17.80 miles, 2.6mph avg moving, 2.0mph avg overall, 6h:58m moving, 1h:51m stopped, 8h:49m total time, max elevation 2021ft, total ascent 2723ft, 152.98ft/mi. FLT M1
Total trail miles completed to-date: 593.8 (100.0%)
had planned the last hike for the weekend of October 19, 2019. My friend Tim, who had hiked with me several times in the past, including the hike to the Eastern Terminus, was coming in from New Orleans, LA where he now lived. My girlfriend, Mary-Margaret, from San Antonio, TX, was also coming in; not to hike, but to be there when I finished. In addition, my ten year-old son, Dilan would be joining us and hiking half of the out-and-back; a total of 8.6 miles.
On Thursday I flew home from a business conference in Chicago, IL. Mary-Margaret and I managed to get the same connecting flight back to Binghamton, NY. We touched down in the late afternoon and a short drive later arrived at home. Not long after Dilan’s mom brought him over.
Friday morning brought a flurry of activity. We hurriedly packed all of the supplies we would need, or so we thought. I had reserved a rental car for the trip; I drive a car with manual transmission, and while Mary-Margaret has driven manual before it would be easier to have an automatic transmission. My reservation pickup was scheduled for noon.
I hurried off to pick up the car. We quickly packed our supplies into the car, but even still we did not get on the road until a shortly before 2 PM. The drive was a little over three hours and I did not know when check-in closed, I wanted to be there by 5 PM.
The weather was bright and sunny and the drive was nice. The hills were ablaze in brilliant fall colors under a sapphire blue sky. I pointed out the massive casino where I had parked for two previous hikes as we passed by. Soon we were turning off the highway and heading into the park on the road labeled ASP 3.
We pulled into the small parking lot in front of the building where the check-in desk was located a little before 5 PM. I walked up the steps to the building and stepped inside. Several people stood in line in front of me. A woman at the desk was upset about something and complained loudly to the people behind the desk. After she left in a huff the line moved quickly and I got the key to the cabin.
ASP 1 joined ASP 3 in a T-junction near the check-in building. Our cabin sat a short distance up ASP 1. We turned left onto ASP 1 and drove the short distance up the road to the cabin. We pulled up to cabin #3 and began unloading.
The cabin had 4 cots. A small gas stove sat next to a small refrigerator and a counter with some shelves above it. A small cast iron stove for heat sat just inside the door to the right. We would need the cast iron stove; although the temperature was cool it would get cold once the sun went down. Overnight lows were predicted to be around 30.
After we unloaded and organized we drove back down to ASP 3. We turned left on the road looking for Coon Run Road. Mary-Margaret would be meeting Tim and I at the trailhead with my son. We wanted to explore the road in the daylight to make sure we could navigate it without problem.
We found the road a short distance down ASP 3 on the right. It began as a paved road, but quickly turned to dirt and gravel as it twisted and rose and fell through the trees. After three-quarters of a mile we arrived at the trail crossing. We continued on past looking for a good turn around and found a place a short distance beyond. Upon arriving back at the trailhead we pulled to the side of the road to survey the area. There was a small area on the side of the road where Mary-Margaret could pull off.
Satisfied with our survey of the trailhead we continued back to the Quaker Area and stopped to get wood for the stove. Once back at the cabin we started to work on dinner. We discovered two issues while preparing dinner. First, in our haste to pack and leave, we had forgotten some basic items; paper towels, salt, and pepper. Second, a family of mice had taken up residence in the stove. When we turned it on they scattered.
Darkness descended on the cabin as we made dinner. Headlights shone through the front windows of the cabin briefly as Tim arrived and parked outside. He had also rented a car, having flown into Rochester, NY where he had met some friends before heading down to Allegany State Park.
We discussed plans for the morning. The plan was to be on the trail by 8 AM, so we set our alarms for 6 AM which would give us time to eat breakfast and get ready. We loaded the cast iron stove with wood and got the cabin nice and warm before heading to sleep.
I woke in the middle of the night, it was still pitch black, shivering. The fire had consumed all of the wood in the little stove and there was little more than hot coals remaining. I got up and got the fire going again. Mary-Margaret woke up with me and took over watching the fire telling me to go back to sleep since I was hiking in a few hours.
6 AM came much too early and I was not moving very quickly. It was cold outside; frost had coated the car windshields and the grass around the cabin. I could see my breath steaming in the air when I stepped outside.
We set about making breakfast; coffee, eggs, bacon, and toast. The family of mice once again scattered. We discovered yet more issues while making breakfast. First, cooking the bacon produced some smoke and the smoke detector was quite sensitive — and it talked! It screeched and repeated over and over “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!”. The second issue we discovered, yet another supply we had forgotten to pack, bath towels! UGH!
Finally breakfast was ready and we ate our fill, but we were already running later than we had planned. After packing our hiking supplies we headed out a little after 9 AM. We decided to take a longer route and drive into Bradford, PA to see what stores were available where Mary-Margaret could get the missing supplies while Tim and I hiked. Thankfully we found a Walmart in town — perfect!
We arrived at the trailhead on PA 346 at 9:51 AM. Several other cars were already parked in the lot at the trailhead. Tim and I shouldered our packs, said our goodbyes to Mary-Margaret and Dilan; Dilan would join Tim and I on the return hike.
As we started toward the woods a man wearing blaze orange and carrying a gun emerged. He looked at us strangely, asking us what we were doing and didn’t we know that PA hunting season had just started. I looked at Tim and asked him if we should continue. He said the PA border was only about a mile and while we did not have bright orange colors we did have bright blues and greens.
We plunged into the woods and made our way up the hill. Both of us kept an eye out for hunters. Although we did not see anyone we did hear a few gun shots. A short time later we arrived at the NY/PA border (mile 1.1 – 10:22 am). Several signs marked the spot along with a trail register. We signed in, took a few pictures before heading on.
The trail climbed a short distance before leveling out and then winding on through the woods. Sunlight filtered down through the yellow and light green leaves of the trees above use. Fallen leaves carpeted the ground and the sweet smells of Autumn wafted through the air.
We had hiked four miles when we came to a small stream. Red, orange, and gold colored leaves had fallen into the stream and clustered around moss covered rocks. Tim and I made our way across and soon came to another stream.
This stream had a small footbridge made of three posts hooked together and covered with wire mesh to provide traction. We stepped across the footbridge and continued on. A short distance beyond we came to a third small stream. No footbridge spanned this stream, but it was easy to pick our way across.
The trail continued on curving to the right. A short distance from the third small stream we found a bird’s nest lying on the trail. We both stopped to take a couple pictures and then made our way on.
After a sharp turn to the left the trail arrived at a much larger stream, Wolf Run, spanned by a larger footbridge (mile 4.8 – 11:53 am). This footbridge had hefty railings on both sides and a wide base. We stopped for a short break and took several pictures. The sunlight felt warm and the warm smells of fallen leaves filled the air.
We left Wolf Run behind and cross a small overgrown area before continuing back under the trees. Sunlight shone brightly in a brilliant blue sky and the gold leaves almost seemed to glow. We came to a series of small low footbridges over what might often be wet ground; it was firm and dry. Gold leaves layered the trail and bits of sunlight dappled the ground.
The trail began to climb and soon we arrived at a junction (mile 5.5 – 12:26 pm). Signs at the junction indicated that Mt Tuscarora Trail continued to the left and the North Country Trail (and Finger Lakes Trail) continued to the right.
I checked my phone for the time and discovered I had cell service. We had told Mary-Margaret that we would meet her at Coon Run Road around 1 PM. It was nearly 12:30 PM and we still had three miles to go. We estimated that we would arrive at Coon Run Road by 2 PM. I texted her letting her know we were running behind, hoping that she might be somewhere with cell service and would receive it.
We continued to climb for a short distance and then the trail leveled out. The trail continued along rising and falling gently. A turn to the left took us down a short steep descent and then the trail turned back to the right.
A short distance after making the descent we arrived at Willis Creek Lean-to (mile 7.4 – 1:17 pm). The lean-to’s roof was moss covered, but it was solid. A “patio” of rocks, some also moss covered, extended out in front of the lean-to. Several tarps had been left inside and one ragged looking blue tarp lay against the right side under a small pile of sticks. A black mailbox that served as a trail register sat on a post that stuck out from the right side.
We set our packs down on the picnic table and took a break. A stream, Willis Creek, ran in a hollow below the lean-to. Tim and I took a few pictures from above and I found a path leading down to the stream. I picked my way down and took a few more pictures before climbing back up.
After a quick break we continued on. A short distance from the lean-to we crossed Willis Creek, the same creek we had seen in the hollow below the lean-to. The trail curved to the right and continued on mostly level, only rising and falling gently.
We were nearly to Coon Run Road when we heard voices coming our way. Our first thought was that Mary-Margaret and Dilan may have become worried since we were behind schedule and started down the trail looking for us. Soon we saw the owners of the voices; a man and his young daughter were walking towards us. They were planning on staying at the lean-to.
Ahead of us we could see the road through some breaks in the trees. A few moments later we stepped onto the road and saw Mary-Margaret and Dilan in the car (mile 8.9 – 2:04 pm). We walked over and sat down on the side of the road to grab a quick lunch.
Among the supplies Mary-Margaret had bought while we were hiking were some small flashlights. Since it was late we were worried that we might have to finish the hike in the dark, so she drove back to the cabin to pick them up for us. She soon returned and we stowed them in our packs. We said our goodbyes once again, collected Dilan, and headed off on the trail back the way we had just come.
We were racing the sun with a little less than four hours until sunset and 8.6 miles to hike. Soon we arrived back at Willis Creek Lean-to (mile 10.4 – 3:00 pm). The father and daughter pair we had passed earlier were making camp and had a small fire going. We said hello to them again, but did not stop.
The trail turned to the left and began its short, but steep climb up. We huffed our way up the trail to the top and then continued on as the trail curled to the right. Soon we were gently descending and arrived at the trail junction with the Mt. Tuscarora Trail.
We stopped for a very short break and I used the opportunity to take a quick picture of Dilan next to the signs (mile 12.4 – 3:56 pm). After the quick breather we moved on. The trail continued its gentle descent on its way toward Wolf Run.
The sun was lowering on the horizon and angled in just over the hilltop into the small open area near Wolf Run. I snapped a few quick pictures before we proceeded to the footbridge over the stream. At the stream we stopped for another quick break (mile 13.3 – 4:19 pm). Dilan sat down on a small bench to rest. The pace we had set was fast and he was getting tired.
After a short rest we pressed on. The sun was getting lower and the shadows were getting longer. The trail curved around to the left and began a climb; the last climb before we would descend down to the parking area on PA 346.
As we climbed the sun began to dip behind the hill and the light began to dim. The evening birds started their songs and squirrels and chipmunks, active during the day, began to settle into their burrows and nests.
Finally we reached the top of the hill and saw a quick glimpse of the sun again before it dipped below the horizon. The trail started its descent and soon we arrived at the signs indicating we had reached the NY/PA border — and the western terminus of the Finger Lakes Trail (mile 16.7 – 5:59 pm).
I signed into the register, “10/19/19 @ 6pm – Finished!! With Tim O and my son Dilan. – Scott G, Tim O, Dilan G”. We took a few pictures at the sign posts. It was difficult to muster a smile because we were exhausted. After taking several photos we still had 1.1 miles of trail ahead of us before we would arrive at the parking area.
We started our descent down the hill, the light fading as we moved. A short time later we pushed through the tall weeds at the edge of the parking area (mile 17.8 – 6:38 pm). Mary-Margaret was waiting for us. I had officially finished my end-to-end out-and-back hike of the Finger Lakes Trail. We piled into the car and headed back to the cabin.
While Tim and I had been hiking, Mary-Margaret and Dilan had gone to Walmart and picked up the missing supplies. In addition to the paper towels, salt and pepper, and bath towels, she also and purchased a small space heater. We had one more night in the cabin and it was predicted to be another chilly night.
Tim, Dilan, and I headed for the bath house and we each took a much needed and well-deserved hot shower. After getting cleaned up we headed back to the cabin. Mary-Margaret had started dinner. Once again the smoke detector began screeching “FIRE!”. Tim was done, he stepped up on a chair, disconnected the detector, and took it outside — finally peace!
Dilan lay down on his cot proclaiming, “I hurt”. He had hiked the 8.6 miles at a fast pace well. It was the longest hike he had ever done.
After a good dinner we quickly fell asleep. The space heater kept the cabin from getting too cold and we all slept through the night. The next morning we began packing up. Tim was heading off to meet some friends, but would join us again in Binghamton, NY. Mary-Margaret, Dilan, and I decided to take some time to do a little souvenir shopping and sightseeing.
We stopped at the store and purchased some t-shirts and other nick-nacks. After completing our shopping we said goodbye to the cabin area and made our way out of the park. At the entrance we pulled off the road to take pictures of Quaker Lake. The fall colors were brilliant under the bright sun and blue sky. Our picture taking complete, we pulled back onto the road and made the final drive home.
After returning home I submitted my application for the end-to-end certificate to Jacqui Wensich, the FLT’s End-To-End coordinator. I met Jacqui at a Spring Outing a few years earlier and stopped to have dinner with her after one of my hikes earlier in the year. She included an additional certificate for Dilan – Thank you Jacqui.
As I reflect back on my journeys on the trail, I am saddened slightly that it is over — bittersweet I guess. I think back on the early days and to soreness and pain and I chuckle to myself a little. When I first started hiking the trail I had no clue what I was in for or where it would take me, physically, but also in life. It has truly been an adventure.