Running | Finger Lakes Trail | Sugar Hill to Watkins Glen

I set out on a training run with a specific goal in mind. The goal had nothing to do with pace or really even distance. It had to do with the route I chose to run.

I chose to run a specific route because I wanted to connect two sections of trail that I have run before.

Finger Lakes Trail

One of my favorite places to run is the Finger Lakes Trail. But the Finger Lakes Trail covers a lot of ground across New York. There are no sections on the Finger Lakes Trail that I have not enjoyed.

I am trying to ever so slowly cover the whole thing bit by bit. I have run long 31 mile chunks. And I have hike 6 miles while taking photos.

There are areas I have only seen once. And there are sections I have visited multiple times.

I have been trying to create one continuous segment of trail that I have covered on the Finger Lakes Trail. That way when I want to run a new section I will know were to start. There is a pretty large section that I have mostly covered at this point.

I have started as far west as Birds Eye Hollow County Park in Birds Eye Hollow State Forest. This area is on map M12 for the Finger Lakes Trail. I have covered around 26 miles from there going east to the Shugar Hill State Forest area. I have also covered

Finger Lakes Trail: Sugar Hill to Watkins Glen.

There is also a section of trail around 48 miles that I have covered over multiple adventures. This section starts in the town of Burdett on map M15 and runs through map M18. But there is a section in between those two stretches that I have not completely covered yet.

The Goal

The goal on this run was to cover the 20 miles on my training plan. And to cover that 20 miles while connecting the two sections of the Finger Lakes Trail together. So run the 20 mile gap that I have not run before between the endpoint of one adventure and the start of another.

I needed to run a 20 mile strectch of trails that started in the Sugar Hill State Forest area and went through Watkins Glen and up to the town of Burdette.

There is a small section of trail here that goes through Watkins Glen State Park. This is one part I actually have run on before. It is about 4 miles long. It will be nice to hit some familiar trails and know where I am during this adventure.

Despite having this relatively short section of trail I have run on before I really wanted to connect this section of trail with the other sections I have run all in one shot.

Ready, Set, Go

Of course the day I would be going on this adventure it would be shaping up to be a hot and humid day. Seeing the weather reports indicating temperatures in the 80’s I was prepared to be underway by around 6:30 AM. Planning my hydration and nutrition is important to keep me going.

I froze my filled water bladder. so it would stay cold as long as possible during the adventure. I packed Picky Bars to eat for nutrition out on the trail. Planning to eat about one bar an hour. And I thought this trip would take about 5 hours.

I don’t generally do great in the heat so I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Taking a salt tab the night before helps. I also drank a hydration mix.

On the way to the trail head to begin I ate a Picky Bar and I drank my hydration solution.

I also had my GPS enable Finger Lakes Trail map loaded on my phone.

Out On The Trail

Overall I really enjoyed this section of the Finger Lakes Trail. It’s hard not to enjoy getting on some trails you have never explored before. Just seeing new scenery and exploring nature in places I have never been really puts me in my happy place.

As a trail runner I really love to go downhill. I will tolerate climbing and have gotten better at that aspect but it is only worth it to me if it leads to a nice enjoyable downhill stretch of trail. This section of trail was all about that.

It is hard to find a long stretch of trails in this region with more descending than climbing but I managed to find it. According to my GPS I had 1742 feet of elevation gain. Then check out this decent. There was 3307 feet of elevation loss. Almost twice as much time going down as going up. That is my type of trail.

There was only one long section of climbing for me and that was near the end. And the climbing I did was on the road leading up out of Watkins Glen. This might not even been as bad if I was better at following the trail and reading the map.

Confusion At Mile 5

I only had a couple of minor issues while out on the trail. Those issues stemmed from my apparent inability to read the map and/or follow the trail markings correctly.

I hit the Finger Lakes Trail at around the 2 mile make on map M14 in the Sugar Hill area. My confusion started around the 6.5 and 6.6 mile mark on M14. I knew the Finger Lakes Trail would take me into Watkins Glen State Park. I could see it on the map. But for some reason I could not make it happen on the trail.

I tried to follow the white blazes and it seemed like it just lead me in a loop back to the same spots. I even descended an unmarked ravine thinking that would take me to where I needed to be because I could see a road down there and I knew I was supposed to come out of the woods onto a road. But that wasn’t it either. Back up the ravine I went.

I don’t know what I was doing wrong, but I couldn’t get it figured out. I wasn’t in a rush but I was trying not to waste time so I wouldn’t be caught out in the hottest part of the day.

Luckily there was a detour marked on the map for trail closures during hunting season. I decided to stop wasting time and start making progress. I took the detour on the roads and eventually connected with the trial in Watkins Glen State Park. Although this may have added some miles to my run.

Confused Again Or Just Tired

The other spot I just could not figure out was leaving Watkins Glen. The map indicates climbing up the side of the ravine on the east side of Seneca Lake as you exit Watkins Glen. I could see a trail blaze there but I did not see a marked path to follow to make my way up. Maybe I was just in too big of a hurry. Or I was too hot and tired and didn’t really want to find it anyway.

But I didn’t see it and I went up the road at 414 to 79. I made my way up route 79 to Burdett because a section of trail there was no longer available. I turned around in Burdette and descended back down the only significant climb of the day. On the way down I could see the Finger Lakes Trail white blaze along Jolly Road where the section I couldn’t find was supposed to meet up. I almost thought to follow it back in reverse to see what I missed but I decided to save that for another day.

Mission Not Quite Accomplished

I succeeded in reaching Burdette. I did not reach the point where I started my previous adventures. So I did not quite connect all the trial segments I have explored.

It was hot. I was low on water. And it was my plan to end back in Watkins Glen anyway. Turning around where I did got me back to Watkins Glen at 19.5 miles where I could get a nice cold drink.

If I had soldiered on I would have ended up in the middle of the woods with no water. I obviously made the right call.

The next step is to travel the next 5 to 6 miles from the farthest point on this adventure. That should l connect all the sections on the main trail I have explored.

I will also go back for separate explorations to figure out what I did wrong on the two trail sections I could not figure out.

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