For more area hikes and resources, see the trip summary: Hiking the Finger Lakes Trail
Things I did not expect to see on this hike: An orange salamander. A mailbox in the middle of the woods. Hugging trees. Pink flamingos.
We kicked off Memorial Day with what was supposed to be a 5.3 mile loop on the Bristol Hills Trail from the parking area at Two Rod Road to the Huckleberry Loop and back. Since I’m training and gradually increasing mileage each week, the plan was to add an out-and-back onto the end of the hike to ensure we hit 6 miles for the day. No need. I got to talking and missed blazes two different times (drat!) and the doubling back brought us to 6.24 miles. I was glad for the mileage now, but this was a wake-up call to pay closer attention; on 15+ mile days I will not be so lighthearted about unplanned detours.
For our second hike on the Bristol Hills Trail we picked up the section just south of last week’s hike since Chris and I were both keen to see the entire Huckleberry Bog Loop. There’s ample parking at the intersection of Dinehart and Two Rod Road, though if Google Maps tells you to take Wixom Hill Road to get there, choose a different route. We approached from the east and Wixom Hill started off as a passable dirt road but then degenerated into a steeper, overgrown two-track that we weren’t willing to try.
This entire hike sits squarely in the Urbana State Forest and has just a 200-foot elevation change. Unfortunately, the low portions near the beginning of the hike were soft and muddy after a recent rainstorm. We of course had to pass through the area twice and by the end, my pant legs were muddy and wet up to the shins. I’ve been talking about getting gaiters for months and after my broken-record comments on this hike, I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be unwrapping a pair on my birthday in August. On the plus side, my hiking boots are as waterproof as ever and the feet stayed bone-dry.
If it weren’t for the efforts of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference volunteers (thank you all!), this hike would be pretty but fairly unremarkable. We enjoyed walking through peaceful stands of oak and pine, but things started picking up once we hit the south trail register box where Chris once again borrowed a laminated copy of the Huckleberry Bog Nature Trail Guide to read along the hike.
The Nature Guide doesn’t cover the blue-blazed west leg of the Bog Loop, so our pace was quick through that section and up to Bog Spur where we turned around last week. Once in new territory, we slowed using the nature guide to identify trees and plants.
Boy, this orange-blazed section of the Bog Loop is our favorite: it’s high and dry and the nature guide’s numbered identification system makes “sightseeing” a breeze. It’s in this section where we stumbled on our first FLT Passport mailbox - a peculiar sight in the middle of the woods! I assume this isn’t the only one and am eager to find more in the next couple months.
We couldn’t help but pause in a small clearing to admire the hugging trees. As the nature guide says “No need to put a numbered tag on The Hugging Trees, and unusual entwined RED OAK(18) and HEMLOCK(27) probably over 100 years old.” Gorgeous! Supposedly there’s sarsaparilla, pink lady slipper, and orchid in the immediate area, but we struck out on all three. Not so the pink flamingos, another whimsical sight that brought a smile. The guide says that “some insensitive clod” took the pink flamingo that resides at stop #26 on the trail, but a generous soul must have replaced it along with a mate.
One final surprise came as we were hiking the last quarter mile when we stopped to chat with a backpacker (Dave) coming the other direction. When we inquired about his pack we learned that he too was training for an upcoming trip. In Dave’s case, he was headed “…out west to hike the Timberline rail around Mt. Hood”. What are the odds?! We summer at Keuka but have called Oregon home for the last 18 years. I’ve only hiked a small portion of the Timberline Trail from the lodge to Paradise Park, but from the little I’ve seen, Dave is in for a treat. Chris and I agree that Dave has renewed our resolve to hike the whole Timberline loop. It’s right in our back yard - no excuse!
When we ran into Dave he was heading north and just completed the Bristol Hills Trail from Mitchellsville Road. Since he raved about that section, we plan to hike it next week. Final thoughts: If you hike this trail, wear long pants and don’t forget the bug spray. We didn’t even sign in at the south trail register box since the mosquitoes descended quickly every time we stopped moving! I still came away bite-free since I’d spritzed before leaving the car.