Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gorge Trail & the Finger Lakes National Forest

I hikes with Isabelle and Lucy today through the Finger Lakes National Forest. I had wanted to hike through this area for quite awhile now, but was saving it for good weather. I almost went last weekend, but it was postponed because of rain. Based upon the US Forest Service Website, I decided to park along Mark Smith Rd. and start by hiking up Gorge Trail. This was a pleasant beginning, since most of the trail went along the creek. The name is slightly misleading. We saw no major gorges as you might find near Ithaca or Watkins Glen, but it was pleasantly covered with eastern hemlock and pines, offering shade as we passed.

One of the many small waterfalls along Gorge Trail. Posted by Hello

Isabelle tests my nerves by crossing the stream on a log. Posted by Hello

After one or two miles, the trail intersected the main trail in the area, the 12 mile Interloken trail. We decided to pass by this trail and continue on towards backbone trail, which runs north to south along the ridge of the hill. Just before that intersection, we came upon a large pond, where we ate lunch and found a green toad.

An orange colored "Green" toad near a pond along Gorge Trail. Posted by Hello

Backbone trail basically consisted of a dirt road. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything of great interest along the extent that we hiked. Supposedly there are nice views of Seneca lake elsewhere on this trail. Of most interest, we found another green toad. This one was remarkably unafraid of us -- so much so that Isabelle was able to pick him up without any sign of struggling. As you can see in the photo, he sat perfectly still in her hand. Eventually, he jumped away from her as she tried to inspect his undersign by flipping him over gently.

A green toad along Backbone Trail. Posted by Hello

From backbone trail, we entered the ravine trail. Some reports online indicate that the area is reminiscent of Japanese tea gardens. It was a nice area, but I would stop short of a tea garden description. I suspect that it looks even nicer once all of the leaves have sprouted. After a short while, the trail bordered the creek. The creek was very shallow -- easily less than an inch in depth -- and Isabelle, not surprisingly, removed her shoes and walked along the creek instead. Lucy and I continued along the trail until we reached a bridge. At this point Isabelle convinced us to join her by walking in the creek instead.

Isabelle beckons us to join her in the creek. Posted by Hello

Lucy decides to join Isabelle in the creek. Posted by Hello

We didn't go far before walking in the creek became too difficult. Tree branches, large shrubs and thorn bushes reach extend over the creek making continuation along it tedious, if not impossible. Here we carefully dried our feet, replaced our shoes and hiked into the brush in search of the trail. At this point, Isabelle came across the skull of an animal. It was immediately recognized to be a deer...easily identified by the two antlers above. We soon found other bones around it. First, bones belonging to the legs and then an entire rib cage and spine! Isabelle and I gathered some of these bones together, but Isabelle was the only one adventurous enough to touch the rib cage. Less than 50 yards from this site we found a second skull -- this time without antlers, indicating it was probably a female deer. It was incredible -- finding not only one, but TWO SKULLS in the same area within 50 yards of each other. We ended up taking the skulls with us, along with some of the other interesting bones.

Isabelle examines the rib cage of a deer. Posted by Hello

Very shortly after this, we ended up on another road in the area. We took this road east several hundred yards until we reached the Interloken trail. Our idea was to take this back to Gorge Trail and return home. We soon reached a patch that was so muddy that we decided to take the Burnt Hill Trail back instead, this one being parallel to the Interloken Trail. To get there, we crossed what might have been a blueberry patch (being in the blueberry patch recreational area). From there we met two other hikers who confirmed we were now on Burnt Hill Trail. It was two or three miles to Gorge Trail. On the way, the most interesting thing was a large pasture. It is likely that cows graze her during the summer as there were gates on each side. From here it was possible to look down into Seneca valley, but the lake was not visible. Towards the end of the pasture there was a single, interesting tree as shown in the picture below.

A pasture along Interloken Trail overlooking the valley around Seneca Lake. Posted by Hello

Enjoying the view from a cool looking tree. Posted by Hello

After reconnecting with the Gorge Trail, we headed back towards the Jeep. Along the way, we stopped for a snack to finish up the rest of our food by the creek.

Isabelle and Lucy stop for a snack along Gorge Trail. Posted by Hello

The rocky stream along Gorge Trail. Posted by Hello

Overall, the trail was nice. The best parts were Gorge Trail and the pasture along Burnt Hill Trail. I have read online that parts of the Finger Lakes National Forest are home to many varieties of wildflowers, so I plan on touring more of the forest this spring. Unfortunately, I was not able to record the trail of the hike because my GPS had a lot of trouble determining our position. I later found out the reason was that I changed some of the settings previously and forgot to change them back.


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