Finger Lakes Trail: Bully Hill Road to Slader Creek Road

camera32gps_pictalltrailscaltopomapmyhikeOn Friday, August 25th I awoke to my alarm at 5:00 AM to get ready to hike the westernmost section of Map 9 of the Finger Lakes Trail. Map 9 runs from Slader Creek Road southwest of Canaseraga to Hornell and has more north to south hiking than west to east. My plan was to park at Access 1 on Slader Creek Road and have a taxi pick me up there and drop me further south at Access 6 on Bully Hill Road. I would then hike back to my car. I would have preferred to hike in the opposite direction as that is the way the FLT sets up their map descriptions but there is no place to park on Bully Hill Road! The forecast for the Hornell area showed no chance of rain but clouds mixed with sun and highs only in the low 70’s. This is almost ideal hiking weather! I was tired from a number of serious ambulance calls during the week an thought about postponing the trip. In the end I decided to go since I knew I would feel better once I was on the road. I got all my gear together while Sheila hovered around me making sure that she was going on the hike. I put on my summer/fall pants and a light baselayer with my Columbia long-sleeved pullover shirt. I decided to try my Keen Glarus boots even though on a previous hike they had bruised my left ankle a little. I made sure I put in two full water bottles and had my water purifier with me. The drive is mare than 3 hours but I knew a good part of the route from previous trips and did not have to worry much about directions. At 6:00 AM, we headed north and west on Route 17/I86 toward Binghamton. The temperature was in the high 50’s but I knew it would get warmer. It was very foggy all the way to Binghamton and beyond. I stopped in Bath at 9:00 AM to get some gas and to call Village Taxi to pick me up on Slader Creek Road southwest of the village of Canaseraga. I gave specific directions for the route of travel and then hewed back out onto i86 heading west toward Hornell. I took exit 34B toward Arkport on Route 36 north. In Arkport I turned left or west on West Avenue which is Route 961F on some maps and Route 70 on others. I headed north toward the village of Canaseraga looking for Tildon Hill Road on the left. After 3.8 miles I turned left on Tildon Hill Road and drove west to County Route 13. I turned right or north and drove north only .7 miles to Slader Creek Road (Route 13C) on the left. I followed this road until I came to the Finger Lakes Trail trailhead just before the road meets Gas Spring Road. I parked on the right shoulder to wait for the taxi at about 9:40 AM. While I was waiting I decided to go check out how wide and deep Slade Creek was at this point. The map description warned that it could be deep enough to require wading at times. I walked across the road, opened the pasture gate, closed it behind me and walked down to Slader Creek which ran through the pasture. When I saw the stream, I had a good laugh as I would have trouble getting the bottom of my boots wet since there was so little water. I returned to the car to wait but by 10:00 Am the taxi had not appeared and I had no cell service. I began to plan alternate ways to hike but decided to see if I could find cell service somewhere. I drove up a hill and found service to call the taxi company. For some reason the taxi had driven to the village of Canaseraga ignoring my directions. I gave the driver explicit instructions to get to my location and drove back to park a the trail head. Within 15 the taxi appeared and I transferred my gear and Sheila to the taxi. There were several routes to get to Bully Hill Road but the shortest seemed to be via Gas Spring Road. We drove to the end of Slader Creek and turned south on Gas Springs Road. The pavement lasted only a few hundred feet when the road turned to dirt. After a short distance it became a seasonal use road with ruts and rocks. I mentioned to the driver t5hat we could turn around but he continued. Eventually we made it to paved Route 32 and turned left to head east. After taking a look at another side road, I decided we would take the longer route along paved road. We continued east on Route 32 and then took Bishopville Road South to Route 2 or Karr Valley Road. From here we headed west a few miles to Bull Hill Road. We turned right to head north on the road for .7 miles. We pulled over and the driver took my money and departed after I unloaded Sheila and my gear. It is an interesting feeling to know you are over 10 mile from your car and have no choice but to hike all the way back to it! The skies looked good and the temperature was only in the mid 60′. I set my electronics including my Garmin GPS handheld and Suunto Traverse GPS watch. We began our hike at 10:45 by hiking a short distance north on Bully Hill Road and then turning left into the woods.

The first 1.5 miles of the trail paralleled Bully Hill Road heading northwest and uphill. The trail was muddy in spots but very well marked and the track was very obvious. The trail also was parallel to a deeply cut stream bed which showed a lot of erosion but was absolutely dry. At one point we crossed over the stream bed an then began to walk parallel to another deeply cut gorge but this one had some water in it. As we neared our first turn we walked through one of the many red pine plantations found along the Finger Lakes Trail. I was sweating a little from the uphill hiking but the temperature was still cool and the humidity low. A slight breeze was blowing and it seemed like the sun was obscured by clouds much of the time. When we reached Karr Road which is a dirt road at this point, I found a turn marked but with the typical FLT blaze that lets the hiker guess which way to turn. I looked both ways and saw no blazes! After a more careful search, I could see blazes far up the road on the left. We turned left and walked a few hundred feet on the dirt road before walking straight into the woods on a woods road that began a steeper climb. The trail was easily visible and well marked but was littered with stick and branches which no one had seen fit to clear. It seemed like this portion of the trail went on longer than it did and soon we were at another dirt road. We walled almost straight ahead onto this road and followed the white blazes walking along the almost flat road until turning right into the forest at about 2.0 miles. We walked along another woods road which eventually turned left to head toward Mike Dixon Road. After a little more than an hour, I checked my Garmin GPS and found we had hiked 2.4 miles which was a good pace. For some reason my watch had not recorded so I reset it and it seemed to work OK. We walked over some small bridges over a wet area and crossed the road at 2.4 miles. The trail was directly across from us and paralleled the road before turning and heading northwest. The walk was now through hardwood forests and we began a rather long descent which concerned me as I knew what goes down must go up again at some point! The trail was very rocky reminding me of some spots in the Catskills as we continued to follow some impressive streambeds. At 3.2 miles we passed a spot that used to be a bivouac area but now had a nice new lean-to. I did not visit as lean-tos tend to look much the same and I wanted to continue along the main trail. At 3.7 miles we came out onto Bush Road and turned right to walk down to Route 32. The road is a dirt road but in good shape. There hadn’t been many photographic opportunities so far but I stopped to take a few shots of the rolling farmland and the blue skies with puffy white clouds. When I put my pack on the straps caught on my watch and I found out why the watch had not been running at the start of the hike. The buttons on the watch are so poorly designed that the watch will pause if they are accidentally pressed as happens when they catch on a pack strap. I reacted the watch and we walked down the road. A man was working at a house and we waved to each other. He was the only person I saw at any point on the hike. Just before we hit the paved road we crossed a bridge over a substantial stream which the map labeled as the Canisteo River. This was also the lowest point on the hike.

We turned left on paved Route 32 and walked west for about .2 miles. I didn’t bother to put Sheila on her leash as she walks so nicely next to me and is very careful when there is traffic. When we got to Gas Springs Road we turned right and started to hike uphill on this forest access road with Klipnocky State Forest on the left and private land on the right. Just after the turn there were some snowmobile trails crossing the road but the white blazes of the FLT continued up the road. We walked up hill for about .3 miles until at 4.6 miles the trail left the road to the right. The trail was sighted along a woods road which was eroded and covered in branches and small tree trunks. This is a choice that FLT trail builders make that I will never understand. It would have been far easier to walk on the access road which has no vehicle traffic than to walk on this unmaintained trail. We crossed a small road and the trail turned into a drainage which made the hiking even more unappealing. At about 5.0 miles the trail veered away from Gas Springs Road to the right along a woods road. At 5.2 miles we entered a stand of nettles where the trail turned right and descended on a few switchbacks to cross a small stream. After heading east briefly the trail turned northeast and then north at about 5.6 miles as we continued to ascend toward another dirt road. When we got to the road we crossed it diagonally to the left and continued hiking north. The trail was very rocky in this area as we made a steep descant for .3 miles to cross a stream and then immediately regained that elevation on the other side. At about 6.9 miles the trail passed what looked like a stone quarry. The quarry was old and it was impossible to get any pictures that would show what it was. A quarry was marked on the map but as we walked I found two or three separate places that looked as if they had been quarried. Perhaps the map marked them as one because they had been part of the same operation. At 7.0 miles we turned right onto roots road and walked east briefly before turning left or north on Bill Morris Forest Road. In a short distance the road came to a nice pond. I dropped my pack and got out the camera to take some pictures. I also got another drink and a snack at this point before continuing north on the road. The skies were very blue and there were some clouds but the darker clouds that I thought might bring a shower had disappeared.

We walked along the road for about .4 miles until the trail turned left on an access road at 7.6 miles. We followed the road to a small bivouac area on the shore of a pond. I checked out the pond but jut was not as nice as the previous one so we continued north on the trail transitioning from Klipnocky SF to Gas Springs SF. This part of the trail headed almost due north but rolled a little through hardwood forest. It was very generic and had no really memorable sections. The trail continued to be well blazed and the track was worn in enough to follow even without a map. At 9.1 miles we came to a trail register which had fallen off a tree. At trail lead to the right o a camping area which must be popular by the number of tracks leading to it. From this point on the blazes on the trees faded and were hard to find. The trail had some muddy spots and quite a few branches across the trail. This seemed strange as the area is so near to an access point. We were descending most of the time and soon I could see a cabin in the woods. The trail passed the cabin and continued to meander between one woods road and the next always heading north and descending. At about 9.8 miles we broke out into some fields passing through an open gate. The farmer asks that all gates be left as they were found so I left the gate open. I stopped to take a few pictures and then continued won a farm lane on the edge of the field. The next gate was closed with a chain and tied with a rope. I didn’t want to take the time to undo everything just to redo it so I slipped underneath. The farm lane now passed through a more wooded area leading down to a pasture and Slade Creek. As we crossed Slader Creek, I could see the farmer’s cows downstream. We passed through the gate by the road and walked over to the car. It was 3:25 PM and we had hiked 10.2 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes with only 15 minutes of stopped time and an overall pace of 2.2 mph. The total ascent was 1562 feet but I was surprised to find the beginning and ending elevations were identical! The temperature was just 70 degrees and it was still very pleasant. This hike was a nice walk through the woods but it may have been the least memorable hike I have taken in some time. I may return to the area one more time in the bear future as the trail from Bully Hill Toad to Hornell had a recent reroute of about 3 miles that I would like to hike as an out and back.

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