Tag Archives: Upstate

State Parks Are Havens For Trail Runners

One of the greatest things about running is that you can run basically anywhere. You can walk out your door and run. There is not a whole lot that is necessary in order to run. Just put your shoes on and run. You don’t need a ball, a glove, a field, or a team. It’s just you, your feet, and the ground.

However, if you love nature you might also love trail running, and trail running requires one more thing, a trail. At very least you will want some outdoor space where you can run off road. Not all communities are fortunate enough to have areas where they can go out and run on trails very easily.


In my experiences running on the past several years I have learned that there is one great resource that trail runners can take advantage of and that is your state parks. One thing that almost all state parks have in common is that they have trails. If you want to get out and enjoy some trails you need to check out your closest state park if you haven’t done so yet.

The Finger Lakes Region of New York is fortunate to be home to no fewer than 17 state parks. These state parks are areas where the people have decided nature is important and should be preserved and protected and that is one of the things that draws people to trail running. The opportunity to be out in nature and enjoy two things that go great together, running and nature, is irresistible.

In the Finger Lakes region there are multiple state parks where running clubs are able to put on great races. The Ithaca Running club has been putting on trail races or years and some of their races feature our great state parks. The Tortoise and Hare trail race is run in Buttermilk Falls State Park. The Monster marathon and half marathon, also put on by Finger Lakes Running Club, is held in Robert Treman State Park.  Forge the Gorgeous trail race is held at Filmore Glen State Park by the Finger Lakes Running Club. Red Newt Racing holds their Cayuga Trails race which encompasses to state parks, both Robert Treman and Buttermilk Falls. Lucifer’s Crossing trail race is held at Robert Treman State Park by Red Newt Racing. The race itself is named for one of the most prominent features of the state park, Lucifer’s Falls where the runners will be climbing the gorge along the falls.

Lucifer's Crossing_August 20, 2017_25

Soon we may have even more races to look forward to at state parks in the Finger Lakes region. The Southern Tier Running Club is planning to bring race to our area at Newtown Battlefield State Park and Pinnacle State Park. The proposed race at Newtown Battlefield would be a trail half marathon. The race at Pinnacle would have options for a 3 and 7 mile course.

Running races is one great reason to go for a trail run at a state park but there are more reasons. Most state parks offer multiple trails and not all of them will be covered by races. Not all trails are appropriate for races but all trails are appropriate for exploring. So take this great opportunity to explore. Go take a run down a trail you may not be familiar with. Just see where it goes and enjoy it. Relax, take your time even. Stop and soak in that nature. Exploration and connection are the best things about getting out there in nature on a run. See something new. Get out there and connect with nature.

State parks also might have trails that connect with other trails. Trails that go a much longer distance than you might otherwise expect. You can start on one trail in a state park and take a turn off onto another trail and go on an adventure. Who knows you could start in a state park and end up running across the state on the Finger Lakes Trail if you want to. You can pick up the Finger Lakes trail in Watkins Glen State Park and Robert Treman State Park for example.  You never know where the adventure might lead you. Be open to the adventure.

Another great aspect of state parks aside from opportunities to camp and hike or run trails is the opportunity to find solitude. Sometimes even running alone in the city you never really feel that solitude. There are always cars and street lights and other pedestrians and barking dogs. There are so many distractions to take you out of the moment. Too many other things to pay attention to that take you out of that moment. Get out on a lesser used trail at a state park and you might not see anyone for miles. No cars to worry about. No barking dogs to contend with. You can become fully immersed in the moment and just enjoy the run with no other concerns. Just drink in the nature and experience real solitude.

Gather your friends and meet up at a state park and start your adventure today.

Dam Good Trail Race_August 13, 2017_25

Exploring Ithaca, NY

So apparently 6 months ago I started writing this post and never got back to it. Distractions, procrastination, just plain forgot. You name it. It happens to the best of us. I added all these photos to a draft and then never came back to it. I have no idea why.

I went to Ithaca, NY. One of my favorite places and I just wanted to explore the area a little more in depth than I had in the past.

Robert Treman State Park_April 25, 2017_82

I went to my favorite locations, but I tried to focus on different things. Sometimes the little things. Sometimes things that are just a little askew. I wanted to look at things from different angles. Use my different tools that I had at my disposal. This included several different cameras and lenses all with their own set of capabilities.

Buttermilk Falls State Park_April 25, 2017_79

Sometimes you are lucky and nature simply grants you the perfect set up for interesting photographs. I love waterfalls and I love Buttermilk Falls State Park, but seriously can you beat to huge trees jammed up in a waterfall and one of them is at an angle so you can show it coming right at you. That was one of the advantages of my different camera set up on this trip. I would not likely have been able to capture that image with my traditional waterfall shooting set up.

The Cayuga Trail_April 25, 2017_76

Sometimes you just need to get close to the subject. This photo was taken at the perfect angle to allow me to focus on the flower blooming inside the leaves an blur out the rest of the irrelevant detail in the image.

Cornell Plantations_April 25, 2017_58

And when you are walking around the Cornell Botanical Gardens there is an abundance of oportunities. And something just catches your eye and you see a tree with surrounding flowers and you just know that this is the image you want to capture. It just makes sense. You get the correct camera and lens combination and you create an image that matches your vision.

Cornell Plantations_April 25, 2017_330

I used my macro lens to get p close and personal with these flowers growing low to the ground. My lens is only 60mm so I was likely in some kind of strangely contorted posture taking this photo. I was either hunched over, crouched, on my hands and knees, or lying down. The things one will do for a photo.

Cornell Plantations_April 25, 2017_495

I loved this little grouping of flowers. I was very happy I was able to capture three of them in focus together with another flower out of focus in the background. The little twig adds another element in the photo from the time of year when flowers are blooming and pushing up through the dead debris of the past.

Taughannock Falls State Park_April 25, 2017_35

Really this photo does not require much commentary for me. If you are familiar with our part of the Finger Lakes at all you know what this is a photo of. This is Taughannock Falls State Park. This photo is from the upper look out area near the visitor center. It is quite a majestic view. This is a place that must be experienced.

Taughannock Falls State Park_April 25, 2017_51

This photo is from along the lower portion of Taughannock Falls State Park as the water runs away from where the falls pours down it creates this stream and nice rock formation through the gorge.


Photographing Mendon Mauler

One of the reasons I love trail running is that it brings me closer to nature. Trail running gives me another reason to get outside and enjoy nature. Even better trail running encourages me to explore areas I might not otherwise visit. Trail running also allows me to cover more ground in a shorter time than I would be able to on a regular hike, so I see more nature on one trip than I would be able to without running.

Mendon Mauler_June 09, 2017_24

As a photographer and a runner my mind is in constant conflict. Run as best you can Vs. Stop and take a photo. I love taking photographs of nature even more than I love running through it. So, I’ve developed a strategy to be able to do both as equally effective as possible. I found the perfect hydration pack that allows me to carry water and fuel as well as my camera and cell phone, the Nathan VaporAir.

You might be thinking how on earth are you fitting a camera in a hydration pack? I am able to do that because I have a Nikon 1 J4 specifically for easy travel. It is about the size of a cell phone but bulkier and fits right in one of the front pouches. So, now on almost every trail run my pack and my camera is along for the ride.

Mendon Mauler was a tough race for me. One of the longest trail races I have run to date. It was also a race that started at 6:30 pm. I don’t usually run in the evening. And the temperature at start time was around 80 degrees. I do not like to run in the heat and usually avoid it at all costs.

The first 4 mile lap felt brutal in the heat. When I got to the end of the first lap I could have decided to stop at 4 miles and boy was that tempting. Being done and getting out of the heat sounded like a very good idea. But I had sign up for the 8 mile run and I was committing to the 8 miles and passed on the opportunity to finish at 4 miles.

Lap 2 felt much better. I was tired and slow but the temperature started to drop as the sun went down. I was actually cold for half of the second 4 mile lap. Then I cam to all the hills and warmed back up. The course was challenging for me. No huge hills but a lot of short steep inclines and declines. They were just burning up my legs.

Near the end of each lap there is a steep incline followed by an even steeper decline covered in slippery rolling rocks that defy description on the decent. It can really only be experienced as you try to maintain your balance on the slippery sliding rocks under your feet.

Mendon Mauler_June 09, 2017_15

I decided that this spot would be the perfect spot to stop and take a break for a minute. Stop. Soak in the nature. Remember why I am out here and remember why I love doing these things that most other people probably think are crazy. I got out my camera and composed a few shots of the incline as a fellow runner ascended. Then a paused again at the top to compos a few shots of the sights from the hi-point before I descended. It was then that I was really happy about my decision to go another 4 miles. Without putting in the extra effort I would not have been able to capture these nice images.

Mendon Mauler_June 09, 2017_27

Then a relatively short time later came the part I was now really looking forward to. The finish line and a chance to rest, re-hydrate, eat food, and reunite with my friends that also ran the race. I was also able to capture some nice photographs of the sun setting on Mendon Ponds Park.

Mendon Mauler_June 09, 2017_35