By Kirk House, The leader.com, link to original post
A few years back I set myself a challenge as part of my recovery from Addison’s disease — walking the 55-mile Bristol Hills Trail between South Bristol and Mitchellsville. It’s taken far too long but — I’ve done it!
Bristol Hills is a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail, and it winds through the Keuka Lake communities of Urbana and Pulteney, then on northward. The BH’s southern terminus just dumps you unceremoniously onto the Main FLT in the woods west of Mitchellsville. But the delightful northern end starts at Ontario County Park. Here you can pause to admire the Jump Off Point, surveying the valley 700 feet below.
In most of this park the trail is excellent and the going is easy. But soon you drop to the road, climb 500 feet, walk a long ridge, and drop 500 down. It’s worth it, though… at a lookout on Cleveland Hill you can sit and watch the vultures soar by at eye level.
The trail winds through village streets in historic Naples, then climbs sharply into High Tor Management Area. It’s not unusual to run across turkeys and deer. On a service road here I stood still as an inattentive fox walked almost up to me, then darted away in shock — he’s clearly not used to company. Near that spot, by the way, you get a glimpse of Canandaigua Lake.
Another lookout gives you a spectacular view of Italy Valley with its beautiful farms, after which it’s 700 feet down and another 700 up. But you pass glorious brooks and streams carving their way through living rock.
In the Italy Hill region you walk through high-grass fields, and in some stretches even on roads, before plunging into woods again. Season by season, even month by month, a new crop of flowers and birds greets the hiker.
Southeast of Prattsburgh comes the lovely Covell Cemetery, with a century-old peony bush and family graves dating between 1811 and 1913. A few steps uphill is the elaborate Evangeline Shelter, built for weary wayfarers by Bill Garrison, who embellished it with quotations from Longfellow. Bill was a leading player in the theatrical film “Dadetown,” shot in Hammondsport with local people filling the roles. He was cast to type as a man who cherished his community and served her joyfully.
After another steep climb (there’s a reason this trail is named for hills) you find the Huckleberry Bog with its nature trail loop. This bog seeps out one end into Chesapeake Bay, and out the other into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the all-too-brief season, lady’s slippers abound. Two “hugging trees” wrap around each other… there’s a much younger pair up at the north end of the trail.
Small farmers on the overlooked hilltops between the lakes, unable to thrive in the new industrial agriculture, began abandoning their farms between 1910 and 1929. In the following decade the state acquired much of the land for state forests, and the Civilian Conservation Corps began “development” work. Much of New York’s public lands came into existence through a combination of hard agricultural times and good foresight at the state level.
After hiking through Pigtail Hollow with its tall conifers, you finish at last. Since I hiked the trail piecemeal by parking my car, walking out, and walking back — I actually hiked it twice! And it was worth it.