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Begins: May 29, 2014
Date: Fri, Jun 27th, 2014
Start: Gulf of Mexico Creek
End: Wittenberg Mntn
Daily Distance: 25
Trip Distance: 570.0
Entry Visits: 593
Journal Visits: 12,513
Guestbook Views: 1,139
Guestbook Entrys: 6
Last PLB Location
It was a rather ironic day. I finished the FLT and then did the best hiking of the entire trip.
I was up early, ready for a big day. It was a fairly easy 4 miles to exit the forest and then I had 13 road walking miles and then 1 trail mile to finish the FLT. This is definitively the worst long trail finish ever. Seriously. The trail literally finishes by road walking 5 miles to the one shop town of Claryville and then road walks 8 more miles down a dead end road and then 1 trail mile to finish at the junction with the Long Path, which is a long distance trail from NYC to Albany. I get that the FLT wants the trail to finish by connecting to another long trail (the Long Path connects to the AT so it makes even more sense), but road walking the final 13 miles seems sooooo ridiculous. I'm sure I'm underestimating the difficulties, but in all the years the trail has been around it's crazy go think a trail couldn't be built for the final miles when the final miles are through the Catskills, the biggest forest and wilderness area on the entire FLT. The funny thing is that road walking doesn't bother me much, but it just seems so crazy to finish like this......so I didn't.
I walked through Claryville which only had a one stop cafe and tiny grocery, but it was excellent. Great food, baked goods, just enough groceries and a nice place to sit. I continued on the 8 road miles along Denning Road which followed a nice creek, but the road miles were starting to hurt the feet. I made it to the end and walked the easy 1.2 miles to the FLT end which at least had a sign and took the requisite pictures.
But then I had a great idea planned. The FLT only mentions one way out, basically walking 1 mile back and having already set up a pay shuttle back to Claryville or walk the 8 road miles back and then I'd have to hitch to a bigger town which would be a pain. Instead, I continued north on the Long Path for 17 miles to Phoenicia, a small town where the Greyhound comes through. Since that plan, my parents are actually picking me up so I don't need the bus, but the route continuing through the Catskills sounded real nice. It ended up being by far, the best hiking of the entire 30 days and it's not even the FLT. I went over 3 peaks greater than the highest point on the FLT, one peak was the highest in the Catskills at 4,160'. I had a fair number of really excellent views, my first good views in the Catskills and frankly on the entire FLT from the forest. The views of the surrounding mountains were really impressive for a view starved hiker. The hiking was pretty interesting as above 3,000' I was in this high fir forest which was different and nice and the the ups and downs were pretty difficult. There were numerous rock ledges to climb up and down, 2 of the down climbs I would call almost dangerous. I haven't had decent tread on my sneakers for several hundred miles and had to be real careful not to slip and crack my skull open. And then the ultimate reward was my final peak, Wittenberg Mountain had a big open rock ledge with by far the most open and best view I've had the entire month. There was a perfect grassy spot on the edge that just said I had to camp there. At least a good ending to the trip. I've got 10 morning miles, but they should be uneventful and I'll just end the journal here.
Overall, the FLT was disappointing. I've complained enough in this journal and there's no point in rehashing (I'll let it all out in a final entry with planning notes for future hikers!), but there are worse ways to spend 30 days surly. Frankly, if more of the hiking was like today or even the last few days and then mixed in with all the beautiful farm walking and rural roads, I would have enjoyed the FLT immensely more. I just found the 2/3 of the trail in the state forest which is continuously logged, full of logging roads, muddy as hell and 100% viewless to be boring. But to finish on a positive note, I got to experience an area of New York so close to where I grew up, but never visited.
The Finger Lakes Trail is a 558 mile hiking trail through New York from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve.