For the last hike in February we were greeted with a light snow cover across the landscape. Thirteen hikers came out for a 30 degree hike, which followed last weekend’s 70° hikes. Fortunately, we had a number of hills to climb, which kept us warm.
After an hour hiking through the woods protected from the wind, the Climbers made it to the potato fields at the tops of the hills for views in all directions. The wind definitely picked up in the open field, but the sun was out and as many times as I have seen this view, I still enjoy it.
Douglas was taking pictures and noticed two coyotes crossing the field to the north. Making sure that Duffy stayed close by, we headed across the field and found the tracks first headed west, and then headed back east to the woods, after several shots from a hunter. Duffy sniffed and barked at the footprints, but decided not to follow the tracks.
Meanwhile, the Tourtalists (Pati’s new name for the Naturalist/Tourist combo group) walked south along the valley to the old ski hill, where the climbers met them before heading up to the top.
On the return hike, Linda led the Tourtalists along the woods and across the rock bridge to our upper field. Pati found a brave fern standing tall above the snow, for a beautiful image of the hike.
Following the hike, everyone enjoyed deviled eggs, goat cheese with pulled pork sandwiches and potatoes. And, as is our tradition, we had fruit and cakes for desert – many hikers splurged and had helpings of each of the deserts!
Rob’s Trail is located near the top of Bald Hill between Springwater and Hemlock NY. There are two parking lots, one on the west side of Rt 15A just north of Old Bald Hill Rd South. The other is on the east side of 15A (actually off of Old Bald Hill South). There is a connecting trail between the two parking lots – please watch for traffic while crossing 15A.
From Springwater: Take Rt 15A north. In 6.1 miles, the parking lot is on the left just after the north end of Old Bald Hill Rd South.
From Hemlock: Take Rt 15A south. At 4.7 miles south of the 20A/15A intersection south of Hemlock, the parking lot is on the right.
Despite the discouraging weather forecast, four intrepid hikers made the journey to Big Flats for the Sunday Hike. Their fortitude was rewarded. What awaited was a winter wonderland of ice coated trees and soft snow which truly enhanced the serenity.
The steward of the preserve, Bob Corneau, met us at the trailhead and hiked with us through the forest. The deep wet snow slowed our pace which allowed for many observations we might have missed on the fast track. Bob provided much history and many personal stories, having spent countless hours in these acres. He tuned us in to the pulse of the forest and its wildlife as we pondered about pine species, animal tracks, and “yellow snow”. His extensive knowledge of the terrain, the trees, and the reptile population made the two and a half hours fly.
Our education continued during a hearty post-hike feast at the local eatery, Tag’s Tavern. The food, beer, and conversation provided a pleasant conclusion to our adventure.
If you have the opportunity to visit this unique preserve in any season, you will not be disappointed. Read about it at fllt.org/preserves/steegehill-preserve Springwater Trails will definitely be making a return visit.
The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) (HWA) is native to parts of Asia and was first discovered in New York in 1985. It is in the family Adelgidae, which is related to aphids. The adelgid uses long mouth parts to extract sap and nutrients from hemlock foliage, this prevents free growth, causing needles to discolor from deep green to grayish green, and to drop prematurely. The loss of new shoots and needles seriously impairs tree health. Infestation is usually fatal to the host after several years. Valued plantings of the shade-loving eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) can be ravaged by the hemlock woolly adelgid, and the natural stands of hemlock in the forests and parks in upstate New York would be greatly affected if the pest spreads to those locations. The wind, birds, other wildlife and the movement of infested host material (wood) by humans are all factors in the dispersion of the adelgid.
From the first discovery of the hemlock woolly adelgid in the Hudson Valley in the 1980’s, the insect has spread north and west to the Catskills, the Capital Region and even the Finger Lakes and other parts of Western New York. Currently 25 New York counties are infested with the hemlock woolly adelgid.
Anytime between February and May is good for sampling, though snow on hemlocks usually precludes starting surveys in the middle of winter. The picture above shows the underside of an infested branch. You are looking for the white woolly ovisacs. If you find evidence during a hike, Cornell set up an online reporting, for both positive and negative reports that you are encouraged to use. They share the results with DEC and USFS annually. Just click on the link above.
Our thanks to Gene for keeping this pest on our radar, and to Todd Bittner at Cornell for sharing the survey link and the picture above with us.