With the recent onslaught of snow these past few weekends, we decided to do what most sane, rational people do. Drive to where there was more snow than in Philly and go snowshoeing up in New York! So with the dog all packed, borrowed snowshoes stowed, and bounds of warm clothes, we headed north to Binghampton, NY where we would set up ‘basecamp’ at Morgans Aunts house. We left Friday evening and with the sun set and sheets of rain pouring down, the 186 miles of mostly highway driving made 3 hours seem like 10. No need for coffee to keep me awake, two white knuckled hands on the steering wheel made it perfectly clear how much adrenaline was coursing through my blood. And with the temperature at the start of the drive being 60 F dropping to sub-freezing temps within a couple of minutes, vigilance was all the more key. But at last, we made it, with hot tea and snacks waiting upon our arrival.
We woke relatively early to a snow depth of roughly 6 inches of accumulation and unplowed roads, perfect conditions for snowshoes! We determined that a possible hiking trail could be found at a large state forest, called Danby State Forest, located about 10 miles south of Ithaca, NY. The icing on the proverbial cake was that this forest was in close proximity to one of my favorite breweries, Ithaca Brewery, which would be incorporated into this trip one way or another.
Danby state forest (Website), encompasses roughly 7,000 acres of forest land, with the Finger Lakes Trail running through it east to west. Our assumption was that we might be able to park and pick up the finger lakes trail and do an out and back hike on what was sure to be untouched powder trails. But here was where my skills as a hiker conflicted with my (almost zero) skills of snowshoeing. Because of the snow, it was very difficult to figure out where to park, made the more difficult by having to navigate unplowed two-track roads. We ended up circling the park twice before recognizing that there weren’t any visible parking lots for us to park in and that we might have to rethink our route.
North of Danby Forest was a small park, called Jennings Pond park, which had a 2 mile lollipop trail and a plowed parking lot. Although it wasn’t as long as we had hoped, it was getting too late in the day to start anything much longer. We set off on the north edge of the pond, splitting off, choosing to go around the loop in a counter-clockwise manner. The day was cold, but sunny, and the snow kept the air still and quiet. Something about snow makes it absorb a lot of sounds, making everything more hush and dulled to the point where the “sound of silence” can become deafening. As we turned north again, rounding out the loop, the trail blazes became more sparse or nonexistent. However, because I was able to track our hike with my Garmin GPS watch, we did a little bush-wacking and found ourselves back on the trail. The nice thing about snow laden trails/snowshoes is being able to see where you’ve been literally written in the snow by your steps.
After emerging, we hopped back in the car to head to lunch and a beer at Ithaca brewery about 10 minutes away and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you stop by. It’s only recently that I’ve started to see their beers here in the Philadelphia area, but their brewery and food is a whole other experience. After filling our bellies, we headed to Robert Treman State park to see if we could hike a trail to finish off the day, before the sun went down. However, the trails were closed due to the snow, but we were still able to walk near the falls, which were partially frozen and made for great photos.
For our last adventure for the day, we headed into Ithaca to stop at Morgans favorite
local bakery, aptly named Ithaca Bakery, for some coffees and sweets before heading back to basecamp.
Overall, the trip was a success, even though we did less snowshoeing than predicted. For future snowshoeing trips, one thing we would do differently is visit the trailhead first so we know exactly where it is and where a suitable place to park would be. And we will certainly be back up to Ithaca again, to scope out suitable trails for when it snows again.