I realize this isn’t Chris Kenyon’s first-class “Outdoors” column that appears every other Sunday in the Times, but I will do my best to reach his high standard for exquisite outdoor writing.
Back in the pre-pandemic era, Saturdays were a must-work for my colleague Nick Felice and I. Friday nights were full of entertaining high school sports, and Saturdays as well, with a few Hobart and William Smith, Keuka and FLCC games sprinkled in as well.
The Sunday edition of the Times was overflowing with all the local sports one could wish for.
These days, I have Saturdays off. Honestly, it is a strange feeling. I always mistake the day for another day of the week because I had become so accustomed to working on Saturdays. The other reason I would forget the day of the week is because, as my friends joke, “days of the week don’t matter anymore.”
So, the past few Saturdays, my housemates and I drove about 45 minutes southwest to hike High Tor Wildlife Management Area. We always get upset with ourselves over how we never ventured out to Naples in previous years to see such a stunning area of New York. The first time I went was May 2.
The high was 72 degrees. The sun was shining, although it would occasionally dip behind some clouds. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in shorts and T-shirts dashing through the streams and climbing every cliff side that had stable tree roots to grab. It was like I was living in New Zealand again.
Whenever we saw other individuals or families hiking, the response was always uplifting. Everybody seemed so happy to be outside on a gorgeous day, and it felt like a competition to see who would say a friendlier, “Hello!” first. The social distancing was immaculate, and though their weren’t many people wearing masks, folks would respect each other’s boundaries and give the 6-foot rule plenty of play.
At the end of the day, we were caked with mud and sweating bullets from all the climbing and trail hopping. It was a fantastic feeling. The only problem is we didn’t bring any food, so by the time we began walking back to the car, all three of us were getting “hangry” and starting to snap at each other in a way that close friends do.
“I’m not running down this path like you two stupid animals. I am taking my time, and since I have the keys to the car, you can wait.” Ask anyone that knows me; I get a very snippy when I am hungry.
Fast-forward a week to this past Saturday. The outfits we donned were the exact opposite of seven days before. The high for the day was 34 degrees. I wore thermal underwear underneath jeans with waterproof boots, a thick button-down chamois, and my dark-brown Carhartt jacket. What a difference a week makes.
You’d think — and so did we — that the further we get into flippin’ May that the weather would get even nicer. WRONG! It snowed almost the whole time, and the hammocks we brought to relax in throughout the day were seldom used because we would get cold if we didn’t keep moving.
Don’t get me wrong. The area was still beyond gorgeous, and, honestly, it was a sort of final send-off for winter until next season.
Since I had only hiked High Tor the week before, I never got a chance to see it in the winter. My friends and I got a glimpse of it and vowed to return next year in the middle of winter to soak up what is one of the most gorgeous areas in the Finger Lakes.
One of my friends who hiked with us is an avid runner who lives for ultra-marathons. He has run through High Tor before and mentioned that there are ponds in an area of High Tor that freeze over in the winter. Not only did we vow to return when it gets cold again, but I thought how difficult climbing to the ponds would become when I have hockey skates tied together over my shoulder and carrying a hockey stick.
Oh well. We’ll have to wait and see. Until then, I can only hope next week we will be back in shorts and sneakers.