And So It Ends: FLT
To be honest, it ended a while ago, but I just got to posting this. This is the second half of my day-to-day log.
Parked it after a big fucking roadwalk shortly after 8pm. That’s the thing about roadwalks: it’s really hard to stop on them. Particularly on the FLT, the reason there is a roadwalk is because they don’t have permission to go on people’s property, and it’s not the best idea to stealth camp in someone’s yard. I had about six miles on Huyck to Fairview to Rushford Rds and then crashed right in the middle of the trail. Between wet trail and road walks, my feet were destroyed. I mean … as destroyed as possible while still being functional. I had red bumps on the tops of my feet: I didn’t know if it was from the heat, nasty water they brewed in for hours at a time, or maybe friction with my shoes. I walked through some sloppy, sloppy trail that morning, a few miles of it. Logging roads criss-crossed to collect water and grow weeds. With all the hype about the tick populations this summer as well, I kept on top of my bug spraying because I routinely found myself with feet in mud and plants up to my hips.
Third day straight I’ve heard thunder! Passed four or five horses and buggies. Made it about 27 miles I think? About 18-19 miles tomorrow to get to Portageville. Last night poured. Wicked t-storm. Glad I was in a shelter.
So today: got up nice and early to head out, promptly got lost on an old railroad because I couldn’t figure out where the new trail went left. Figured I’d go to the end where it crosses the road i could take (thought it was government land) but eventually fenced off. Said “screw it,” went back to last blaze I saw and went back and forth, back and forth looking for where there trail went down but I couldn’t find it. Eventually, I decided to bushwhack down the creek. I scouted out the best way through and stomped through the water, immediately picking the trail on the other side. Figures, right? Made it to a Boy Scout Camp lean-to for lunch.
It was a really nice walk into Portageville on the Genesee Valley Greenway and then about half a mile on paved road. When I got there, I found the post office and asked for my box — it wasn’t hard, there were only about three roads in the entire town. I asked the girl if she needed my license and she kind of smiled and said, “No, I believe you.” I still had some potatoes left over from my first leg and I knew the amount of food I was about to shove into my pack was too much for my current appetite and mileage, but there was no hiker box to drop supplies into. Into the pack it went.
There was one gas station in town and I asked about antibacterial ointment for my toe, but they didn’t have any. (I thought that was one of those mandatory supplies of a gas station in the Codex of Things to Get at a Gas Station, right between AAA batteries and Mountain Dew, but I was wrong).
And even though I had that food, of course I had to get non-trail food, so I still ate pizza, ice cream and Fritos. Stuffed. I charged my phone, talked to my brother, and eventually moseyed out of town and back onto the trail. I knew there was a lean-to about three miles up the trail, so I figured, that’s be a great place to aim for the night. Walking up, I knew I needed water but saw a bunch of sloppy ponds: told myself I’d likely end up drinking ditch water, and then saw an oasis not on the map right before the Hesse lean-to.
There was another hiker at the lean-to! I had seen her name in registries, but she was days in front of me. It turns out she had gotten off the trail for a week because her feet (like mine) had been wrecked in the consistently soggy conditions and she needed to let them heal. It was really good to see someone else on the trail. I had seen one day hiker going the other way on day two, and other than that, it was me, the cars that drove by on my road walks, about three million deer and a few fields of cows. To have someone to talk to?! Holy wow.
The cows! What the shit, am I speaking cow? What happened? Good trail. They stare at you like you are about to tell them the secrets of the universe. Twice (twice!) I had to walk by a field of cows and they were all staring at me before I even looked their way. Every last one of them. An entire field of cows watching my every move. And then, when I started to walk, they all charged across the field to meet me at the gate. What am I supposed to do with that?
That morning, I was up before Lindsay and out before her. Gradual things. Do you ever sometimes get the feeling that the universe lines up a series of events just to scare the shit out of you? I love coincidences because I love to think about “if I did this instead,” or “If that didn’t happen exactly then,” and then I let my brain stew over the possibilities for a while. But sometimes? No, thank you. This is the story of my “No, thank you” coincidence: I was coming up on a short roadwalk of only two hundred yards, and as I was walking down the driveway towards the road, I saw a few deer bound away from me into the bushes. No big deal, deer were everywhere. I got on the road and started walking. The road wound around the base of the hill I was about to climb, so there was a small shoulder, then a deep cement ditch and the hill rose straight up on the other side. There were two cars coming at me, and I glanced over my shoulder to see a car traveling the opposite direction, but was still behind me. So of course, a deer that I had just spooked chose THAT EXACT MOMENT TO RUN ACROSS THE ROAD NOT TWENTY YARDS IN FRONT OF ME. ARE YOU SERIOUS? I froze, dropped the f bomb about four times and bent my knees, ready to jump into the ditch to dodge a flying deer if that Toyota wasn’t paying attention. Everybody braked, nobody swerved (remember that car coming up from behind me) and somehow, and I don’t know how!, but somehow, we all made it out of that without a scratch. The deer must have felt the wind of that truck on its hind legs it was so freakin’ close. My heart was in my throat while I was thinking, “that’d be a way to go, getting hit by a deer that got hit by a car while I was road walking…”
It took me about an hour to shake that. At least. Well, maybe longer. Like a few months? Because I clearly am still worked up about how things could go so wrong/so right/so close.
In other news, my toe had been hurting and the day before I pulled off a soft scab. It was yellow, oozing and quite disgusting. I thought about sleeping in the next day, stay at a hotel and clean up my wound. Get on to Watkins Glen. If I ended up getting off, I was more than OK with it than I probably should have been at this point. My tarp was set up like a fortress in a lovely new shelter.
I woke up but laid in my sleeping bag just a little longer. I didn’t care, no one was going to be hiking by hoping to use the shelter. It was just me out there. And Lindsay. Somewhere. But she told me she was doing fewer than fifteen miles in a day, so even if she was coming up on that shelter, it wouldn’t be for hours. Besides, it was cozy. It was a new shelter and smelled like freshly cut wood still — my favorite. The miles weren’t calling me; I more or less decided I had to get my foot taken care of and I’d make it twelve miles to Hornell and head home.
I ended up going five to the first road, calling my brother to see if he could pick me up after work, and when he agreed, I took a nap by a creek.
And that’s it, that’s how it ended. With a nap by the creek and a smile in my gut about sleeping in my own bed that night.
It is what it is. Sure, I was upset about not experiencing more of the trail, probably more upset about the fact that I decided to quit, but quietly happy about getting off. I think I could have handled the isolation on a different trail, or the road walking with people, but the pairing of isolation and road walking magnified each other until I didn’t want to do it anymore. It was a realization that came to light over a couple days, and if I was healthy, I might have made it to Watkins Glen, but likely not any farther. I’m sure I’ll be on a trail again, not sure when or where, but I’d likely plan it very differently.
That’s all. Keep rockin’ those miles everybody.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.