Spring Wildflower and Waterfall Walk on M18
by Margaret and Ken Reek
If you enjoy walking, looking at many different species of wild flowers, and viewing waterfalls then this hike is for you! The featured hike is on map M-18 and starts south of Caroline Center, which is east and slightly south of Ithaca. We’ve found that the easiest way to get to the trail from the Ithaca area is to follow Rt. 79 to Slaterville Springs and head south on Buffalo Road. There is a road sign on Rt 79 for “A. McCormick Center 5 mi.” that marks the Buffalo Road turn off. The gas station near the turn has ice cream, coffee, and bathrooms – all welcome items to hikers.
Starting at Old 76 Road, follow the trail west. Over the course of the next mile and a half, you will gain about 500 feet of elevation on a steady, modest grade, but if your timing is right, you will be rewarded by a profusion of wild flowers. In late April of 2002 we saw red trillium, white trillium, trout lilies, spring beauties, yellow violets, purple violets, marsh marigolds, and many other varieties of wild flowers we couldn’t identify (hint: bring your wild flower book with you). The most unusual flowers were the red trilliums – there had to be thousands of them! If we added up the total number we’d seen in our lifetimes before then, we would still be no where near the number we saw in that one day. The blossom time may be earlier or later any given year, depending on the weather.
If you want to extend your outing, you could continue hiking west, heading towards the Shindagin Hollow lean to. You will spend some time hiking above a creek, and will eventually encounter Shindagin Falls, which is quite pretty. The picture of the falls was graciously provided by Dave Marchner. Shortly after the falls is the lean to, which makes a nice picnic spot.
This hike is quite flexible, and can accommodate several different trip lengths depending on ability, time and interest. The longest hike is approximately five miles round trip; you park on Old 76 Rd, hike west to the lean to and hike back to your car. The wildflowers were concentrated between Old 76 Road and South Road; this stretch of trail is 1.8 miles one way. If you want to bring two cars, you have more options for shorter trips. If you want to see the wildflowers and the falls, but do not want to hike both ways, you could park a second car on Shindagin Hollow Road, giving a hike of about three miles one way. If you think flowers are most interesting, start at Old 76 Road and park a second car at South Road for a 1.8 mile hike. If you prefer the falls to the flowers, start at South Road and park a second car at Shindagin Hollow Road for a one mile hike.
There is parking on Old 76 Road, although we found that our spring-time parking area was covered in several feet of snow in January, and the shoulders weren’t plowed back as far as we would have prefered for our two-wheel drive car. While the FLT maps don’t indicate parking on South Road, the shoulders appear wide enough to accommodate a car, even in our recent snowy January. The FLT maps show parking on Shindagin Hollow Road; we did not check the parking there during snowy weather. Hopefully by the time you are considering this hike, it will not be an issue!