By Rob Montana | Ithaca.com, link to original post
There’s something about taking a walk in the woods – something that brings out a peaceful feeling in a person.
Maybe it’s the elimination of the bustle of everyday life. Maybe it’s the beautiful views of vegetation and wildlife. Maybe it’s the cathedral-like canopy of the treetops towering above one’s head.
For whatever reasons the woods bring calmness, they can all be found at the Stevenson Forest Preserve.
Located just outside Ithaca in Enfield, this Finger Lakes Land Trust’s protected land encompasses 83 acres, featuring a trail slightly more than a mile long. The pathways to chose from include a section of the Finger Lakes Trail and the Stevenson Trail.
Getting to the preserve is an easy task, and there’s a clearly designated parking area on Trumbull Corners Road. A sign for Stevenson Forest Preserve greets hikers; off to the right is a marker denoting the presence of the Finger Lakes Trail as well. (The full trail runs 558 miles from Allegany State Park to the Long Path in Catskill Forest Preserve.)
Following that path takes one along a stream on the left, winding the way alongside a hilly incline to the right. A kiosk with a logbook and information about the Finger Lakes trail, including maps and tips, sits a short way into the woods.
The trail continues until it abruptly butts up against posted private property. A large log provides ample sitting room with a look at a rocky section of the stream, as well as a manmade grouping of large rocks.
The steepest section of the trail commences here, as it takes a 90-degree turn to the right, leading straight up the hill. This is where the path becomes less dirt covered, turning into a carpet of needles and leaves, unspoiled from the winter season because of the dense umbrella of leaves in the tall trees populating this section of the preserve.
At the top of the climb, the trail (it’s the Finger Lakes Trail at this point) – which is clearly marked with white blazes on tree trunks – turns to the right again. A short distance ahead the appearance of a blue blaze on a tree trunk – pointing to the left – brings you to the start of the Stevenson Trail. (The Finger Lakes Trail continues straight ahead through more of the woods.)
The suggestion here would be to take the Stevenson Trail, if only for what is found at the end of the path.
Taking the blue route, the trail becomes almost moguled and covered with tree roots jutting out, then evens out into a nice pathway again as one walks through the trees, these are much smaller and clearly less mature than the titans encountered during the first part of the hike.
The sunlight that is quite muted, save for glimpses of sky, during the Finger Lakes Trail section, grows brighter as the trail nears the edge of the woods. Leaving the woods, tall grasses line the path for a short distance, and then the path enters a small wooded section.
Almost as quickly, the wooded area ends and a breathtaking view appears, with tall grass stretching for miles, distant communities visible on the far-off hills. It’s well worth the hike to see the sight, and a bench – marked in loving memory for Martha W. Baldwin (1924-2006) and Peter E. Costich (1925-2005), with the logo of Troop 4 Eagle from Ithaca and the Finger Lakes Land Trust – offers a nice, high-backed place to sit.
According to the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the original 25 acres of the preserve were owned by the Stevenson family of Enfield dating back to just after the Revolutionary War. Thirty-four years ago, the land was inherited by Elizabeth Stevenson Bennett, who later opted to donate it to the Finger Lakes Land Trust after being approached by Michael DeMunn, a consulting forester for the Finger Lakes Land Trust at the time, and FLLT volunteer Betsy Darlington, who currently serves as the organization’s stewardship advisor.
The original 25 acres became the first section of the preserve in 1995; later additions of property in 1998 and 1999 increased the acreage to 83 acres. Those additions came thanks to Percy Browning, who bought land to donate it and added 18 acres to the total, and anonymous grant that paved the way for the acquisition of 40 more acres.
Among the vegetation visible in the preserve, according to the FLLT, are Indian cucumber-root, Jack-in-the-pulpit, starflower and horse balm. There also are several ponds in the preserve; the migration of spotted salamanders can be seen in early spring and wood frogs also may be spotted breeding in the ponds.
For more information about the Stevenson Forest Preserve, visit the Finger Lakes Land Trust website at fllt.org and look under the Protected Lands section.
If you go …
Trail distance: Approximately 1 mile
Directions from Ithaca: Take Route 13 South to Route 327 North. Follow Route 327 N, and then take a left on Trumbull Corners Road. The parking area for the Stevenson Forest Preserve is about a half mile down the road on the right.
For many places to hike in the Ithaca NY area, pick up a copy of the guidebookTake A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.