November 28th I had my first hike of the big game hunting season on the FLT, with my newly-rebuilt right knee.

I thought it was strange that when we arrived in Dunkirk on Thanksgiving morning, at 7:30, there were 50 people lined up in a line stretching out through the parking lot to get into Big Lots.  That was nothing.

On the morning of the 28th, the day after Thanksgiving, I left about 5:20.  There were 25 people standing in a line, in the dark, in the rain, about 35° F, to get into Big Lots.  I had breakfast at Denny's, where Cathy's brother Mark is the manager and he bought my breakfast.  He said the line at the Wal*Mart across the road was out to the gas pumps - must have been 150 people waiting to get in when they open at 6:00.  In the rain.  And all the cars coming up NY60 poured into the Wal*Mart parking lot.

I drove through the rain to Little Valley, NY, the county seat of Cattaraugus County.  I wanted to finish Map 2 of the Finger Lakes Trail System if I could - if my knee would take it.  Studying the maps the night before, I noticed that Fourth Street in Little Valley is part of the trail, so I tried going south on Fourth Street.  It goes up over a mountain, but led me to the junction with East Branch Bucktooth Road, and a good parking spot in front of a power substation there, at about the 12 mile point on the trail map.

I decided to hike East to the end of the map, about 3 miles, to NY 353, turn around when my knee said to, or at the road, and then decide if I could pack my pack West to the West Branch Bucktooth Road where I had left off last year.  This way I could hike some without my pack and see how it felt.  Of course, it was raining and I knew I would get soaked.  Wearing my Marmot shell kept my torso dry, at least until I started sweating.  My boots stayed dry on the inside until my pants were so soaked that the water running down my legs soaked them from the inside.

I first felt my knee going up, once I turned off the road.  After that, it warmed up and I didn't feel any pain.  The trail was well marked and I had no need to consult map or compass or GPS.  Once over the top, I saw a 4-wheel ATV parked in the woods - probably a hunter's.  I had heard 3 shots when I was at the car, quite a ways away.  Since I think the trail is on private land here, it could be that the land owner was hunting or permitting someone else to hunt.  I was very visible in my yellow parka and not worried.  I didn't see or hear an animal or a human.

Starting down the other side, I started feeling it in my knee.  At the waypoint marked on the map as "TURN" I decided to turn around, and did so.  But I had second thoughts, and could hear the traffic on NY353, and according to the GPS is was only a half mile to the road.  I turned back and headed on to the West.

Emerging from the woods onto an old unpaved road still in use, I saw two pickups parked, probably hunters.  I walked down the road.  At one point the trail goes between a house and garage, still on the road, but not marked well, and I was afraid I was trespassing,  But right after that I saw an FLT marker, so I figured I was okay.

At this point I should point out that throughout this hike, it rained pretty hard, except for when it was pouring, which was most of the time.  This was similar to my last hike on the FLT, quite a ways East of here.

I got to the road and walked across it to the golf course.  The good parking between the railroad and NY353 documented on the map is no more.  The railroad is no more, and two nice homesteads have been built between the old bed and the road, which is no longer a suitable parking spot.  But the country club would be.  There I turned around and headed back.

Going back up, I met the two pickups that had been parked up the hill, and they had ATVs in the back now.  Must have been the one I saw in the woods.  As I started uphill, my knee began to hurt.  I started putting more and more weight on the hiking poles.  And I stopped frequently to rest it, having water and snacks.  I crested the hill and it was really wet.  I started thinking about whether I could force myself to go on to the bivouac area when I got to the car.  But I also had to think about overdoing it with the knee.  I changed my mind several times.  Finally, going no further won out, based on not stressing the knee.  It was hurting going up hill and down hill and fine on the level.  I knew there was a lot of up and down between the car and the bivouac site, so I bagged it.

2003 November 28 FLT