[at-l] Mid-State Trail, Crystal Hills journal Part 1

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Thu May 24 15:37:04 CDT 2012

Just a warning... if you're a purist, or don't want to listen to cursing
about rocks and blazes... you should hit delete now...

Crystal Hills/Mid-State Trail 2012

 4/22: West Hill State Forest -

Trail high of the day – just after Moss Hill Lean-to I met up with my very
first fisher! We startled each other too much for me to get a picture. Also
ran into a whitetail, a hawk, and a rabbit.

And now back to the rest of the day. Mom wanted to see Watkins Glen again.
Dad was interested in the Glen Curtis museum in Hammondsport – so I got a
ride out to the trailhead. After the way too warm and dry spring we've had
so far, of course the rainy season comes with the start of my hike. It was
blue skies and sunshine leaving Albany, but it poured on the interstate
between Elmira and Corning. We stopped at a Subway in Corning for lunch,
and by the time we finished the rain had lightened up.

Got interesting getting to the trailhead, the GPS was bringing us in on a
round about way from the east. Instead of starting on Dennis or Moss Hill
Rds the first trailhead we hit was on Sexton Rd, so I jumped out there at
noon. The rain had virtually stopped, but I needed the rain jacket for
warmth. Said goodbyes and thanks... and it turned out that Moss Hill was
more of a climb than I remembered, and much of it was inside of a cloud too.

Got to the lean-to at 12:50, no big signs for the Crystal Hill/Great
Eastern, just some trail markers... but it is fairly well blazed. The guide
says orange blazes, but they're more like burnt orange... that comes into
play later.

Long climb up out of the shelter, met the fisher part way up. At the top
the trail turned onto new logging roads, rock hard clay and busted shale.
Combined with the usual first day mistake of not having my boots tied tight
enough, and a lot of the trail being side-hilled, my feet weren't having a
good time. The logging road probably lasted a mile or a mile and a half,
sure seemed longer... then back onto more side-hilled trail, it was
actually a relief to hit some road walking.

Wound up walking part of the Watson Homestead, but also missed a bit
because of a reroute for a closed bridge. Took my only break, and a short
one at that, at a picnic pavilion. I wouldn't have hesitated to camp there
if it was raining, but it was just cold and damp, too much so to sit for

On through the homestead, and the burnt-orange trail is blazed in one
direction while a red-blazed trail is blazed off in another direction. I
was looking for the turn, but that one is going to mess some people up.

I was packing water from the creek near the pavilion – one of the homestead
trails you meet up with is the Meditation Trail; I was meditating on why my
pack was so heavy, and how the trail could be so wet and muddy when it's
been so dry...

It sprinkled off and on through the afternoon, so lightly it was hard to
tell when it was raining or just coming off of the trees. About 4:30 it
started to be noticeable rain, and just before five I pitched camp in a
wide spot in the trail while I was still reasonably dry. Now it's raining
harder, not pouring, but a definite soaker, which is what we need. Still,
it would be nice if it was stopped in the morning. And as nice as a hot
meal would be in this cold and damp I don't think I'm crawling out to cook,
so it looks like a cold meal.

 4/23: Little Niagara Falls -

The rain stopped sometime last night, not sure when as I heard it stop and
start a few times.

Cold, gray, and misty morning... packed up my wet bootleg camp and headed
out about 7am. Wound back and forth and up and down for a few miles, and
then picked up the start of the day's road walk. Did I mention cold, gray,
and misty? It was Frogg Toggs and fleece gloves all day, and back and forth
with the hood and fleece cap depending on whether I was going uphill or if
the wind was blowing.

Met one woman out walking her dog. Very few cars passing on Sunday morning.
Long, mostly gradual downhill into Painted Post. Morning break was a cup of
coffee at a gas station. Very convoluted from there, winding around town.
Long, long climb up Beartown Rd, passed a noisy shooting range – can't they
wait for Sunday AFTERNOON? More mist and a cold wind. Missed the state
forest parking area and hiking trail, guess there's not much there. Saw one
woman and another guy out in their yards. Feet hurting and hungry, but no
place to stop. Finally had lunch while sitting on a guardrail along Beeman
Rd. Too late to first aid the feet, all I could do was duct tape what was
left – they've been sacrificed to the road walk. I'll be tip-toeing out of
camp tomorrow until my feet go numb. And then I hit more road walking...

Realized today that anyone night-hiking the CHT is not only crazy but
lost... the maze of logging roads (old and new), ATV tracks... etc. The
trail is pretty well blazed but you wouldn't stand a chance in the dark.

Stumbled into camp at 2pm – not enough breaks. Pitched, fetched water, and
got a couple pics of the falls. Then into the warm bag!

Did see a wild turkey today, a groundhog in Painted Post, and the robins
and flickers are out and about. :-)

Just took another look at the maps. 19 miles to a picnic area/campground
just over the border into PA. Or about 12 miles to a private campground
that's probably not open yet. And everything between 12 and 19 is a road
walk, and I'm betting on slim chances to camp. I think it's supposed to be
warmer tomorrow, that would let me take more breaks and be a big help. I
didn't pass any bank time/temp signs in Painted Post, probably just as well.

I looked on-line before I left, hoping to find a place to stay in Addison.
Farther than I would have wanted to go today, and it would have cut some
off of tomorrow, but there's no motels listed.

Had an almost break of sunshine before (comparitively) – the clouds
lightened enough that the sun could actually cast some shadows. Climbed out
of the tent to make dinner, good thing I picked a freeze-dried meal, it
started to sprinkle while I waited for the water to boil, and now it's
pattering on the tent. I'm hoping it doesn't last too long, but wanna bet
I'll be packing another wet tent in the morning?

Tomorrow is also supposed to be clean sock day, which would help my feet.
If it doesn't rain on the road walk my feet stay drier than on the trail,
you're not picking water up off the grass and brush!

Ah – dinner time!

 4/24 – Thompson Recreational Area, C-Lake -

What a day! Rained all of last night, or at least it was dripping off of
the spruce trees above me. About 4am I heard thunder, and then it kept
going... and I recognized the sound of a very large rockfall. All of the
valley above the falls has been reconfigured by bulldozer (flood
prevention?). Some large chunk of the side must have let loose.

Out of the bag at 5am to answer the call of nature, and... it was snowing –
and had been for a while since there was snow on the ground out from under
the trees. Packed up and left camp about 6:45, the clean, dry socks didn't
survive the rock hop back across the creek – my boots leak more than I
thought. Trudge up the hill to the tree farm, where I lost the blazes, most
of the trees were plastered with a white coat of snow. Followed a dirt road
down the hill, and found a trailer with a light on – knocked and a nice guy
told me to turn right on the road to get to Addison.

Stopped for coffee at a gas station, some retired guys hanging out got a
chuckle at my predicament; especially since it was still snowing. Headed
out for the amble through Addison – if there had been a motel there my day
might have been different. Walked back east along the river, then turned
off the road to climb to Pinnacle State Park. Very steep climb uphill
through about three inches of snow, half the blazes obliterated. Did I
mention wet boots? When I hit Pinnacle Road I decided to take a pass on
wandering through yet more snow out in the park fields, and decided to pick
up the CHT at the end of Addison Rd. I missed two key descriptives -
“kiosk” and “ball field parking”. When I got to the kiosk there was a state
trooper there, waiting for a team to come in and recover evidence from a
murder scene. I proceeded to the END of the road – where I futzed around on
the WRONG *orange-blazed trail* before I went back to the kiosk – at least
two extra miles of wandering around. So, back at the kiosk I got the okay
to go on through where they were finishing up the investigation, and lost
the blazes again... wandered around and had to duck under a huge fallen
tree to find the trail. At least then it was a quick jaunt over to Orr Hill
Rd and the “safety” of road walking. BTW, still snowing and the plows were
out. ...

Stopped at Sunflower Acres Campground on the off chance that they rented
cabins. No cabins, but the woman there let me come in and take a break in
the warmth. Had a mish-mash of snacks for lunch, and as she had the noon
news on I found I was hiking through a winter storm warning... nice.

Headed out to get to the Thompson Recreation Area – all roads, more hills
than I wanted. Cannon Rd not signed, had to double back a little ways. Snow
changed to something like rain, hard to tell what it was for all the wind
on the hills. The mess pretty much stopped on the trudge down the last
hill... (Hit PA! But no pics of the sign at the border – camera buried in
the pack to protect it from the weather). Headed into the park having seen
a picnic pavilion from the road. Windy and cold... one off chance shot
actually paid off today – the rest rooms next to the pavilion were
unlocked... no running water, but the lights work and I'm slabbed out on
the floor out of the wind! No cat hole digging in the morning either <g>.

Only two things left to note – saw a pay phone up by the entrance station,
but didn't check to see if it was live. I'll check the cell phone reception
and see if I can call home. Second is that from here to Hammond Lake is
mostly a road walk. There's some real trail, then more road walking from
Hammond Lake to Hills Lake State Park. I'll have to see how much snow there
is, and what roads will get me around it. The weather for the next couple
of days is cold with snow flurries. If there's two inches of snow in the
trail it's no big deal. If it's more like four or six inches I'll be doing
a lot of road walking.

No idea how many miles I did today, but it must be close to twenty,
probably more. Just went outside to get water from the lake and call home;
windy. *very* cold, and *very* damp! Have dinner on now, will serve it in
the sleeping bag.

Dinner was asian noodles, nice to have something warm. Some more ramblings
before I retire with my book; feet held out really well today despite being
wet. I patched them this morning with a blister kit that in the past has
lasted a minimum of two days, but the patches had fallen apart when I got
my socks off here. The other body note is that on one of those muddy,
steep, snowy hill climbs something above my right ankle “popped”, and it
was very stiff on the couple of hills left after that. That ankle had
bothered me a little the last two days, but nothing like that! Time to hit
the pain pills :-)

 4/25: Hammond Lake -

Another day where I have no idea how far I hiked... Would have slept longer
this morning but the robin chorus started off at 5am. It wasn't snowing,
and it wasn't raining, and it wasn't nearly as cold as I was afraid it
would be, so things are improving a bit.

Out on the trail just before 7. The guide says the Moccasin Trail is mowed
– so I'm figuring three miles of high wet weeds. The first part was cut
open, then the trail followed a mix of old road, old railroad bed, and some
trail that got quite wet when it got off of solid footing – and it's
turning out my boots are about as waterproof as sneakers...

There was just a thin layer or wet sloppy snow left. And there were
actually boot tracks in the snow, so somebody must have been out yesterday
– but the tracks went both ways so I'm not following anyone. Did get some
snow flurries about two miles out of camp, and a stiff freezing breeze, but
the sun did make an appearance, and the breeze really depended on where you

Saw geese on the lake, and just before the South Side Recreational Area I
saw osprey on their nest and got some pictures. Stopped for morning break
at the South Side facilities, wrung my socks out, then ended up doing more
wet walking. Saw a white egret (heron?) on the lake, and then scared three
great blue herons off of a small pond.

Turned up a valley and started the days road walk. Up Baldwin/Shepard Creek
Rd I hit a reroute not on my map, a left turn off of the road into a swamp
covered with four inches of wet sloppy snow, and no blazes to be seen. I
wasn't about to fill my boots with ice water searching for blazes – out
with the map – Shepard Creek to Howe Hill Rd, rejoining the MST at the
bottom of the hill. Windy and cold walk over the hill, hoping for lunch in
the valley at the bottom, which turned out to be a damn wind tunnel. Found
the real hiking trail leaving the road walk, rock-hopped the stream
crossing, and started on a steep climb heading for Ridge Road. Some nice
woods walking across the top – actually had lunch today on a cut blow-down
log in the sun – about as long as the sun lasted – 20 minutes.

Some wet sloppy snowy field walking, came out on Ridge Road and the road
walk the rest of the way to the Ive's Run Recreation Area; where I found an
unlocked restroom with lights and running water – but it's right next to
the park headquarters so I'm not getting too comfortable yet.

No idea what I'm doing tomorrow... 20km (about 14 miles) from here to Hills
Lake SP – across a high plateau with an unknown amount of wet snow on it,
all trail and no road walking (even if I wanted to). On the other hand some
of it is forest service roads and should be pretty well melted. Or take the
Railroad Grade Trail to another road and go around. Another factor is that
Rt 6 to Wellsboro is only 5k beyond Hills Lake. Make a long day out of it,
get to Wellsboro a day early, and take a zero? Stay at Hillside Lake and
have a nero? Right now I have no idea..

A bit later, a chance to rest and look at the map... I think I'm going to
try the trails... if they're bad right away I can bail to the Railroad
Grade Trail. If I can get up to the forest service roads I'll be okay. The
real question is what's in between? If things turn out rough I can camp at
Hills Lake, or even before. If it's easy I can shoot for Rt 6. And there's
even a road walk option to get from Hills Lake to Rt 6. Decisions,
decisions <sigh>

If I end up in Wellsboro tomorrow my body is going to expect a zero day out
of it...

 4/26: Rt 6 – Wellsboro-

God protects drunks and fools? What's worse than 4 inches of wet sloppy
snow? 3-4 inches with an icy crust on top – on every step you break through.

Hit the trail before 7am, blue skies with some light clouds. Road walk over
to the Keller Trailhead, pretty easy walk up the valley, tho sometimes wet.
Took a couple of miles to hit patches of snow, by the three mile point it
was a solid crust. Grunting up to the ridge top was not quite
kick-stepping, but it was slow going.

Then, when I finally busted the top of the ridge and thought I had it made
with the forest roads, it was the icy crust on deep snow torture; at least
you can make time through slop, with the crust every step was work. I
finally got far enough down the road to where the ruts had thawn out, but
that didn't last. Then I got lucky, some other fool had been out in the
snow and I followed his tracks for two miles or so. By then the sun had
started to soften things up so I only hit short sections of crust.

Came out by the radio tower on the ridge, and a guy pulled up to let his
beagle out for a run, and we chatted for a bit. He did say the weather
report is for rain tomorrow... making a zero day sound even better. The sun
felt good but it was time to move on.

When the breeze hit it was pretty cool, but the sun was thawing the snow,
still I couldn't wait to get down off the ridge. The tracks I'd been
following turned off so I ended up having to make some of my own, down
through the slop and some minor blowdowns from the storm. Hit the road to
the park, then missed a turn off the road, followed a road walk around and
picked up the trail at a boat launch – just in time for lunch, I even had a
bench in the sun :-)

There was a pretty mile-long walk down the lakeside after lunch, but once I
hit the dam the rest of the miles to Rt 6 didn't amount to much. The piece
that sticks in my mind is the section that they rerouted off the road,
through the swampy cow pasture – the locals must be laughing their butts
off about hikers doing the cow patty two step...

Hit Rt 6 about 2:45, and probably walked a mile backwards before I hitched
a ride – a nice guy who's talking about doing the AT with his wife when he
retires in a couple of years. He dropped me off at the Sherwood Motel – and
then checking in I realized that I didn't have my drivers license...
<sigh>. Called home and talked to mom, and she found it in my wallet –
she's going to mail it to Lynne – and that will make flying home easier.

And I think I sunburned my nose today :-)

 4/27: Wellboro -

Wow! Nothing like a good dose of trail confusion while you're in town!

Breakfast at the diner, hit the laundry, CVS (Mother's Day card and Aaron's
birthday card) for blister and other hiking stuff, twice to the PO, up to
the outfitter for water treatment stuff... lunch at the bagel place,
library stop where I can't use the computer without a photo id.

Back at the motel I pulled out the guide to see what tomorrow looks like...
and I have no map for Rt 6 to Antrim. Did I forget to print it? Throw it in
the box I already took to the PO??? Back to the outfitter where I confused
the hell out of the both of us, but he found the map for section 18 on the
MST website and printed it out for me. There's still a small chunk between
Antrim and Pine Creek unaccounted for, but he had an area map of the state
forest so if it's too messed up I can hit the roads.

Turns out it would have been a nice day to hike, at least no rain yet
(1:20pm) – partly cloudy, cool and breezy. I can skip the breezy point
right now, I'm tired of freezing in the wind. No shuttles in town, I got
the number for Pine Creek Outfitters, but think I'll push my luck and hitch.
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