|The North Country Trail near Oil City, PA has its own oil well|
"Hither to Yon" - Days 35 through 41
Well, I'm back in Pennsylvania, hiking through Alleghany National Forest, and not far from Oil City, PA, as I continue west on the North Country Trail.
It took fourteen days to negotiate the portion of New York's Finger Lakes Trail between the northern terminus of the Great Eastern Trail and the western Terminus of the FLT at the PA border.
Walking in the North Country woods is a pleasure except where the footing is boggy. New York has a big collection of 'pocket-sized' state forests, few larger than a thousand acres, and the trail takes good advantage of those. There were connecting road walks that were never long enough to be tedious. Other sections cross private land where the trail goes through logged-out areas that were not pretty and where the trail itself was not foot trail but ripped-up, muddy ATV and ORV tracks.
Then there were sections of pure magic.
For me, the magic is often a feeling. It can't be photographed. It happens when the wind calms, when the sun streams down in kaleidoscopic ribbons through the high forest canopy, when the understory brush falls away to reveal a grand park-like vista of endless old trees ... and then the wood thrush starts to sing--its tones a perfection of pure, penetrating musical bliss, fifty million years in the making.
It can also happen when I can see that the trail is truly loved by those who use it and maintain it. There was the area around Cash Park, where volunteers have paid to line the trail with a promenade of landscaping trees, some marked with memorial plaques.
There was a section of difficult trail through a ravine where volunteers have put in hundreds of hours making it easier to hike.
And there are the meadow walks. I always love being under the open sky, and it doesn't hurt to have friendly locals rushing up to greet you as you pass.
Even the road walks can occasionally provide interest, such as this early morning vista,
And when an overnight rain brought out millions of tiny snails.
Since I'm not choosing to be a purist on the North Country Trail, I chose to play hooky from one 13.7 mile trail section that was half road walk in order to walk a 2.5 mile alternative on the Pat McGee Rail Trail -- a quiet, grassy, flower-lined avenue well away from civilization through the Little Valley Creek valley.
Here's a map of that detour. It was a major short-cut.
Next the trail came through Salamanca and crossed Seneca Nation sovereign territory. It passes right by their huge casino then plunges into wild lands. I passed both the casino and this equally impressive beaver lodge in the early morning mists.
Finally, some magic in the woods can indeed be photographed. Here an old rotting tree serves as an inspirational work of art.
Magic happens when its not expected. When you get up every morning and hike a new piece of trail that you've never been on before, the unexpected is around every corner. This is what hooks me on the hiker life.
Okay, now for the geeky stuff. I am obsessed with documenting the route of my Personal Continuous Footpath using my GPS. So here are the seven daily tracks for the remainder of my traverse of western New York State: