In a recent post about the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) in western New York, I mentioned that we humans often disregard important outdoor resources when we live close by them. It’s as if these resources near the backyard really don’t need to be taken seriously. Maybe we’ll get to them, or maybe we won’t. For years the FLT, coincident with the North Country Scenic Trail for several hundred miles across New York, has been available for my hiking pleasure, but I’ve always had other things to do.
My post received several comments from readers who felt the same way about recreational opportunities near their homes. Proximity somehow lessened their need to explore them. This was interesting to me, but I also mentioned that I hoped to lessen my ignorance of these trails by finally getting out to see a part of them.
I decided to make another foray on the Finger Lakes Trail, this time on a spur trail nearest my home. I wouldn’t run it, bike it, power walk it, or anything else of the sort. I’d just ramble from point A to B and back, perhaps note the character of the trail and some of its natural constituency. Getting acquainted with the flora, fauna and landforms of a place seemed like a good way to get to know it better.
So I visited a spur trail near the city of Hornell, New York. It was an early May morning, my favorite time of year. Trees were leafing, like the playing of a blues guitar that tears up the aural atmosphere and hangs lime confetti in the air. I left the car at an access to the Kanakadea Park Trail system and within minutes entered a tunnel underneath Interstate 86. The long, uneven tunnel walk beneath passing cars and semi trucks was a bit disorienting. If an earthquake suddenly struck, I said to myself, I could have a natural burial down here.
I climbed through a transitional zone, enjoying the sights and sounds of newly arrived birds– bee-buzz of the blue-winged warbler, jumbled notes of gray catbird, the belling of a Baltimore oriole– and climbed through deciduous woods to a resting place at the Kanakadea Lean-to. Getting there was like switching fly rods when you’re done fishing one stream and begin on another. It was like switching from graphite to bamboo or fiberglass and slowing down the pace of things. In getting there, I adopted a slower rhythm. The Interstate noise began to fade as the forest deepened and an ovenbird called.
Beyond the lean-to I could stroll a bit of the FLT, enjoying an hour in a new green world. Returning to the car, I decided to visit the trail access closer to Hornell. When I got to Webbs Crossing Road and parked the vehicle, I was close to where my parents had owned a house for a short while around 1970 as I began my college life. Back then, I had walked around the wetlands a little, but before I knew it, the folks had sold their house and bought an old farm in the Greenwood hills. This was years before the Finger Lakes Trail had adopted an old railroad bed beside the marshes of Hornell.
I’m getting to know this backyard trail, at least a tiny portion of it. I’m late to an opening of my eyes and ears to it, but that’s okay. When you reach an older age, as I have done, something tells you that maybe you should mend your broken circles if you can. The Finger Lakes Trail, the small portion of it near my home, is walkable when time allows and urges me on.