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Best Tent Camping: New York State will release its 2nd edition in October, from Menasha Ridge Press.

Best Tent Camping: New York State will release its 2nd edition in October, from Menasha Ridge Press.

Leaves are starting to change and temperatures are starting to drop here in New York. For some, that means a retreat indoors for the winter. But for many New Yorkers, it means some of the year’s best camping is close at hand.

“From the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, from the Adirondack Mountains to the Catskills, from the St. Lawrence River to the Hudson, tent campers in New York have one of the country’s best selections to choose from” says Aaron Starmer, co-author of Best in Tent Camping: New York, now in its second edition from Menasha Ridge Press.

Starmer, along with co-authors Cate and Timothy Starmer, attributes New York’s outdoor wealth primarily to the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve, a green space that covers one-fifth of the state.

But it’s more than just the Adirondacks. Because state-owned “forever wild” forests all over the state are interspersed with private lands, “New York is perfect for tent campers, as the wilderness surrounds you, but supplies and other recreational opportunities always remain nearby,” explains Cate Starmer.

The Starmers’ new camping guide demonstrates the wide reach and variety of New York’s camping resources, from the mountainous Adirondacks and the Catskills, to the human history of the Leatherstocking region, to the Finger Lakes to Long Island, Thousand Islands, and western state for the water-loving campers.

The authors have combed through the thousands of New York campgrounds to find the 50 best, rating them by beauty, privacy, quiet, cleanliness, security, and spaciousness.

“When most people think of New York, they naturally think of the Big Apple,” the Starmers write in their introduction, “There’s so much beyond its borders, especially for those interested in the outdoors.”
Click here to purchase a copy.

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By Rob Montana | Ithaca.com

It’s hard to imagine a place that has as much to offer the outdoor enthusiast in the Finger Lakes as its National Forest.

Wild plums, abundant wildlife and a variety of terrain — plus plenty of place of throw down a tent and spend the night — greet those who enter the Finger Lakes National Forest. There are ponds in which to cool off, miles and miles of trail on which to walk and ride, and even a dedicated campsite for horses and their riders.

Take A Hike - Finger Lakes available at www.footprintpress.com includes FL Nat'l Forest & more.

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes available at
http://www.footprintpress.com includes FL Nat’l Forest & more.

The 16,000-plus acre plot of land between Seneca and Cayuga lakes, the majority of which was consolidated in the period between 1938-1941 when more than 100 farms were acquired under the management of the Soil Conservation Services, became a permanent part of the National Forest system in 1983. The Haudenosaunee originally inhabited the lands that make up the National Forest, but white settlers moved in to farm the land following the Revolutionary War.

But farming became difficult by the turn of the century due to soil depletion and competition from other parts of the country, leading to the federal government’s involvement in acquiring the farmland from individual property owners. Administration of the Hector Land Use Area was turned over to the U.S. Forest Service in the late-1950s, leading to its eventual permanency as part of the U.S. Forest system.

This writer — and family — recently hiked about 3.5 miles of the trails near the Foster Pond area of the Finger Lakes National Forest. Portions of the pathway were wet from recent rainfall — combined with the tamping down of the earth where horses had traveled through previously.

One of the most remarkable things to see was the variety of terrain you pass through in a relatively short span of walking. You can be in a pasture one minute only to find yourself in a seemingly dense wooded area just a few minutes later.

200 Waterfalls in Central & Western NY available at www.footprintpress.com (includes FL Nat'l Forest)

200 Waterfalls in Central & Western NY available at http://www.footprintpress.com (includes FL Nat’l Forest)

Our hike was part of a several day camping trip at the Forest, allowing us to have a day to arrive and set up, spend the night and hit the trail after a hearty breakfast, and to not have to worry about getting back to dismantle our campsite until the following day. Muddy parts aside, the trails are easy to walk along, mostly flat or slight inclines making up the majority of our travels. There were a few steeper inclines, but nothing that remotely resembled an “ascent.”

It was an enjoyable walk in the woods, leisurely enough to stop and pick some blackberries growing alongside the trail during the first part of the walk. We also were able to pick a plethora of wild plums and apples; there are rumors, too, of an ample blueberry patch, but we did not come upon that during this trip.

The start of our hike found us in a lightly wooded area, passing by several ponds, then traveled along pastureland that provided a look at some cows grazing and seeking shade under trees. A steady incline brought us through a gate to the pasture — make sure to close the gates behind you lest some of the bovines get out — and into the deepest portion of woods we encountered. The area potential for the most mud were helpfully covered by bridges installed by volunteers working to make the main trail through the FLNF as easily accessible as possible.

Our hike took place just before the official start of fall, but the leaves had already started to show signs of turning colors. A trip back in the next few weeks is a certainty — just as much of a certainty as the beauty of the fall foliage surely will be.

The bulk of activity in the Finger Lakes National Forest revolves around hiking, whether it is the day variety or those setting up camp as they undertake longer journeys. The trails in the FLNF are pretty well marked — including signs showing the crossings of trails and the amount of mileage to get to other important intersections and points.

The 12-mile-long Interloken Trail runs from the southern end of the Finger Lakes National Forest to the north, passing through various terrain and vegetation.  The southern portions are somewhat steeper and more forested; the northern portions are flatter, more open and travel through pasturelands. It also travels by the Foster and Teeter ponds.

This trail can be wet in the spring and fall, which this writer found to be the case during recent hikes there — particularly in the areas where horses travel creating depressions in the earth that fill up quickly during rainfall. There are outstanding vistas to the west, including views of Seneca Lake.

In addition to the Interloken Trail, which will take between 12-14 hours to hike round-trip, there are seven other Finger Lakes National Forest trails:

The Backbone Trail, 5.5 miles one way, begins at the Backbone Horse Campground. The trail traverses the Forest through shrub-lands, pastures, old roads, and many old homestead sites. It intersects the Interloken and Burnt Hill trails to the south and the No-Tan-Tatko trail to the north. It is a relatively flat, primitive trail with natural tread, gravel in wet places, and traverses through fenced pastures.

The Burnt Hill Trail, 2.5 miles one way, is located on the southern end of the Forest. It includes forests, shrub-lands and pastures, and offers many beautiful vistas along the way. It is a primitive trail with a natural tread. It has gravel in wet areas and traverses through the fenced pastures. The trail intersects the Interloken Trail.

The Gorge Trail, 1.25 miles one way, traverses through Hemlock and hardwood forests, following the gorge between Burnt Hill Road and Mark Smith Road. It is located on the southern portion of the Forest. This trail intersects the Interloken Trail. Gorge Pond is located just east of the Gorge Trail trailhead on Burnt Hill Road.

The No-Tan-Tatko Trail, 4.5 miles one way, is nearly all open pastureland and traverses the Forest in a north/south direction between the Backbone Horse Campground and Parmenter Road. From the Backbone Horse Campground, the trail goes north into Seneca County and crosses the Interloken Trail at Seneca Road. The trail follows Townsend Road east for about 0.5 miles then runs north to the parking area on Parmenter Road. In some of the pastures, there are outstanding vistas, including views of Seneca Lake to the west and Cayuga Lake to the east. The trail is relatively flat, with a primitive trail tread, gravel in wet portions, and mowed grass through fenced pastures.

The Potomac Trail, 2.25 miles one way, travels through a variety of forest types and follows the edges of some of the numerous ponds in the area. This relatively flat trail has a primitive natural tread and traverses occasional wet areas. It is a nice loop on which to learn cross-country skiing and is also a popular game bird hunting area. The Potomac Trail network connects with the Interloken Trail and the Potomac Group Campground reservation area.

The Ravine Trail, 3/4 of a mile one way, passes through Hemlock and hardwood forests. As the trail loops around, it crosses a stream in three places with native rock step crossings. It is a primitive trail with a native tread and is steep in some places. The Ravine Trail connects with the Interloken Trail at Burnt Hill Road.

The South Slope Trail, 3/4 of a mile one way, is located at the south end of the Forest. The trail passes through hardwood and conifer stands and crosses a small stream. It is a primitive trail with plank boardwalk over wet areas. This trail intersects the Interloken Trail, and shares a portion of the Finger Lakes and North Country Trail Systems.

In addition, the Finger Lakes Trail also passes through the forest. Trails that allow horseback riding — Backbone, Burnt Hill, Interloken and No-Tan-Takto — are closed to horses from March 15 through May 1 due to muddy conditions.

Cross country skiing is available on the Backbone, Finger Lakes, Interloken, No-Tan-Takto, Potomac and South Slope trails. Snowmobiling is allowed on sections of the Backbone, Burnt Hill and No-Tan-Takto trails.

Camping at the Blueberry Patch and Potomac Group campgrounds costs $10 per night, while camping at the Backbone Horse Campground is free of charge. People also are allowed to set up a site throughout the Finger Lakes National Forest without a charge, though no camping is allowed within livestock pastures between May 15 and October 31.

For more information about the Finger Lakes National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/fingerlakes or pick up a guidebook from Footprint Press.

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NY State Parks has begun offering a longer-term camping option at Max V Shaul State Park in Schoharie County.

In the 179 NY State Park system, this is only the third Park that offers this opportunity.  This is the first park in the Saratoga / Capital / Hudson Valley and Taconic regions that this is being offered.

For campers interested in spending several weeks – or more – at a time, a number of campsites are being made available for this special option. This will save campers time and reservation fees because they only need to make a single reservation for their extended stays.  (Typically at most state park campgrounds, campers are limited to a maximum of 14 continuous nights.)

Seasonal camping reservations must be made with the park directly at 518.827.4711.

The only other state park locations in the state that offer longer term camping are in our Central Region – Bowman Lake and Oquaga Lake.

If you are unfamiliar – Max V. Shaul is a quiet setting with wooded sites. Highlights at the park include fishing in the Schoharie Creek, hiking the park’s nature trails, enjoying shady picnic grounds, open playing fields and a playground.  Additionally, campers have free vehicle access to nearby Mine Kill State Park which offers an Olympic size swimming pool, multi-use trails, boating by permit and views of the scenic 80-foot Mine Kill Falls.

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New Chestnut Lean-to in Danby State Forest

New Chestnut Lean-to in Danby State Forest

The new Chestnut Lean-to is completed and ready for occupancy. It’s located in Danby State Forest  on Finger Lakes Trail map M17.  A special thanks to all that have touched this project in some way, especially those involved in preparation of the site, building the lean-to, and enhancements to the access trail. Thanks to all Finger Lakes Trail Conference and Cayuga Trails Club volunteers.

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CatskillLeanToOutdoor equipment retailer REI has announced a $10,000 grant to the Catskills Lean-to Repair, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Program operated by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

This grant will allow the Trail Conference to expand its program of improving, repairing, and rebuilding 29 lean-tos and their privies along the 200 miles of Trail Conference-maintained trails in the Catskill Park. The Trail Conference currently maintains 29 of the 32 lean-tos in the Catskill Park. Solidly built lean-tos and privies provide backpackers and day hikers with safe on-trail shelter while minimizing distress to the surrounding environment by focusing locations for overnight stays.

The priority projects in the next year are the German Hollow Lean-to, the Devil’s Acre Lean-to, and a new lean-to to be built between Mount Temper and Plateau Mountain. A number of privies will also be completed as part of this program.  The Trail Conference works with the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation to prioritize all lean-to and privy projects.

The Trail Conference Catskills Lean-to Repair, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program has been a key initiative of the Trail Conference since 2011. The program began in 1999 with the repair of several lean-tos and the reconstructions and replacement of the John Robb Lean-to on Hunter Mountain. We have completed rehabilitation projects at the Mink Hollow Lean-to, the Echo Lake Lean-to, and the Diamond Notch Lean-to.

Last year at the Mink Hollow Lean-to, the Trail Conference, the Catskill 3500 Club, supporters of the Chris Nowack Memorial Fund, and the local Forest Ranger, Christine Nelson, hiked up more than 700 pounds of cedar shingles, lumber, and other materials to the then put on the new shingles, put down the new floor boards, re-stained the sides of the lean-to, and stained the new lean-to floor.

Lean-to projects draw large numbers of volunteers, as the work is a unique trail volunteer experience. In 2012, volunteers visited lean-tos for work more than 200 times and spent approximately 1,000 hours working on the general maintenance of lean-tos in the Catskill Park.

To learn more about the Trail Conference lean-to program in the Catskills, please visit: nynjtc.org/catskill-leantos.

The Trail Conference is a nonprofit organization that has been at the forefront of conservation efforts for the past 92 years with a mission to make nature more accessible to the public.  More than 1,500 Trail Conference volunteers donate 70,000 hours of work each year, building and maintaining 2,000 miles of trails across the region

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Back to Basics: 5 Essential Items for First-Time Campers

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Roasted & Toasted: 5 Campfire Gadgets To Get You Cookin’

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