We'd been walking for an hour uphill before we arrived at the access road we'd started on. "I think," said my boyfriend, "that we just walked in a big circle." He gave a little smile, which I wiped off with a swift kick to the ass. Well, not really, but I should have.
But it's not his fault really. It's more the fault of the terrain, or God, or a little of both depending on your spiritual inclinations. Having lived in the mountains in Japan for two years (in an area known as the Japanese Alps, and yes, it was that cool), I can say the real joy of hiking is walking uphill. Straight uphill for a long time, right into the clouds --- over the clouds, in fact. But I'm romanticizing (ever notice how a place seems perfect only after you've left it behind?).
What I'm trying to say is that such uphill adventures are limited, if impossible, in these parts. The next best thing, it seems, is to go 'round and 'round. Difficulty is a matter of measuring how many times you go up and down and, if it's raining, the quality and quantity of moss on the rocks.
This being the standard, I can say that Naples' Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area's orange hike is indeed treacherous terrain --- especially on a drizzly day. Fall foliage here should be astounding. In fact, during our four-hour summer trek (which included the going-in-circles mishap) I managed to find one brilliantly red leaf --- a sure indicator of good things to come. Oddly I didn't see any wildlife except for the back end of something resembling a groundhog, a blue heron, and a large, unidentifiable flesh-eating bug.
The hike features two scenic overlooks, and for at least a mile along our hike I could hear the rushing gorge somewhere off to the left. Unfortunately, by the time it materialized I could cross it in one step.
In reality, Hi Tor can be divided into two hikes: one relatively difficult and another that you could take your 80-year-old grandma on. But those with bad knees should be forewarned: the latter half is a long yet gradual descent. From our hike, it appeared possible to park on Brink Road and just do the latter hike. For those who do the longer hike, the trail will loop you right back to your car (gotta love circles). The truly adventurous should try walking the entire Finger Lakes Trail system. It spans more than 500 miles, plus about 250 miles of branch trails, including Hi Tor.
But I will say this: my short five-mile or so hike gave me blisters on each pinky toe and sore legs. Awesome.
The easiest way to get to Hi Tor is to take Route 90 to the Canandaigua exit (44), turn right onto 332 and take it through town until you reach the intersection of routes 5 and 20. Turn right and, after about a mile, turn left onto Route 21. Drive through Naples and turn left at the fork in the road. This will put you on Route 53. Drive for a little over a mile, and then turn left onto County Road 21. Follow this for about two miles, and then take a left onto Bassett Road, also the entrance to Hi Tor. Drive for less than half a mile until you see a parking area on your left. Park and walk along the access road until you connect up to the orange trail.
For those who choose to stay in the area, there is life outside of MendonPondsPark. It's in Ogden and in the shape of a bird with a huge backend. Northampton Park's Creek Trail is a meandering path chock full of everything green (hopefully red, orange, and yellow come fall), a startled deer, and those funky birds. And, to top it all off, you could probably walk it in your bedroom slippers. Spring Creek babbles off to the side, and tall trees line the trail.
While Creek Trail winds in a 1.3 mile loop, it is possible to cross over Spring Creek (heading west) and connect up to the Farm Trail. Those who choose this path will have to descend one steep little hill (for this I advise against the bedroom slippers), but otherwise it's slow going. The Farm Trail runs next to cornfields owned by Springdale Farm, and for those in the mood for a break, there's a picnic table hidden in the trees.
Walkers can complete the loop and reconnect to the southern end of Creek Trail to finish off the hike, or take the trail to Springdale Farm --- an agriculture education facility with several farm animals.
To get to Northampton take Route 490W to Route 531W. Take a left on Washington Street (Route 36), followed by a right on Colby Street. For the Creek Trail, park at the yellow gate near the cemetery. The trail entrance is across the street. Visitors can access the Farm Trail by parking further down the road at Springdale. For more information, visit the county website at: www.monroecounty.gov/parks-northampton.php.
To leave the city without really leaving the city, visit Tryon Park in the Browncroft area. It's a place full of surprises, from the lush green foliage and steep ravines to an errant tire or two. But there's something about this park, something raw and appealing, an in-your-face statement: you can't really leave Rochester, so here it is. With the 490 overpass a stone's throw away, literally, you might wind up, as we did this last time, next to the freeway. I'd like to say the earth trembled. Unfortunately, I would be embellishing. But what's neat is that after walking for five more minutes, 490 disappears. You can't even hear the cars. It's eerie.
Tryon is also full of branching paths, several of which lead to the marshes surrounding IrondequoitBay --- or through them, depending on the rain. There's rarely more than a handful of hikers here, and Tryon is one of the few parks in the area where you'll see mountain bikers. Very cool. Be careful, though, not to end up in somebody's backyard. Houses abut paths, and only an ominous "Beware of Dog" poster indicated signs of life up ahead on our most recent walk.
According to my incredibly stringent difficulty ratings, I would say Tryon falls somewhere between Northampton and Hi Tor. It's rugged terrain, steep in parts, and generally narrow and winding.
To get there, take Tryon Road, a dead-end residential street off North Winton Road. Go to the end of the road and park. Tryon is right in front of you. For more information, visit the county website at www.monroecounty.gov/parks-tryon.php.