M2
Total trail miles completed to-date: 567.0 (95.5%)


The Last Long Road-Walk

he weather for the weekend predicted to be cool with highs only reaching the upper 60s. Saturday would be cloudier than Sunday and a few degrees cooler. My planned hiking route covered a significant amount of road. Normally I would have preferred a sunnier day, but with the long road-walk cloudy was better.

I invited Chase to come along on the hike once again. The plan was to park at the casino in Salamanca, NY and hike east to Bucktooth State Forest lean-to and back. Our start time would be 7 am.

After loading my car in the early morning dark I set out on the long drive west. It was chilly, only around 50, and I turned on a little bit of heat in the car. I stopped for a quick bathroom break at a rest area just before the I-390 / I-86 split. As I walked to the restroom I shivered a little; the air was brisk, fall was just around the corner.

I hopped back in my car and started off again. As I drove on I received a text message from Chase. Since I was using my phone as my navigation device I saw the message pop up on the screen; “Hey Scott, we are going to be about 30 mins late”. I had some time to kill; but “we”? I wondered who the “we” was, maybe a typo.

I arrived in Salamanca shortly before 7 am. The casino soared a dozen stories or more into the sky to my left. A winding walkway led to and from it, passing under the I-86 bridges. I turned right and headed into town and pulled into a McDonald’s to grab a coffee and breakfast sandwich.

The restaurant had the new kiosk ordering system. I tapped in my order. A few minutes later I walked out to my car and drove the short distance to the casino. The entrance road passed the casino on the left and led to a large parking area behind.

I pulled into a spot about halfway back and texted Chase to let him know where I was. He replied “Okay, we are about 15 mins out”. “We” again, maybe not a typo. Fifteen minutes later Chase pulled up. He got out of the driver’s seat and a woman got out of the passenger’s seat. Chase introduced her as Zoe, his girlfriend. The mystery of the “we” solved.

The air was cool and fog floated overhead obscuring the top of the casino. I had the legs on my convertible shorts, but opted for just a t-shirt. Chase and Zoe pulled on long-sleeved shirts. Zoe wondered if I was going to be warm enough and I said we would be warm enough soon.

I knew we had a long road-walk ahead of us, so I had decided to wear sneakers until we reached the trailhead; several miles away. My boots were stowed in my pack. Although it added some weight to the pack, my feet would be happier having the lighter sneakers on them (mile 0.0 – 7:41 am).

We walked along the edge of the entrance road and out to NY 417. Even though it was still early cars were coming and going frequently to and from the casino. After crossing NY 417 we turned right and made our way to the I-86 overpasses. As we crossed under the eastbound bridge Chase realized he had forgotten his GPS (mile 0.6 – 7:52 am).

He handed his pack to Zoe and sprinted off back to the cars. Zoe and I decided to wait for him and we chatted. Ten minutes later, and just as we were starting to wonder, Chase appeared. He vaulted over a guardrail on the other side of the road and sprinted across to rejoin us.

Google Street View of bridge with clan emblems (I did not take any photos)
Google Street View of bridge with clan emblems (I did not take any photos)

We continued on down the sidewalk heading east on NY 417. A short time later we reached Center Street and turned left (mile 1.3 – 8:17 am). The road took us over a bridge across the Allegheny River. We noted the animal symbols for the clans along the bridge; wolf, bear, turtle, sandpiper, deer, beaver, heron, and hawk or eagle.

Once across the bridge we came to a set of railroad tracks. We crossed and continued on down the sidewalk. A smoke shop, closed since it was still early, sat across the road on the right. We continued chatting as we walked down the sidewalk.

At an intersection a small convenience store stood across the road to our right (mile 1.7 – 8:25 am) . The store was two stories tall and clad in a wood facade. A small bench sat in the front below a series of long narrow windows. The store, like the smoke shop, was not yet open.

We made our way across the side street and continued following Center Street to the north. A short time later we crossed another street, this one only branching off to our left. I knew from looking at the map earlier that we had to turn left onto a side street and that it was only a short distance past the railroad tracks.

Worried we had missed our turn, I pulled my phone out to check the map (mile 1.8 – 8:26 am). We had indeed walked past our turn. A short walk brought us back to the street with the convenience store and we turned right onto Washington Street.

We continued along the sidewalk heading west on Washington Street. The street continued on through a residential neighborhood, still quiet in the morning. After nearly a mile the sidewalk came to an end and we stepped into the street to continue our trek (mile 2.7 – 8:43 am).

The houses that had lined the road also faded away and we entered a wooded area. A few cars passed by as we moved along quickly. The road made a gentle bend to the left and then continued on. Shortly after it turned once again to the left and cross the railroad track that we had crossed earlier.

Once across the railroad track the road turned back to the right and followed along near the Allegheny River. The road continued straight for about 3/4 of a mile before turning sharply to the right to become Sawmill Run Road. It once again crossed the railroad track. I stopped to take a few pictures before we continued on (mile 4.5 – 9:14 am).

Looking north-east out over a marsh along Sawmill Run Rd
Looking north-east out over a marsh along Sawmill Run Rd

A short distance past the railroad track a marsh opened up on our right. The yellow-greens and rusty-reds of the marsh contrasted against the dark green of the hills beyond and the blue of the sky overhead. I stopped again to take a few pictures before we continued on once more.

Horse and barn along Sawmill Run Rd
Horse and barn along Sawmill Run Rd

The road continued on and on. We passed by a small, but lavish, stable (mile 5.5 – 9:38 am). A single horse, a deep chestnut color with a white star on its head, watched us as we walked by. Across the road an equally lavish riding ring sat back from the road; complete with obstacles of barrels, cones and jumps.

Finally we arrived at the trailhead that would take us off the road. A pair of white blazes marked the turn to the right up a driveway (mile 6.2 – 9:54 am). We made our way up, the owner was out next to a small barn splitting wood with a power splitter. We waved to him as he waved back and continued on up to where the blazes veered off into the woods.

I set my pack down and pulled my boots out. My sneakers had been fine for the road-walk, but now that we were entering the woods I needed something a bit more rugged. I also decided to zip off the bottoms of my convertible shorts; it had warmed up. After tying my bootlaces and stowing my sneakers in my pack we set of into the woods.

A short distance into the woods we realized we could not see a white blaze. Once again I pulled my phone out to check the map. It showed our current position just to the right of the line indicating the trail. We turned, cutting through an old overgrown field, and finally found the blazes once again.

The trail continued climbing up a hill as it wound through the woods. After climbing 300 feet we arrived at a logging road (mile 7.2 – 10:28 am). The blazes turned to the right and continued following the road up the hill. We walked up the well-travelled dirt road. Ahead we could hear the noise of machinery.

Logging staging area between Sawmill Run Rd and W. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd
Logging staging area between Sawmill Run Rd and W. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd

As we rounded a curve in the road we saw piles of large logs to our right and further ahead of us (mile 7.4 – 10:31 am). A logging truck sat in the middle of the road beyond the pile to our right. It had a large claw-crane attached and was hoisting the logs into the air and placing them in the bed of the truck.

We knew that there were two separate logging operations along the trail. One of the operations, near West Branch Bucktooth Hollow Road, had closed a portion of the trail and a reroute had been built. We had not expected to encounter either operation, so we were a bit surprised.

I checked the map again to see if we needed to pass the truck; the trail turned sharply left right before the truck. We spotted another branch of the road heading left. A skid loader was parked in the middle of the branch road. We made our way around it as the logging truck continued on loading logs a few yards away.

The branch road had been travelled by logging vehicles with large tires. Deep ruts sank low into the soft ground. Pools of mud filled the low areas and dotted the road forcing us to weave around. Crosshatch patterns from large tires made walking uneven and difficult. Our pace slowed as we navigated the difficult path and mud coated our boots.

Finally we left the logging road behind and made our way into the woods. The trail was much easier to follow and our pace quickened. Soon we arrived at the flagging tape indicating temporary reroute of the trail (mile 8.1 – 10:46 am). The “regular” trail ahead was closed for another logging operation all the way to West Branch Bucktooth Hollow Road.

Old forest track between Sawmill Run Rd and W. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd (reroute around logging closure)
Old forest track between Sawmill Run Rd and W. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Rd

The rerouted trail began to descend and we picked our way past a few wet spots and some rocky areas. After descending about 200 feet we arrived at an old, seldom-travelled, road; if it could even be considered a road (mile 8.3 – 10:52 am). A pair of narrow dirt tracks cut through deep grass. In between the tracks grass also grow, although slightly shorter than that on the sides.

We continued on down the old road as it wound its way down to West Branch Bucktooth Hollow Road. Thirty minutes later we saw a gate ahead and the road just beyond (mile 10.0 – 11:25 am). We turned onto the paved road of West Branch; I kept my boots on for this section of the walk. A little over a mile later we arrived at the trailhead leaving the road (mile 11.2 – 11:46 am).

Although the trailhead was my turn-around we decided to continued on to the lean-to I had camped at on the previous hike. It would make a good lunch spot. We descended down from the road and past the pond. The trail turned to follow the stream and then cross a boardwalk and footbridge. After crossing the bridge it climbed up a short distance and we arrived at the lean-to (mile 11.6 – 11:55 am).

We sat and rested and enjoyed a nice lunch. I told Chase and Zoe a little about my stay at the lean-to the previous month. After we finished our lunch we pulled our packs back on and headed back down the trail. Soon we were climbing back up to the road and starting the walk to the old road.

We walked and chatted and walked, and walked some more. I was beginning to wonder if we had missed the turn somehow and then we saw the gate for the old road (mile 13.1 – 1:00 pm). After passing the gate we started the climb up along the narrow parallel tire tracks.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at the turn off the old road. The trail climbed up the hill and we made our way around the wet and rocky spots once again. Soon we were back the flagging tape that closed the “regular” route (mile 15.0 – 1:40 pm).

A short time after turning onto the “regular” trail we arrived at the rough and difficult logging road. We picked our way along. My feet were beginning to hurt and my legs were tired. We plodded along and soon heard the sounds of the logging truck ahead.

Chase and Zoe walking down a logging road north of Sawmill Run Rd
Chase and Zoe walking down a logging road north of Sawmill Run Rd

After squeezing past the skid loader we turned right on to the logging road. The logging truck continued its hoisting and loading of logs as we walked on. A short walk later we turned left off the road and back onto the trail (mile 15.9 – 2:02 pm). We wound through the woods and down the hill.

Ahead of us the trail descended down a grassy path. Zoe took off and ran down the slope to the bottom, only about one hundred feet ahead. Chase and I continued down the path as he yelled after her, “When I’m 50 you won’t have any knees”. She retorted, “I’ll be 48 so I’ll be younger”. As Chase and I rejoined Zoe at the bottom of the slope I said to them both, “You know I’m going to be 46 at the end of the month?”.

Soon we found ourselves at the backyard of a house. Unsure if we had followed the trail correctly we quickly walked down the edge of the yard and out the driveway to Sawmill Run Road. We turned left on the road to head back to Salamanca (mile 16.9 – 2:26 pm).

A short distance along the road a small grassy area opened on the right. I took this opportunity to sit down and switch back into my sneakers for the long road-walk ahead. After pulling on my sneakers and stowing my hiking boots in my pack we continued on.

As we walked I noticed a black rooster in the yard of a house. I pointed it out and Zoe told us that her parents had had a black rooster. And then she said, completely dead-pan, “but he was an asshole, so they ate him”. I nearly tripped I was laughing so hard.

The conversation continued on about animals and pets we had grown up with. Chase told a story about a massive 200 pound dog that was a pet when he was growing up. The dog was normally very easy-going, but one time his brother had done something and the dog had picked his brother up by the back of his underwear and swung him around.

Looking north-east down a set of railroad tracks on Sawmill Run Rd
Looking north-east down a set of railroad tracks on Sawmill Run Rd

Soon we were passing back past the marsh and across the railroad track (mile 18.7 – 3:02 pm). The road turned sharply to the left and followed along next to the river. We continued on and the road turned left once again, crossed the railroad track, and then turned back right.

The undergrowth alongside the road was thick and our conversation turned from animals and pets to the various plants in the area; more specifically the nasty ones — like Giant Hogweed — and others not quite so nasty.

Ahead we saw the green sign with white letters indicating the city limits of Salamanca (mile 20.3 – 3:33 pm). The sidewalk began just after and we made our way along it and soon arrived back at the intersection of Washington Street and Center Street. The streets were much busier now and we waited to cross to the other side.

We made our way past the convenience store with its wood panelling and then past the smoke shop. Soon we were crossing the bridge with the clan emblems. Once across the bridge we came to NY 417. After crossing we followed a paved pathway back toward the casino.

Sign along walkway next to NY 417 in both English and Iroquois; Casino on the left
Sign along walkway next to NY 417 in both English and Iroquois; Casino on the left

Finally we were passing under the I-86 overpasses (mile 22.4 – 4:14 pm). In the morning Chase had sprinted back to his car from this point. He was not sprinting now. Our feet hurt and we were tired. A large grassy area opened up between the casino and the overpasses and we decided to “cut the corner” across the grass instead of walking up the road and turning.

I felt the skin on the bottom of my feet slide and pull a little as we walked up the grassy slope; pain shot through my feet. I walked on gingerly for the remaining distance and finally we arrived back at our cars (mile 22.8 – 4:25 pm). After stowing our packs in our cars we said our goodbyes and Chase and Zoe headed out. I changed my shirt and swapped my sneakers for sandals.

Before starting up my car I called Jacqui Wensich, the End-to-End coordinator for the Finger Lakes Trail. Jacqui and I had communicated often via email and she knew I was working on my end-to-end. She had invited me to stop over for dinner when I was done hiking. She had attended the lean-to dedication and hike near Little Rock City — a lean-to I had stopped at on my previous hike — and was camping in her RV nearby.

I drove the short distance to the RV park and pulled my car in next to her RV. She was working on her second end-to-end. On top of that she would be celebrating her 72nd birthday soon. She only had a small bit of trail left to hike; an area I had hiked recently. We looked at her maps and I made recommendations on how to travel it.

After eating my fill and relaxing for a little while I said my goodbyes and started the long drive home. The sun sank below the hills behind me as I drove and night descended. I pulled into my driveway around 9:30 pm; tired, but happy to have the last long road-walk finished.

My last long road-walk started from the Seneca Casino at the end of NY 417 in Salamanca, NY. I met up with Chase and his girlfriend Zoe. The air was cool, but we warmed up quickly as we walked. Our hike took us through Salamanca and out through a sleepy residential neighborhood in the quiet morning hours.

We continued on up Sawmill Run Road past a few scattered houses. A horse watched us from a lavish stable as we continued winding on up the road. Finally we arrived at the trailhead leaving the road. We walked up through a driveway and continued on up the hill. Ahead of us a logging operation was in progress. A large claw crane loaded large logs onto a flatbed truck.

After passing the truck we continued on until we reached a detour and re-route for another logging operation. The trail wound down a small single lane dirt track until we reached W. Branch Bucktooth Hollow Road. Another mile brought us the next trailhead where we left the road to hike a short distance to the lean-to.

At the lean-to we relaxed and enjoyed a nice lunch. After a short break we started back to our cars at the casino. We climbed up the dirt-track road and back to the start of the detour. The claw crane was still loading logs as we passed by once again. We descended back down to Sawmill Run Road and then back into Salamanca. Our feet sore and hurting we “cut the corner” on our way back to the casino.

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