Hiking the Bristol Hills Trail: Elmboise Road to Patch Road

For more area hikes and resources, see the trip summary: Hiking the Finger Lakes Trail

Another stretch of road walking along Faber Road

If I had a do-over, I wouldn’t do an out-and-back on this section of the Bristol Hills Trail. There’s just too darned much road walking. It didn’t bother me at first, hiking in the early morning quiet with cool breezes and fresh feet, but the return was a different story entirely. The heat set in, my feet became swollen and painful from pounding on hard surfaces, my sunny attitude flipped to the dark side, and I just wanted to FINISH already.

When I wasn't on a road (!) the trail looked about like this.

The hike started off with a bang as usual, winding up a steep hill in a series of tight switchbacks. Of course the trail was covered with leaves and I lost the path more than once until I realized I was zig-zagging right next to a wash that climbed straight up the hill. Yee-ha! I ditched the switchbacks about 2/3 of the way up and easily found the trail at the top. On the way back, I skipped the switchbacks altogether and followed the wash all the way down. Note that we’ve had a very dry summer; under normal conditions, the wash might be a river.

The trail follows an old road through meadow and farmland.

As I said, the hike was very pretty, much more pleasant than I thought it would be given the obvious road sections. The thing is, when the trail left the woods it usually followed an old dirt road, not a major tarmaced thoroughfare. I was delighted by lovely homes dotted amongst rolling hills, open meadows, private ponds, and far-reaching views.

Bud Valley Campground. The store is in the building on the left.

The area around the Bud Valley Campground (formerly Wagon Wheel Campground) was the least remote and followed tarmac road for about 0.4 miles. It still would have been a highlight had I remembered to bring money. Ugh! A cool drink sure would have hit the spot on the return trip. Lesson learned: always have cash. Duh.

A sign for Faber Lake, where the trail intersects with Faber Road

The lovely Faber Lake

Throughout my journey I startled horses, toads, and more than a few deer. Ohhhh, the deer! I was so mad at myself. Around mile 6, I was making good time through a forested section, enjoying dappled shade and a stiff breeze that rustled leaves overhead. The noise must have masked my footfalls since I came around a bend to find a doe walking obliviously towards me on the same path. I immediately froze, and on she came, nose down, eyes focused on the ground. How close would she have come? I don’t know! She got within 20 feet and I foolishly moved my hand thinking I could get a photo. The second I did so, her head whipped up, we gazed at each other for a few heartbeats, and she bounded away up the hill. Sigh. Another lesson learned. In the future, enjoy the moment and don’t try to snap a photo that couldn’t possibly capture the magic anyway!!

This seemed to be quite the day to drive lessons home. Here are a few more:

  • Eat protein with breakfast. For some reason I only had coffee and a drumstick that morning. No, not a chicken drumstick…the ice cream cone (oy!). What can I say...it's summer and it sounded good.  The sugar and caffeine combo left me feeling shaky and initially killed my pace. I packed quality snacks, though, and felt better once a protein bar kicked in.

One of a few areas where I had to hunt for trail markers. In this case, the trail crossed Browns Corners Road (County Road 75) and access was steep on both sides.

  • Bring a trail map. Blazes were few and far between along roads and I added mileage (and frustration) trudging back and forth searching for the trail. These training treks are low risk since I’m doing out-and-backs along relatively well-marked paths, but still. A trail map is key and I’ve let myself slip into poor habits.

Where the Finger Lakes Trail (i.e. the Bristol Hills Trail) crosses Prattsburgh-Pulteney Road. I took a short break in the shady grass to the right of the sign. I didn't nap but was sorely tempted!

  • Take breaks! I tend to hike steadily even eating while walking, and I know my feet are suffering for it. Short breaks to take off boots and wiggle toes help ease that sore, bruised feeling on the soles of the feet. There’s only one downside to stopping: I might feel compelled to take a nap. Or is that an upside?

I also confirmed that I. hate. cobwebs. I can’t wait to get on the well-traveled Appalachian Trail. Though I’m an early riser, I might plan to sleep in (or have a second cup of coffee) so we’re not the first out. Let someone else knock the cobwebs down!

Here’s the mile-by-mile trail description for Elmboise Road (County Road 77) to Bud Valley Campground (formerly Wagon Wheel Campground): CNY Hiking’s Wagon Wheel Campground to Urbana State Forest

And here’s the mile-by-mile for the area north of Bud Valley Campground: CNY Hiking’s Italy Hill Forest to Wagon Wheel Campground

Runkeeper data for this hike. I started at Elmboise Road and followed the Bristol Hills Trail north for 6.5 miles before turning back and retracing my steps.

As you can see from the Runkeeper data, I didn’t quite make it to Patch Road. I was all set to hike a bit further but the trail suddenly descended rapidly. I stopped, looked down, and thought “Nope nope nope. Don’t wanna hike back up that hill.” It was a good call since I hit 13 miles (my goal for the day) just as I approached the car. Perfect.

One more training hike and then off to Virginia!

A couple extra shots:

Vintage sign at the Bud Valley Campground. Love it!

Poor tree!