We spent the past weekend in Utica, New York, taking some time to explore a wooded area not far from where we were staying. The woods, known as South Woods (or Utica Switchbacks) is part of the Roscoe Conkling Park. According to Explorer’s guide 50 hikes in Central New York’s Leatherstocking Country, the South Woods portion of the park was donated to the city in 1909 by Thomas Proctor. The park is named after U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling, a civil war era senator from Utica. What is truly amazing is the remarkable use of space in this city park. Within various sections of the park are located a small zoo, a ski lift and a golf course. The South Woods section is located just above the golf course.
We began our walk near the golf course, strolling along a paved walkway between the street and the course. Once we reached the gated entrance near the park maintenance buildings, we continued on this promenade towards the woods. As the path entered the woods, we paused to admire the stonework of the picnic pavilion. Upon entering the wooded area, we found several old stone fire-pits scattered throughout the area; remnants of a time when the park was first created.
The trail gradually ascended up the hill and I wondered if leaving my hiking poles in the car was a mistake. As I felt the effort of exertion I remembered one of my blog followers asking about my hip. Thinking about it, I realized that it is not such much that I need the poles for my hip at this point. I probably use them more as a crutch to push me up the hill when I need the extra effort. In other words, I need to be in better physical condition overall. The joint itself no longer bothers me. When I feel discomfort due to weather, it is the scar that lets me know it is there. Most of our walks are less than 2 miles and my hip is fine during these. It is the longer walks or more strenuous hikes involving uneven terrain when my leg lets me know that it is time to stop. Again, this may pass with a more serious effort to getting in better shape.
In any case, I made it up the hill. As we rounded out first switchback, we found an abundance of Plantain-leaved Sedge in the woods. The area was filled with these feathery yellow flowers. Not realizing what this was I first I attempted to use my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide with no luck. I guess I need to add a field guide to grasses and sedges to my collection.
It is surprising how far I have come in my observation and identification skills. As we continued along the trail we found small yellow flowers along either side of the path. I recognized them as Coltsfoot. A year ago, I would have only known them as pretty yellow flowers that are not dandelions. I was pretty pleased with myself for knowing what they were.
It wasn’t long before we exited the woods and descended the hill down the golf course. As we arrived back at our starting point it began to rain. We had walked about 3 miles.