Friday, April 29, 2011

Finger Lakes Trails in the Western Catskills

The Finger Lakes Trail crosses New York State from the Pennsylvania border in Allegany State Park, in the west, to the Long Path hiking trail at Denning lean-to in the Western Catskills. The main trail is currently 552.8 miles; the major branch trails total 239.6 miles. Future developments are planned that will replace some parts of the trail that are on roads with off-road trail, and that will extend some branch trails. The trail is accessible to both long-distance and day hikers. A Map Buyers Guide describing all maps published is available from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference Service Center PO Box 18048 Rochester NY 14618-0048.

In Delaware County the trail runs from approximately the northwest corner, from Chenango County near Otsego County, across the southern part of the county to the western corner of Ulster County. From that point it continues to join up with the Long Path not far from Slide Mountain. Much of the trail is still on public roads, though many of those roads are rather scenic. Most of the trail off roads on state land. Negotiations are underway with the DEC and other groups to get more of the trail off-road.

The terrain is hilly to mountainous, ranging between 1000 and 3500 feet above sea level; most of the trail off roads runs through forest, alternating between hardwoods and conifers. Delaware County’s trails are in sections M26 through M31. Trail condition reports are posted on the FLTC’s website – check it before you go out hiking. Much of the hiking in our area has heavy growth due to infrequent tail maintenance, so it is important to dress appropriately.

The Finger Lakes Trail Association is looking for trail sponsors. As of Winter 2010, there is a 2.3 mile section of the Campbell Mountain Trail between Campbell Mt. Road and NY 206 on Map M30. Additionally there is 3.2 miles of the Mary Smith Trail that begins at Holiday and Berry Brook Road and ends at Mary Smith Hill Road that is available for adoption. This is a rugged section of the trail that offer big rewards for a new sponsor. You can contact Steve Catherman, Vice President of Trail Maintenance at

Back Country Camping on NYS DEC Lands

Back-country camping is allowed on Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks as well as State Forests (reforestation areas and multiple use areas). Generally, camping is prohibited on Unique Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, Historic and Nature Preserves, and Conservation Easements. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water, roads or trail.

Protect the Resources

Pack out what you pack in. Litter is a great wilderness destroyer, yet an easy problem for each of us to correct.

Cooking is more efficient with a backpacking stove. If you must build an open fire, use only dead and down wood. Locate an old fire site or find an open place and clear an area at least six feet across of any material that will burn and lay up stones. Never leave the fire unattended. After pour water on the fire and stir the coals until they are cold to your touch. Scatter the cold ashes and the stones and leave the site as clean as possible. Never drop lit matches or smokes where they will cause fire – PREVENT FOREST FIRES.

Streams and spring are our only water supply. Keep them clean. Don’t put anything in them you wouldn’t drink. Don’t wash dishes in streams.

Locate your camp at least 150 feet away from the trail or water.

Nature will take care of human waste. Dig a shallow hole in the forest floor at least 150 feet away from water and campsites. Cover with leaf litter and dirt.

Smaller groups do less damage to the environment. If your party is greater than 10 persons, please travel and camp in smaller groups. If you are staying more, obtain a camping permit from the local Forest Ranger or Regional Office of the NYS DEC at no charge.

Camp and build open fires only below 3500 feet. The higher you climb, the more fragile the environment.

If you take a pet into the wilderness, keep it under control at all times. Restrain it on a leash when others approach. Clean droppings away from trail and camping areas. Keep your pet our of sources of drinking water.

Respect the environment: do not deface trees, plants, or rocks; or disturb wildlife.

Firewood and Camping: What You NEED To Know


A NEW REGULATION is now in effect that prohibits the import of firewood into New York unless it has been heat treated to kill pests. The regulation also limits the transportation of untreated firewood to less than 50 miles from its source.

By transporting firewood, you could be spreading diseases and invasive insects that can quickly kill large numbers of trees. Help STOP THE SPREAD and obey the Firewood Regulation:

It is best to leave all firewood at home - please do not bring it to campgrounds or parks.

Get your firewood at the campground or from a local vendor - ask for a receipt or label that has the firewood's local source.

If you choose to transport firewood within New York State:

o It must have a receipt or label that has the firewood's source and it must remain within 50 miles of that source.

o For firewood not purchased (i.e. cut from your own property) you must have a Self-Issued Certificate of Source (pdf, 100kb), and it must be sourced within 50 miles of your destination.

o Only firewood labeled as meeting New York's heat treatment standards to kill pests (kiln-dried) may be transported into the state and further than 50 miles from the firewood's source.

o For additional questions regarding this regulation, please call this toll-free number: 1-866-640-0652 or e-mail:

The Basics of Back Country Use

Every good blog should start out with the stern warnings for your safety. We'll be no exception. Here's what the New York State DEC advises for a pleasant and safe hiking experience:

Plan ahead and prepare for drastic weather changes during the trip, especially during spring and fall. Check forecasts. Study your map route in advance. Do not travel alone. Go with people who can help you in an emergency and stay together. Advise responsible persons of your intended route and return plans. Sign in and out at all trailhead registers. Know how to use each piece of your equipment, especially your map and compass, and first aid kit.

By being alert to your surroundings you will add to your enjoyment and safety during the trip. Read trail signs, note the color of trail markers you are following. At your starting point orient yourself with your map and compass to your route direction. When you pause on the way, check where you are on your map for the large features you can see: ridges, peaks, streams, etc.

Save your energy by starting your hike slowly. Don’t race. You will avoid overheating and lessen the chances of falls or injury. Take short rest stops and enjoy the scenery.

Turn back early if anyone becomes exhausted or is suddenly drenched, or a lightning storm approaches when you are on a high point. If you are not adequately equipped for conditions ahead such as snow, ice, or high winds, go back.

Survival equipment should always be part of your gear: map and compass, jackknife, waterproofed matches, candle, extra quick energy food, first aid kit, whistle, flashlight with extra batteries and bulb, medium weight tarp, 30 feet of nylon cord, and a canteen of purified water and water purification tablets. Never assume that any water is completely clean and safe for drinking.

Coming out of Hibernation - Hiking Season is HERE!

What a great winter. We never really hate to see the seasons pass, because, well, they'll be back soon enough. And we do love all the seasons in the Catskills as they come and go. But it is that time to switch gears and garb. So now we're saddle soaping the hiking boots, checking out the tent and camping equipment, pulling out old trail maps, and setting some goals - new trips and re-do trips.

So many folks leave hiking for the fall and foliage. But we LOVE spring hiking. Before the leaves fully bud out is a spectacular time to walk through the forests because you can still see through the forests. Maybe even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle in the air or on a nest. The wildlife is everywhere and getting fat after winters scarcity. Pretty soon we'll see a dozen baby turkeys follow their moms through the woods. The air temp is warm but not hot. There's a good breeze keeping bugs at bay. The creeks all have water in them so we can quench our thirst right from the source. The smell of the forest after winter is just so earthy and dense. The peepers are robust in their chanting. Tender greens are ready to be picked and eaten along the trail. Could life get any richer?

Lots of local hiking groups will be doing trail maintenance work now and this is a great service to all of us. Think about helping out and hanging out with fellow hikers. Well kept trails help novice hikers have a great experience and deepen their appreciation for the Catskill mountains.

Stay in touch as well write about our fave hikes, and comment on our articles and let us know what hikes you want us to write about.