Ascent of Tioga County High Point on 2014-09-10

Climber: William Musser

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Tioga County High Point
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:1994 ft / 607 m

Ascent Trip Report

Visiting Ithaca for the first time on business. Did not realize there were some many interesting waterfall hikes in the area. I will have to visit those next times. Could not find any real mountain hikes in the area but the peakbagging site showed several county highpoints. NY unlike most states really has a wonderful program with their state lands. There are free maps easy to find on the intent; many nearby state parks and lands, and the graded roads in the forests were excellent. Best of all solitude in the backcountry. I never saw a human being on any of the excursions. Hats off to NY.

My research prior to the trip gave me 4 potential county HPs I could try to get at in my extra time after work but as usual, I was committed to “earning them” not simply drive ups. Why not make every adventure a training session for mountaineering? I was able to successfully string out 3 County HP summits with minimal driving, attacking 95% of the hiking from State lands or public R/W and in the process got in over 12 miles of hiking and 2,250 feet of gross vertical gain for the day. That is a bargain, when you live in FL. Of course I had to get in a full day of work, so this meant getting up at 5 AM and coming back to the hotel in the dark at the end of the day but, how else to make business travel fun?

The trip reports shown are for each represents my efforts to maximize exercise through distance and gain; and are not intended to be the easiest way to color in a county HPing map.

Connecticut Hill:

This trip was about a 25 minute drive from my hotel (at least at 5:30 in the morning) and is part of the Connecticut Hill State Game management Area. As it turns out there is a nice trail map available on line. I found several but here is one link . I studied the topo and decided to park near the marsh low area off of Connecticut Hill Road near the intersection of Boylan Road. I awoke at 5:30 AM; left hotel early and arrived at the designated parking spot and took off at 6:20 AM. I was fighting the fact at this time of year dawn is 6:15 and sunrise at 6:45 AM. I did not bring a headlight so I decided to stay off the dark trails until later in the day. I took off uphill on Connecticut Hill Road and turned right (north) on Tower Road. All of these roads are well graded and easy access for those that like drive up county HPing but for me, with the solitude of the morning and the woods all around, it felt like a large well maintained unpaved trail.

Continuing north on the tower access road you cross the Laura Maguire (white blaze trail). Instead of bagging the highpoint (another ugly radio tower) I headed west till the forest trail forked and makes a fine loop with an orange blaze to the left and a white blaze to the right. A nice hike in the woods and up and down and around some ravines and then back to tag the tower helped me get in a total of a 3.1 mile hike up accent and with the occasional additional gains over 800 total feet to claim the high ground. I spooked up many deer on this trip. On the third group I was startled by the nose of a buck snorting. Now I know why there are roads called busksnort. It is a distinctive sound.

Coming back, it was now light so I used the Laura McGuire Trail and avoided Tower Road altogether. Back at the car by 7:42 the entire trip took 1 hour and 22 minutes and covered nearly 5 miles round trip. I did jog some of the downhill areas to save time. The temperature at this time of year started at 58F and back at the car was up to 62F; pleasant morning hike. Was back at the hotel and showered and in the office before 8:30 AM

Tioga County HP:

This trip was about a 30 minute drive at most from the office in Ithaca. Work was adjourned and I had to get there and knock these two out before daylight was lost. I was very worried about this adventure because I had scouted out doing this trip by hiking up the rugged back road called both Matson Road and West Hill Road. On the aerials it had a few private residences and looked like a great place to be mauled by pit bull! I was pleasantly surprised. I parked down near the intersection of West Hill Road and SR 38 near the USGS BM 1172 elevation and headed up the steep and gravel road. There is a nice pull over for a car by the creek about a fifth of the way up. The creek is far below the road but unfortunately strung-out with debris and garbage.

I found what I though could be my parking spot half way up the road and was surprised to see it would have worked well to park a rental car. It is on the east side and is a snow plow turning area. It was signed “no parking leave open for snow plows” but I am quite sure that is not applicable in the summer and fall! I started seeing the residential property and it was all nice expensive lots hidden back behind fences and wooded lots - so no pit bulls out in the yard to maul me. In fact, I saw no cars or people the entire time. Very secluded and pretty back there. No trespassing signs everywhere so I stuck to the public R/W )except for on the way back where I tried a foolish short cut that got me extra gain but terminated and I had to backtrack and needless to say – just stay in the public R/W the whole time and there are no issues. This secluded and circuitous route takes you to Robinson Hollow Road and then up Creamery Rd. All unpaved and very few residential structures anywhere.

The lot where the peak is – is still for sale with a Realtor sign out front. As the last TR says there is NO signage saying no trespassing which is unique along this route as I have never seen property on the way to the HP so heavily signed and with all sorts of “and we mean it” type of secondary warnings. So I think this property owner wants you to see his hill and buy it. Of course you can call the Realtor also – I believe the sign said ERA. Either way, someday this parcel will be purchased as well and no longer easily available to CHPers. I decided to scope out the property to see if I should make an offer. Pretty land with all the goldenrod in full bloom, made me sneeze too much so after inspecting the potential sale, and by way of inspection, finding the CHP, and I elected to not make an offer and headed back to my car. Jogging downhill for much of the trip, I did the nearly 5 mile trip in about an hour.

Virgil Mountain:

Finally a mountain? Well it is ski resort. Over the years you notice on CHPing trips that so many of the CHPs are either: cemeteries, pubic water tanks, on power pole lines, or tops of ski resorts. This one you has 2 out of 4. It was now late in the day – 6:30PM before I got to the site. It was only about 25 minutes form the last CHP. Sun was getting close to setting and I really wanted to attack this from the ski slopes where it would gain around 760 feet. I have done many CHPing this way from PA to MI to ID and it can make for a far more enjoyable view out of a crumby hill but I was worried this late in the day someone would deny me the access become of legal worries… you know, “sorry man, you could trip and fall and spend the night on the slope and sue us blah blah”………. And frankly, I have a rule about doing anything that late in the evening without someone with you and backpack with supplies (headlamp, water, etc.) so, I did not even try to do the route from the Greek Peak side. Instead I found Van Donsel Road which is paved half of the way from SR 392 and a well graded forest road to access my shortened route alternative.

I parked down at the intersection of Baldwin and Valentine Hill and then walked up to the power easement and made that 1,940 elevation spot my Trailhead. The power easement also has a nice maintenance road for most vehicles but good gosh why be lazy – hike it – it is not far. I thought the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) forest trail would be found at the crest of the hill and I did not see it and I was in such a hurry that I started following others bushwhack trails but they lead nowhere and were in thick nasty briers. The trail is actually not far down hill from the crest, just beyond the crest and easy to find. Finding the trail, I hiked past the HP of the County and followed the trail further downhill to see what the ski slope would have been like to hike up still disappointed I did not have time to attempt that as an alternative. Not seeing it, I hiked back up hill getting more gain and distance and tagged the CHP when I realized I was seeing the top of the ski slope but at this time of year it is un-cleared and totally overgrown with weeds and briers. Thankfully I did not try to hike up the ski slope.

I ended up making this easy summit at least into a 2.5 mile hike and did it in 30 minutes. It was hard to stretch it out with the time I had and sun setting on me. But I did realize that there was a much more interesting way to “earn the HP” If I had more time. I may come back and do it by parking at the end of Van Donsel Rd near the farm lands and hike up the entire R/W. Nice views of the valley and you would climb from 1,388 to 2,132 and make it worth claiming. If you hiked up Van Donsel Road it is open country R/W with no traffic and then goes into state lands where it is narrow graded unpaved roads. Note that the USGS map calls Van Donsel Road by the name Shultz Road, Stillman Road and Valentine Hill Road but it is all the same.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:932 ft / 283 m
    Total Elevation Loss:932 ft / 283 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.9 mi / 7.9 km
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:857 ft / 261 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 822 ft / 250 m; Extra: 35 ft / 10m
    Loss on way in:35 ft / 10 m
    Distance:2.4 mi / 3.9 km
    Route:Matson Rd or W Hill Rd
    Start Trailhead:SR 38 near Matson Rd  1172 ft / 357 m
    Time:40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:897 ft / 273 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 822 ft / 250 m; Extra: 75 ft / 22m
    Gain on way out:75 ft / 22 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    End Trailhead:same  1172 ft / 357 m
    Time:20 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Ithaca

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Connecticut Hill2014-09-10 a964 ft / 294 m
2Tioga County High Point2014-09-10 b932 ft / 284 m
3Virgil Mountain2014-09-10 c354 ft / 108 m
Total Trip Gain: 2250 ft / 686 m    Total Trip Loss: 2250 ft / 686 m

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