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Posts Tagged ‘Conservation Trail’

Winter is the reason many hiking clubs avoid using white blazes as trail markings.

Bob, the Natureguy, described how the Conservation Trail, a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), became blazed orange:
“The group was hiking the Finger Lakes Trail in Allegany State Park. These were old timers in the Finger Lakes Trail organization. It was a nice fall day. A freak snowstorm hit while they were on the trail. It took them hours to get back since the early wet snow stuck to the trees and obscured the white blazes. They had to brush every tree to look for blazes and find their way back. They vowed the new trail would not have that problem and chose orange for the Conservation Trail blazes.”

He went on to explain, “It would be a momentous task to change the blazing of the FLT. It would be very expensive and take many dollars and many years. Not just the marks, but all the printed literature and reference material would have to be changed. And there is logic to the color schemes when there are trail junctions. Over almost a 1/2 century those color schemes have been worked out so there are no conflicts. All trails that intersect with the FLT could be affected. It is not just one trail. The FLT is a primary trail that a multitude of trails across the state radiate from or intersect. So, unfortunately, the color is what is, for bad or good and do not expect it to change.”

It is easy to loose the white blazes in a white-out of snow, so be extra careful when hiking or snowshoeing white-blazed trails such as the Finger Lakes Trail. Always take some extra warm/dry layers with you and some snacks and water in case your outing gets extended due to a change in conditions.

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blazeColor blindness can be a hindrance to hikers. 3% of men are color blind to reds and greens. Others deal with various types and degrees of color blindness. There are three challenges. First, picking out the man-made blazes from the natural blobs on the trees, secondly, identifying the color of the blaze once the blaze has been seen, and finally deciphering features on a colorful map.

A hiker queried the Finger Lakes Trail email list for ideas on how to handle his color blindness.  He hiked a section of the Conservation Trail and the orange blazes were almost invisible to him. And he missed the blue blaze trails that directed him to a lean-to’s and water sources. Many others probably share his challenges.

One suggestion offered was to hike with a non-color blind person. Another was to closely follow a map if its colors are distinguishable.

In Europe some trails are marked with blazes of two or more colors in stripes, and that helps a lot. But it’s a lot of work for maintainers and is rarely done in the US.

The most helpful suggestion was creative. Before you hike, cut three 2″ x 6″ rectangles out of white scrap vinyl siding, paint the smooth side of each with gloss exterior latex blue, orange, or white, and LABEL each blaze with its color name on the colored side of the blaze.  A local trail maintainer may be able to assist with this. (Don’t use aluminum siding because the edges will cut you or punch holes in your pockets). When you come to a blaze that really looks like a blaze but it has a color that you can’t decipher, then compare your blazes to it and you may be able to conclude that it’s more like one color than the other.

If you can’t tell whether it’s a blaze or just a “blob” of some sort on the tree, then compare your blazes to 2 or 3 similar-looking blobs further along the perceived path. If you don’t find 2 or 3 similar looking blobs along the perceived path, then you can probably conclude that you’re not on a blazed trail. If there is no perceptible path, then work out in a couple of concentric circles, looking for a worn path or other similar blobs. This won’t always work, especially if the blazes are dirty or worn or way too big or small, but you may be able to eliminate alternatives this way, especially if you know approximately where you are and you’re only comparing two colors. This should let you distinguish a deer trail from the hiking trail. Carry a roll of striped flagging tape with you (e.g. order from Ben Meadows or Forestry Supply) and be sure to mark the spot where you last found a certain blaze, plus any search routes away from that spot.

Another suggestion was to look for other ways in which the trail may be marked — maybe the trail you’re on has a disk on it but the other trail (the spur) doesn’t, or there’s a difference in the tread width or wear pattern (the main trail would usually be wider or more worn), or the side of the tread has been demarcated with branches, such that even if you can’t see the blazes, the trail itself is still apparent.

Finally, if you’re hiking the Finger Lakes Trail, consider carrying a good handheld gps device into which you have loaded the FLT track and waypoint data. Do not rely solely on the gps device (it can be off by a few meters, your spare batteries may fail, too, etc.), but use it to augment the appropriate Rite-in-the-Rain FLTC map (especially the description on the back) while you “read the landscape” and search for the human pathway or the particular trail. I realize that your colorblindness makes it more difficult to read the gps, but adding this to other sources of information should help you keep from getting really lost.

(Thanks to all who participated on the FLTC email list and contributed to this compilation.)

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By Sue Freeman

Are you familiar with the Finger Lakes Trail? Are you sure? It continues to grow. There are now more than 950 miles of trail, including many side trails and loops. If you haven’t explored the Finger Lakes Trail for either a day hike or a backpacking trip, then you’re missing out on the best hiking that our region has to offer.

The main Finger Lakes Trail reaches from Allegany State Park to the Catskill Mountains, passing south of the major Finger Lakes. It continues west to North Dakota as the North Country Trail. In the east it meets the Long Path which connects to the Appalachian Trail. Closer to home, branch trails head north and south off the main trail. The Conservation Trail heads north to Canada. The Letchworth Trail heads east of Letchworth gorge providing a glimpse of some waterfalls. The Bristol Hills Trail (the one closest to Rochester) heads north to Ontario County Park north of Naples. The Crystal Hills Trail is being built to head south from Bath, connecting to the Great Eastern Trail. The Interloken Trail heads north into the Finger Lakes National Forest. The Onondaga Trail and Link Trail form a loop south of Syracuse. Each of these has smaller loop and spur trails attached.

The whole system amounts to an awful lot of trail mileage. How do you know where to go, where to park, what terrain you’ll encounter, when is a good time to go? The answer to these questions just got easier. The Finger Lakes Trail Conference recently unveiled their on-line, interactive trail map at www.fingerlakestrail.org.

You can zoom in and pan around on the map to focus on any specific trail area. Zooming in twice shows waypoints for trailhead parking, shelters, campsites (including primitive campsites), and hunting closures (red flag waypoints).  Clicking on a waypoint brings up more information about it such as dates for hunting closures, notices, and important infrastructure such as lean-tos are also shown. Clicking on the track of a trail, whether the main trail or any side trails, brings up an elevation profile for that area that can be enlarged.

The track colors represent the blaze colors for that segment of trail. The main trail is depicted in black for better visibility on various map backgrounds, but it is white blazed. (A blaze is a rectangle of paint on trees and structures used to denote the route of a trail.)

This interactive map can be very useful in quickly finding relevant information about a specific segment of trail. For instance, if I’m thinking of taking a hike from Ontario County Park into Naples on the Bristol Hills Trail, I can quickly see that I better go now or postpone my trip because a segment of the trail is closed for hunting from November 15 through December 22. Maybe I’ll plan a Christmas Day hike. I see my hiking partner can leave a car at the DEC lot on Route 245 and shuttle us to the start at Ontario County Park and we can hike the distance one way. And, I can see from the topo and terrain versions of the map that we’ll be in for some rugged terrain. Maybe we’ll need snowshoes if the snow is deep.

Once you decide on where to hike using the interactive map, it’s best to buy a Finger Lakes Trail Conference map for that area to use on your hike because of the detailed mile-by-mile information on the back of each map and so that you’ll have a quality printed map with you on the hike. Having a good map with you is one of the most important safety precautions you can take while hiking. Happy Trails.

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Jerry Lazarczyk of Grand Island, NY wrote

PEsmallAlthough I have long ago completed the Conservation Trail (CT), I returned to a part of the trail as a convenience to hike to the highest point in Erie County per Gary Fallesen in his book PEAK EXPERIENCES published by Footprint Press.

The get-in is on Allen Road in Finger Lakes Trail map CT5, but the road shoulders are horrendously steep and are very  narrow. So, it is recommended to use the access at Genesee Road (not the one by the airport but the one that passes through Sardinia, NY) where very adequate parking is readily found in the Erie County Forest parking lot on the south side of Genesee Road. Cross the road diagonally to follow the CT. Take the trail northbound to the high point of the trail (1,860 feet per my old blue map (BJD- before Joe Dabes) ). The highest point is perpendicular to the trail to the west and is self-evident (no signage to verify that). Unfortunately, it is located on private property so please do not leave the trail to actually touch the highest point in the county (1,950 feet). The hike is about 4.9 miles round trip from the Genesee Road parking lot and is mostly in Erie County Forest.

The high point is directly behind the home located at 11290 Allen Road and the FLT passes the home on the road and continues east on the road for about 100 yards before the trail turns south through a landowner’s side yard. That landowner was joyous to see hikers using the trail and was very reassuring that the highest point was just off the trail although he had never been there himself.  Contact Jerry Lazarczyk at  lazarcg1@netzero.com.

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Did you know that by hiking the Finger Lakes Trail you can connect to many other trails that head far outside New York State?
– The western end extends all the way to North Dakota on the North Country National Scenic Trail.
– From the FLT branch called the Conservation Trail you can connect to the Bruce Trail and walk to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada (see the travel narrative “Bruce Trail – An Adventure Along the Niagara Escarpment”)
– At the eastern end, follow the Long Path through the Catskills to connect to the Appalachian Trail.International Appalachian Trail Now you can hike north to Maine and south to Georgia. Of course, at the north end you can pick up the and continue to the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. And, at the south end you can follow the Pinhoti Trail to the Benton MacKaye Trail into Alabama. After a road walk, continue on the Florida Trail to the south of Florida via what has become known as the Eastern Continental Trail.

Spend you winter wisely – planning for a very long walk starting from wherever you live in New York State.

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Trailhead coordinates for 466 FLT trailheads are now available on the FLTC website. Both the main trail and branch trails (Conservation Trail, Letchworth Trail, Bristol Hills Trail, Interloken Trail, and Onondaga Trail) are included. These coordinates must be manually typed into your field GPS unit or recent automotive GPS unit (such as Garmin Nuvi models). They will take you to within 50 feet of a trailhead. Here’s where to find them:

1) Go to http://www.fingerlakestrail.org<http://www.fingerlakestrail.org/>

2) On the left click on “Plan a Hike”

3) At the top click on “End to End”

4) Click on either A form to use to track your hikes on the Main FLT<http://www.fingerlakestrail.org/forms/E2ETrackingMain2008_06Jun.xls> or A form to use to track your hikes on Branch Trails:<http://www.fingerlakestrail.org/forms/E2ETrackingBranch2008_06Junxls> (these are “hot links”)

5) Choose “Save this file now” and click “OK”

6) Note the file name and the location where it will be saved and click “Save”

7) These are Excel spreadsheets that can be opened with Microsoft Excel or the spreadsheet that comes with Microsoft Works. Virtually everyone has one or the other of these. Open the file with one of these. You can easily track your end to end progress with these, simply by placing a comment in the “When and Who” column.

8) Note the column with Trailhead Coordinates

9) Print out the spreadsheet and put it in your vehicle. That way you will always be be able to find a trailhead. Note that going to a trailhead does not guarantee parking there (although most have parking); for parking check the maps.

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