June 1990

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The Finger Lakes Trail System


Bill Treichler

The Finger Lakes Trails extend from the Catskills to the Allegheny Mountains across southern New York. It is a footpath designed to lead through wild and scenic country. Much of the trail is on private land. Property owners have given permission for the pathway to be cleared and marked across their land and for hikers to walk through their property.

The trails have been scouted, cleared, and blazed and are maintained by volunteering individuals. The track is intended for walking, skiing, and snowshoeing, but not for vehicles.

The Finger Lakes Trail System will total 775 miles when completed. By May 1989 457 miles of the planned 535 mile east-west trail were finished. There are six branch trails that include 223.5 miles of pathway. Twenty shelters and twenty-five campsites for use by backpackers exist along the main route, and there are three shelters and eight campsites along the branch trails.

The system is being built and maintained by 16 groups and by 17 individuals who act as trail segment sponsors. The section of trail, M-12, that runs from Route 17 to Route 13 in Steuben County near Bath is sponsored by J. Robert Muller from Rochester.

Last year a 9.9 mile stretch in this section was completed from South Bradford through Birdseye Hollow. Bob Muller lives in Bath during the summer months. He painted 2" by 6" white blazes beginning in July and all through fall and winter to mark the trail in readiness for the Wallace D. Woods Founder's Hike on March 31 of this year. Sixty people turned out that day to walk sections of the new trail. They came not only from Hammondsport and Bath but also from as far away as Endwell, Norwich, Syracuse, Pittsford and Rochester.

The Finger Lakes Trail Conference was organized in 1962 to promote and coordinate the trail system. The conference needs people to help construct and maintain trails and to build shelters and campsites or to help in other ways. Membership for an individual is $10 a year [April 1 to March 31], and for an organization, $20 a year. Members receive the Finger Lakes Trail News four times a year..

Besides the FLT News, the Conference publishes Trail Guides and Trail Maps. The FLTC Map Buyers Guide, obtainable by sending a request and a long envelope with return address and postage to FLTC Service Center, P. O. Box 18048, Rochester, NY 14618, shows a diagram of the trail system and lists the available trail maps (1-2, 80; 10 or more, 35; complete set, $14). Forty-three 8.5 x 11 inch maps cover the entire trail system. They have a scale of one inch to the mile and give point-to-point mileage. There are 29 maps of the main trail. The side trails are: Letchworth Trail, Queen Catharine Trail, Interloken Trail, Conservation Trail, Bristol Hills Branch, and the Onandaga Trail.

FLTC maps indicate county boundaries and topographic quadrangle map names. County highway maps are helpful in finding back roads. They are generally more up to date than topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, but they do not have contour lines. A list available from the FLTC Service Center gives the cost and the address to write for county map.

Many miles of the Finger Lakes Trail are now segments of the North Country National Scenic Trail., a 3200 mile footpath to run from Lake Champlain in New York to Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.

A major branch of the FLT is being constructed toward the Niagara River for connection with the Bruce Trail of Canada.

The Buyers Guide also lists the individuals, couples, and hiking groups who sponsor the different sections of the trail..

Howard S. Beye, 202 Colebourne Road, Rochester, NY 14609 is Trails Chairman, and Thomas S. Reimers, 3C, Wildflower Drive, Ithaca, NY 14850, is President of Finger Lakes Trail Conference, Inc.

Hikers are requested to follow simple rules to preserve the trail and protect themselves:

1. Travel in small groups of 10 or less.
2. Share shelters and campsites with others.
3. Do not stray from trail; camp only in designated areas.
4. Cook on campstoves.
5. Use wood only if necessary. Do not cut green wood; use dead wood. Build fires only in designated areas.
6. Purify all water you drink.
7. Take all litter home.
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