Camping at Letchworth

8 Aug

Before I even get into our camping excursion, let me give a little background info on the campgrounds at Letchworth.  The tent camping/RV sites are all in loops–they limit where you can have dogs, so there are only about 3 loops to choose from.  This means that there are a LOT of dogs in the loops where they are permitted, which is kind of lame.  It makes for a lot of barking and butt sniffing.  Our loop turned out to be party central–most of the families there knew each other and didn’t do anything during the day.  I will never understand this type of “camping.”  They stayed up late every night drinking and scream-talking, slept in, then just hung out in the loop at their RVs all day, every day.  People, you have miles upon miles of beautiful trail right outside the loop.  Get out and explore a bit.  But I digress… The sites at Letchworth are kind of shitty–they are very close together, and we are not sure how most sites would be able to fit 2 tents and 2 cars (which is how they are advertised).  Also, many of the sites were underwater when we got there–more on that in a minute–so setting up tents would be tough.  I think part of that is because the sites are on un-level ground, but there are also a lot of ruts from RVs pulling in and out (especially in the mud, which there was plenty of).  There should be sites for tents and sites for RVs.  Just my opinion. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by years of the ADK.  Maybe a couple of backpacking trips have ruined car camping for me.  But being on top of people in a campground, so close that you can hear their every word, is just not my idea of “real” camping anymore.  Fun in some ways (especially for families and/or groups), but annoying when you are getting up early every day to try to knock off every trail in the park and looking for some peace and quiet to relax your mind!

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my recap on the first 7 days of the trip!

7/28

We woke up to a massive rainstorm in Rochester.  We decided to take our time packing up, hit the gym for an hour, and didn’t get to camp until about 2:30.  By this point, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, so we set up camp as quickly as possible.  We are becoming a well-oiled machine, and there are jobs that are mine and jobs that are Eric’s, and those jobs have come about through some unspoken communication between us.  Anyway, we set up shop quickly, all the while I was keeping my eye on the massive rottweiler right next door, tied to a trailer hitch by a giant climbing rope.  WTF.  The dog would later lunge at Picasso and also try to attack other dogs that were walking by on the road.  Terrifying.  Another reason for me to hate the “dog only” camp loops–closer to shitty dog owners.

We had about an hour to kill before we had to leave for our first trail run, so we read for a bit under our pop up tent.  It was freezing, so I put on a long-sleeved shirt and lamented the fact that I’d only brought 2…didn’t seem like I was going to need any tank tops.

Our first run was on trails 10 and 10a, which were all the way on the other side of the park.  It ended up being about 45 minutes to drive there.  It was super foggy from all the rain, so the park was kind of spooky.  Scott met us to run and we ended up getting in a little over 5 miles.  We collected some firewood before we left, including Thor’s Hammer.

foggy gorge

foggy gorge

eric told me to make an angry face.  apparently this is what i think i look like when i'm angry???

eric told me to make an angry face. apparently this is what i think i look like when i’m angry???

Eric and I got back to camp and he had to work pretty hard to get a fire going–everything was so wet.  It finally caught, but the flames struggled all night–the coals were hot, though, and it was nice to just sit and relax and mentally prep for a whole lot of miles in the next few days.

7/29

We met up with Scott and Tori at 8 AM the next day at the trailhead for Trail 1, the gorge trail that runs 7 miles along the side of the gorge.  Scott and Eric decided to run, while Tori and I opted to hike out.  The boys turned around and ran back to us, then we all hiked together the rest of the time.  It was nice to have some girl-talk time and get to know Tori, and the miles kind of flew by.  The guys caught us around mile 5.5, we hiked to Wolf Creek together and then headed back for lunch.

Scott and Tori

Scott and Tori

letchworth3

Best friends

Best friends

Never saw a fox this close before! Eric and Scott were right next to him!

Never saw a fox this close before! Eric and Scott were right next to him!

 

Eric had an unfortunate encounter with the people in the car next to ours (didn’t know they were there…I mean, who just sits in their car????  woops).  We contemplated adding an afternoon hike, but after 12-14 miles (the guys had done a little bit more), we opted to just head back to our respective camps and recup for that evening’s run.

At 6 PM, we met up with a whole crew of people to run some trails.  Todd and Ben had come down from Rochester to join us, and Tori and Scott were there, too.  Tori ran her first ever trail run!  We started with Trail 13, which takes you straight down to the river.  We had to climb over a lot of downed trees (from the recent storms) and when we got to skip some rocks before heading back up to the road.

What a crew!

What a crew!

At the bottom of the gorge!

At the bottom of the gorge!

We crossed the street and hit up Trail 11, which always reminds me of the trail in Allegany that takes you to the NY/PA border.  You kind of loop up and then to the right, then back down to the road.  There was a fair amount of bushwhacking on this trail, and it was extremely wet and muddy.  We were dirty to say the least.

Across the street from where Trail 11 kicks out, Trail 14 picks up.  The trail was almost unfollowable it was so overgrown, and after a half mile, the trail became even thicker.  Eric and I headed back, and the other guys somehow found a way out to a road/overlook.

We all met back up and ran the last mile on roads back to our cars.  Todd, Tori and Scott all came back to our campsite, where we had a roaring fire, great conversation, some beers and a crap load of food.

In my journal that night, I wrote: “I can’t believe we’ve only been here for 1 1/2 days! We’ve already done and accomplished so much.  1 more big mileage day tomorrow, then we have a couple of low-key days before our backpacking extravaganza begins!”

7/30

The next morning, we met up at 8 AM again with Scott and Bob (who had driven down from Rochester).  We ran trails 4 and 5 to start out with.  My calves were burning from the previous 2 days’ runs/hikes, but I just kept going.  Eventually they just stopped hurting so much, so that was good.

 

Bob's here!

Bob’s here!

back at the bottom of the gorge!

back at the bottom of the gorge!

my body guards for the morning

my body guards for the morning

After we ran, we drove over to Trout Pond, which for the record did not look very fishable (although we’d later see a family fishing who told us they’d caught some small bass).  We hiked trails 2, 2a and 3, and the whole time we hiked, I wished we had run these trails.  They were nice double-track (or wider) trails with lots of pretty things to look at.

 

Trail 2a takes you to Council Grounds (which you can also drive to if you want).  I am a big nerd, so I find things like this fascinating, and I enjoyed poking around the 2 old log cabins built by Native Americans and the statue and gravesite of Mary Jemison.

In a cage???? Sad they have to put up fences so people don't mess up the insides of the buildings.

In a cage???? Sad they have to put up fences so people don’t mess up the insides of the buildings.

Leaving Council Grounds to hit the trails again

Leaving Council Grounds to hit the trails again

The trail was very rolling, but I hardly noticed because of all of the great conversations we were having–some serious, some not so serious.  It was probably at this point that I started to realize how many great conversations we’d been having and how quickly you can get to know someone over a few miles in the woods.  It made me happy to say the least.

under the train tracks

under the train tracks

We went back to camp around noon to grab some lunch, and Pete was already there and set up (on the campsite next to ours).  We had lunch, then met up around 2 for trails 15 and 17, which leave right from the campsite check-in.  We joked that 17 (the first trail we were doing) was called Big Flats, and we were all hopeful that it would truly be flat (so far we hadn’t found anything even remotely flat, as my calves kept reminding me).  Joke was on us–the trail went straight downhill through a lot of mud.  At the bottom, you could go straight ahead, or right, or left.  The map I had showed straight or right, but not left.  Things in the park are not always marked well, and the maps aren’t always accurate.  In fact, the map we’d been given at the campsite check in was often completely different from the maps on the trailheads.

 

In any event, Trail 15 should’ve connected straight ahead, so we went that way.  And proceeded to bushwhack for about a mile.  It started to sprinkle, and I got really frustrated that it was raining AGAIN.  We just can’t seem to catch a break with the rain on our camping trips this year…  Just when I started thinking that maybe we’d taken a wrong turn, that we were on a game trail, that we were lost forever (hahaha), the trail turned to the right, and we hiked straight uphill for about a half mile.  When we finally got back to the road, we decided to just take that back, rather than bushwhack backwards.

Pete's here, too!

Pete’s here, too!

New friends!

New friends!

Trail???

Trail???

or jungle???

or jungle???

We got back to camp and settles in just before the rain and thunder storms hit.

when it rains, it pours...especially when you're camping with the eagans...

when it rains, it pours…especially when you’re camping with the eagans…

luckily, there was plenty of beer to keep the boys happy.

luckily, there was plenty of beer to keep the boys happy.

7/31

This morning, there was a GIANT thunder storm.  We laid in our tent, and I was thinking how I just wanted to stay in my sleeping bag and skip this morning’s hikes.  “Text Scott and tell him to meet us later,” I told Eric.  “We can’t, Matthew is joining us this morning, remember?”  Another friend had driven down from Rochester to join us!

Matthew's here! Must run...

Matthew’s here! Must run…

We met up at Trail 7 on the other side of the river and mostly ran.  This trail was pretty awesome, and we stopped a bunch to check out some vantage points of the gorge, high falls, the train tracks and just climb around on the bottom of the train bridge.  Trail 7 is also part of the FLT, so I was glad that we were hitting a good chunk of it before we backpacked, making the mileage for backpacking more manageable!

Underneath the Portage Bridge...who knew you could go UNDER the train tracks????

Underneath the Portage Bridge…who knew you could go UNDER the train tracks????

Detour on our run...How could we NOT explore this?!?!

Detour on our run…How could we NOT explore this?!?!

Upper Falls from the OTHER side!

Upper Falls from the OTHER side!

<3 him.  <3 our adventures!

OK exploring is over...back to running...

OK exploring is over…back to running…

When we finished our run, we hiked down the road a bit to the trailhead for Trail 6.  The trail was really nice single-track and eventually connected to Trail 6a.  We took that down even more and came out at a stone bridge across the river!  We’d seen it from the other side but never actually hiked down to it before.  It was awesome!  We hung out, took pictures, debated if the water was deep enough to jump from the bridge or not and kept moving.  Our hike continued on past a pretty little waterfall and led back up to the road and a little unmarked parking lot we’d seen on the first day’s run (and wondered where the trail off it went to), which we hiked back up to the cars.

Really beautiful old stone bridge

Really beautiful old stone bridge

So many great spots to take pictures

So many great spots to take pictures

letchworth10

 

After the morning’s activities, we went back to camp for lunch, drinks and relaxation.  Amber and Greg came down with their kids (and pizza!) and Jen came to visit, too.  It was a nice evening hanging out with the campfire and conversations and being 100% content with life.

Braving the mud to visit! Thanks, guys!

Braving the mud to visit! Thanks, guys!

Is there anything better than hanging out with friends???

Is there anything better than hanging out with friends???

8/1

This morning, we got up to do 18, 19, 19a and 20.  We were super disappointed with the lack of markings on the trails, so we just did our best to follow the map.

18 was nice–it leads along the gorge and then loops back to the start.  At the beginning of the trail, there’s a big downhill, and it leads right to a beautiful waterfall area.  We hung out there for a bit taking pictures and enjoying the beauty before we went back to the road to hike a short ways to Trail 19.

letchworth2

don't go chasin waterfalls...

don’t go chasin waterfalls…

optical illusion...eric is a midget, picasso is a giant???

optical illusion…eric is a midget, picasso is a giant???

19 is pretty uneventful, although there is an old site of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cabin.  All that’s left now is the stone fireplace, but there’s a little sign with information.  The CCC built much of the park back in the Depression Era, and it’s kind of cool to get a dose of history along with your hiking.

All that's left of an old barracks site...

All that’s left of an old barracks site…

Finding trail heads this morning was not always easy...

Finding trail heads this morning was not always easy…

19A was towards the end of this trail, and what was supposed to be an “easy” trail was straight up a massive hill.  We got to the top and tried to find trail 20, which was supposed to connect, but we couldn’t find it.  We hiked a little ways on the road to the C Cabins, where the trail also picks up, and got on there.

 

20 was nice, rolling single-track, and we hiked all the way to Hogsback Overlook.  It was already after 11 when we got there, so we decided to forgo the last 2 miles out (and then 2 miles back) and hit those miles after lunch.  We went back to the C Cabins and took Trail 20 on the other side of the road and found where it connects, at the very top of 19a.  Somehow we’d all missed it!!!

 

We had some lunch and met back at Hogsback Overlook later that day to finish the last 4 miles, which were equally as nice.  It started to rain a little on our way back to the cars from the dam, but then it stopped.  We must’ve been right on the edge! 😉  Or it blew over! 😉

DAYYYYYYUM.  Made it to the Dam.

DAYYYYYYUM. Made it to the Dam.

Of course it rained--I forgot my coat. Lucky for me, my gentleman of a husband gave me his...

Of course it rained–I forgot my coat. Lucky for me, my gentleman of a husband gave me his…

Jen came out after work, we hung out at the campfire, Scott brought a crap ton of chicken and steak and we had a huge feast and hung out at the fire for a bit.

Chef Scott

Chef Scott

camp feast!

camp feast!

8/2

Pete and Jen left in the morning, and we met Scott and Tori at the trailhead for Trail 9.  We took 9 to Trail 8, which is apparently just River Road.  We walked 2 3/4 mile on the gravel road, then came all the way back.  Along the way, we did 8a, which was pretty boring, then took the other side of 9.  I would’ve been disappointed by this day’s trails, but 9 was really nice.  Also, while we were hiking along 9, a baby deer jumped out from the brush about 10 feet from the trail and took off, scaring the crap out of Tori and I.  It was so loud!

letchworth2

This bridge looks legit...

This bridge looks legit…

We spent that evening packing up our stuff and organizing for part 2 of the adventure: Backpacking the FLT.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Camping at Letchworth”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail | shmeruns - August 8, 2014

    […] For Part One of the Hike ‘Em All/Run ‘Em All Challenge, go here! […]

  2. Run ‘em/Hike ‘em All Challenge! | shmeruns - August 8, 2014

    […] So without further ado, here are my recaps of each part of the adventure.  🙂   Part One:  Camping at Letchworth Part Two:  Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail Part Three:  Letchworth Trail List and […]

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