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Frostbite Overnight 2013: Hoxie Gorge and some chickens

Hoxie Gorge stream

Hoxie Gorge stream

Change is in the air this spring. At least as far as the Frostbite Overnight is concerned.

The Frostbite Overnight (FBON) is an annual backpacking trip taken the three days before Easter. Typically, the trip’s destination is somewhere in the Catskill State Park, in southeastern New York State. This tradition dates back to 1986, when my friend Dave and several co-workers journeyed down to the Catskills for a night of partying in a motel room, followed up by a single night of camping. As the years passed by, there has been a great turnover in the roster of participants, while the emphasis switched from partying to backpacking. In recent years, the arduousness of the Friday hike has lessened, perhaps marking the increasing average age of the participators.

This year the FBON participators dwindled down to only two, just Dave and I. This marks the second time in the last three years that the two of us braved this early spring backpacking trip together. The heavy snow pack in the Catskills, with depths up to 40 inches on the mountain peaks according to NOAA, combined with Dave’s recovery from a bad cold, led to an abbreviated trip for the first time since I stated participating back in 1996. Instead of heading out on Thursday, we pushed it back to Friday, giving Dave another day to recover, and me another day to put off packing, resulting only a two day trip.

Since the FBON was truly living up to its overnight name, the Catskills became a far too distant destination given the possible one-way four-hour trip. Instead, Dave suggested somewhere closer, and after perusing CNYHiking, he came up with Hoxie Gorge State Forest as an ideal destination, as it is closer to Syracuse, offers a short hike to a lean-to and does not require fighting through much snow.

Hoxie Gorge lean-to

Hoxie Gorge lean-to

Actually, the planned hike is along the North Country/Finger Lakes Trails, staying on the periphery of the Hoxie Gorge State Forest, remaining within the Hoxie Gorge Nature Preserve, owned by the SUNY-Cortland. The two long trails share their path with the McDermott Nature Trail, following along the edge of a large clearing, occasionally dropping into a mature forest along an attractive series of streams before climbing to a nice lean-to located near the edge of the clearing. As it turns out, Hoxie Gorge and I were already acquainted, as I recognized the trailhead from a previous adventure there. The reason for my previous visit is lost in my addled memory, although visiting for recreational purposes, scouting for my master’s thesis or performing field work for the NYS Herp Atlas being the three most likely.

The FBON 2013 highlights include the series of attractive streams, the three different new gear demonstrations, a messy camping area around the lean-to, including a smoldering fire and a tire swing, but most importantly, the rooster and four hens that shared the lean-to with us during our entire stay.

Rooster and a couple hens

Rooster and a couple hens

Waking up to a rooster crowing in a lean-to at five in the morning is about the last thing I expected on a FBON. Hopefully, this odd event is not foreshadowing a crazy season of backcountry exploring this year. Then again, anything will be an improvement over the nearly nonexistent one from last year.

Expect a complete write-up of the Frostbite Overnight 2013 adventure in the days ahead.

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