Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake

Hiking near Hemlock Lake, a Finger Lake

If your perfect day includes escaping civilization with a hike, then hiking St Michael’s Mission is the perfect place for you. While officially located in Conesus, the spacious grounds of the former St. Michael’s Seminary and latter St. Michael’s Mission are located on the slopes above Hemlock Lake one of the small Finger Lakes.

st michael's mission hiking trail airbnb

St Michael’s Mission Hiking Trail

In the early 1900s, Hemlock Lake had a few cottages and homesteads along the shores of the lake. Small steam ferries traveled the lake bringing passengers and goods to the isolated homes. The City of Rochester obtained Hemlock lake and Candice Lake which is nearby as a water supply and the lands surrounding them. The city did not allow any development around the lake. Today, while some Finger Lakes have limited development, most of the Finger Lakes have sections of heavy development. Conesus Lake, as an example, has homes side by side for almost the entire lake shore. The only buildings around Hemlock Lake is the water authority.

New York’s Finger Lake region is known for the lakes and rolling countryside created during the retreat of the last ice age. The region is within the Allegheny Plateaus which is a portion of the Appalachian Plateau. The area is rural in nature with a number of small towns and villages. Public lands including State and community parks, the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest and the Finger Lakes National forest abound. Hikers can easily find many interesting places year round for hiking.

Hiking St Michael’s Mission

Over 50 acres of wooded land provides ample space for a leisurely hike. However, the property is overshadowed by the adjacent land. The majority of the property and the main building are on the west side of Mission Road. The east side of the road has the recreation area and that portion of the property adjoin land owned by The Nature Conservancy which merges with the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

Mission Road was the start of a trail managed by The Nature Conservancy. That trail started at the edge of the mission’s property and followed a ridge above a ravine to Hemlock Lake, then followed the shore line to the pump house of Eagle Crest Vineyard then up a very steep road to the vineyard. I tried that trail but ended up finding posted no trespassing signs. Talking with the vineyard owner revealed to me that they stopped access to their property because of a dispute with the Nature Conservancy concerning hunting.

St Michael’s Mission- Hemlock Trails

Ok, I just named them that. There are a few nice trails that start on the Mission property and continue on The Nature Conservancy property. Starting at the south driveway of the mission and crossing the road will bring you to the recreational area with a large field and a picnic pavilion. To the right of the pavilion is a wide trail. It follows along the same ravine the old Nature Conservancy trail started with. The trail has just a slight downhill till about .4 miles from the start. Here the trail has a branch to the left and continues straight but starts getting a bit steeper.

Straight ahead

There is a trail from the entrance of the south building to Hemlock Lake which is three quarters of a mile, one and a half mile round trip plus any walking along the shore. Hiking over that distance there is a 350-foot elevation change. The first .4 miles to the branch sees only a 120-foot change in elevation barely noticeable. The next .3 miles will see a 200-foot change. This is a bit steep but does not require any aids. Just some sure footing going down. The path becomes fairly flat the last few hundred feet from the lake. When you reach the lake, you can walk the shore line in either direction. The trees are further back on the path to the south.

Find a piece of driftwood to relax on and look out over the lake. It should not belong before you see a fish jumping out of the water or a bird swooping down catching its dinner. If you are lucky, the bird might be an eagle. There are a number of them that make Hemlock Lake their home.

The Loop

 

A trail that is very nice in the spring and fall is one that I call the loop and is one mile long. In the summer, the grass can narrow the trail making it difficult to pass in a small section. Starting at the mission follow the same route as above until you come to a branch to your left (.4miles). As you turn left, the trail has a gentle slope down. Follow the trail for 500 feet and you will come to a section where there are no tall trees to your left and right. This seems to be an old road or fire break that has been overgrown. If you do not see the break and pass it, you will come to a ravine in about 50 feet. Just turn around and walk back.

Turn uphill at the break and in about a quarter of a mile you will come to an open field with a small stand of trees in front of you. Follow to the right of the trees and it will lead you to the north edge of the recreational field. You can cross the road, climb the steps and walk across the grounds of the Mission. This loop has an elevation change of only 140 feet over a half mile.

Forest Trails

There will be a separate section for the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest trails, however, there are a few trail heads that are just a short walk from St Michael’s Mission. There are two trail heads off from Mission Road and another off from Blank road, all within one mile.

Forest trail heads

These trails do have an elevation change, however, as they do not go all the way to the lake the change is only between 200 and 250 feet. A good portion of the distance are across the contour, leaving a few steep climbs. There are many streams in the spring time and a number of small waterfalls.

 

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest Brochure page 2

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest

The  Hemlock-Canadice State Forest trails just mentioned are only a few of the many trails around the two lakes.The state maintains about 14 trails in the park. All the trails are natural except the boat launch road which is a seasonal road. A local site has a set of 10 topographic maps that show many of the trails around the lake.

The Reynolds Gully Falls trail is considered by many as one of the best waterfalls trails in the Eastern US. Technically it is outside the state forest and is under the control of the Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area, however, the parking lot is in the state forest.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is located just South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY. The main park and parking lot is located on Canadice Hill Road where you can find 22.83 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and a snowmobile route. With an elevation greater than 2,000 feet, the dense woodland receives far more reliable snow cover than elsewhere in the region, making it a prime destination for winter activities.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is located just South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY. Finger lakes wine and hiking

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Park is South of Honeoye Lake in Canadice, NY.

Other Nearby Finger Lake Hiking Destinations

Here are a few other nearby hiking destinations that are surely worth the short drive.

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East, is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs–as high as 600 feet in some places–surrounded by lush forests. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Letchworth Photos by Charles Davis

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park

The Genesee Valley Greenway State Park is a 90-mile open space corridor that follows the route of the Genesee Valley Canal (1840-1878) and the Pennsylvania Railroad Rochester Branch (1882-1963) from the Erie Canalway Trail in Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park to the Village of Cuba in Allegany County. The Greenway will eventually extend to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County.

rochester junction lehigh valley hiking trail finger lakes

Rochester Junction of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad

Lehigh Valley Trail Linear Park

This Monroe Country Park is about a 20-minute drive away. It is a trail about 15 feet wide and 15 miles long across the county on the bed of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad. This trail does connect to other trails including the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park.

LVT Brochure 2017
Rochester Junction

Rochester Junction

Lehigh Valley Trail North Branch

The old Lehigh Valley Railroad had a north-south branch ending in Rochester. The north branch starts at Rochester Junction and ends in Genesee Valley Park in the City of Rochester.

Finger Lake Trail Map

The Finger Lakes Trail System

The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 580 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 412 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 1,000 miles of hiking.

mendon ponds park great for kayaking and hiking

Mendon Ponds Park great for kayaking and hiking

Mendon Ponds Park

 

One of my favorites,Mendon Ponds Park is the largest Monroe County Park with 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created landforms. In 1969, it was named to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks due to its geologic history and presence of significant kames, eskers, and kettles. Visit the county park page for maps.

Mendon ponds hiking

The Trails Never End– Quaker Pond Trail Mendon Ponds

The list can go on and on. The variety of hiking trails around the Mission is remarkable and you will find trails for every skill level. If you are looking for relaxing days on the trails, St. Michael’s Mission is a great starting place. Rooms, a entire floor or a seperate building is availalbe on airbnb. See the different listings for St. Michael’s Mission here.

 

 

Kayaking with My Sea Eagle 330

Why A Sea Eagle 330

This is going to be a combination post and product review of my Sea Eagle 330. I am fairly new to kayaking. Over the last few years I started renting them and going to different places around the area. I enjoyed it and was at the point where I could justify buying one vs renting them. However, The cost of a roof rack was almost $500 for my car. I could have just gotten the cheap pads and tie down kits but felt I could not trust them for anything but a short drive. So getting my own kayak was set aside for a while.

While cleaning out my mom’s garage, a large canvas bag was found and since no one knew what it was, it was sent to the dumpster. Later, I pulled it out to be examined later. A Few weeks later, I was online looking for a cheaper roof rack. A link for sea eagle popped up and I saw it was the same bag that I had rescued earlier. I went to the garage and with my brother emptied the bag. I found inside a Sea Eagle 330.

We put it back in the bag and it went to my storage space to wait for more time and warmer weather. When I did have time, I found it was very dirty and missing the paddles. Before rushing out and buying a new paddle, I inflated it and let it sit for a weekend. When I returned, I found that two of the chambers were mostly deflated.

When I had inflated the kayak, I liked it. It looked good and I had no problems bringing it to storage, nor inflating it with the foot pump. I was not looking forward to looking for a leak, plus I was not sure how long it had been in the garage. I knew it had not been used for at least 4 years. The best option was to buy a new one.

I looked at the different packages and got the starter package. It is not on Sea Eagle website right now but it is the same as the deluxe package except it does not have the carry bag. I had considered the Pro Solo package, with the deluxe seat and carry bag. Since I had a carry bag and a deluxe seat with the old kayak, I opted for the starter set that had two seats and an extra paddle, in case I wanted to tandem.

First Impressions

When I took the kayak out of the shipping box, my first impression was the material was a good quality. It reminded me of a zodiac inflatable. After checking everything and preparing the items for the first time, it took me about 10 minutes to actually inflate the Sea Eagle 330. I sat in it a few minutes, then broke it down and packed it away in the carry bag that I had.

A few days later, I took it to Hemlock Lake for my first on water experience. I found a flat section of ground with some grass and laid out the kayak. Pumping it up and getting ready was easy. The pumping took me about 8 minutes. I used the SEC seat that came with it. A few comments that I read about the Sea Eagle 330 said it was unstable. My first impression was the same. However, once I had a foot of water below me and a few full strokes I felt it was stable. I think it was the skegs dragging. I did not feel comfortable with the seats. They just did not seem to support me well. On my third outing, I switched to the deluxe seat and fell they are right for me.

Taking it down takes a while, if you are caring for it properly. It needs to be rinsed off then dried before folding. Invasive species are a problem in my area so this is an important step. Also, it will keep it new looking. Once it is cleaned and dried, it only takes three or four minutes to fold it and place it in the carry bag. The carry bag will also hold the paddles, foot pump and life jacket.

Sea Eagle vs Hard Kayak

I have a dozen outings this year in my inflatable about the same as I had for the previous three years combined in a hard shell kayak. The hard shells I used were sit-ins with a large cockpit opening and 12 foot long. If I were to rate them against each other on a ten point total scale, it would be a 7 for the Sea Eagle and 3 for hard shells. Here are some of my views:

  • Transportation: This is all Sea Eagle. I have a small Nissan Versa Note which is a hatchback. The carry bag fits sideways very nicely, so there is no need to lower the back seats. It stays in the car, so I can just grab swim trunks and head out. As I mentioned before, This is an important point for me.
  • Speed: Hard Kayak has the edge here. I am not very fast even in the hard kayaks. Still, it seems to take more effort to get speed out of the inflatable. I do find it difficult to keep up with others. You will find me kayaking to relax and to enjoy nature, so I really not need to go fast. I seldom do a point-to-point paddle and I mostly paddle alone, so not a major point for me.
  • Stability: I mention this above but will expand a little here. Once you get some water under you, I feel the Sea Eagle is as stable. There been a few times when I needed to deal with a wake from a passing boat. I felt the Sea Eagle handled it better than when I did the same in a hard shell.
  • Yaw: Yaw is the deviation from a straight course. I feel that there is more yaw in the inflatable. It is not so much that it is an issue. Wind has more influence on the inflatables then a hard shell. This noticeable to me when I am kayaking on Hemlock Lake which has some wind at times.

Sea Eagle Kayak Tips:

Here are a few tips:

  • Seat position: Where you position the seat has some impact on your stability but more importantly your control. The instruction video and owners manual recommends that solo paddlers position the seat a little behind the middle. I am more comfortable moving it back a little farther. Also, once you have moved away a little from shore, balance yourself in the seat.
  • Form: I found that I needed a higher stroke because of the higher sides. In the hard kayaks, I used a feathered paddle. I am more comfortable with my paddled unfeathered when I am kayaking in my Sea Eagle.
  • Extras:
    • I have a waterproof pouch with a neck string that holds my car keys and my cell phone if I take it along. I loop the string around the side strap of the deluxe seat and place the pouch portion in the pocket of the seat back.
      Lily pad at mendon ponds taken while kayaking from my sea eagle 330 kayak

      Why you need a camera kayaking

    • Waterproof Camera: I missed some great photos because there was no way I would take my cell phone out of the waterproof pouch, and I was not going to bring my digital SLR. I bough a point and shoot camera that is waterproof. The wrist cord attaches to the valve holder of the seat. Still experimenting on the placement, but I can reach down, release the camera and get some on water shoots.
      Why you need a camera kayaking

      Mendon Ponds Kayaking

    • Inflation gauge: There is a clear flexible plastic gauge that you hold against the hull to measure that the hull is properly inflated. Note clear plastic translates to easy to lose. Buy a couple extra before you need them, only a few dollars each.
    • Cleaning supplies: At the end of the day, I will take a wet towel to get any mud or marks off the kayak, then wipe it down with a dry towel. I also have a towel I can kneel on while I fold the kayak. As I fold the kayak, I might need to wipe it off and dry it. Some marks are stubborn, so I will unfold the kayak at home and clean it with a cleaner designed for marine vinyl. I plan on keeping my kayak for years but looking new.

My waterways:

Here is a brief rundown of where I have used my Sea Eagle.

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York sea eagle 330 kayak

Hemlock Lake Finger Lakes Region New York

  • Hemlock Lake: This is one of the minor Finger Lakes of Upstate New York and is the closest to my home. It is also a water source for the city of Rochester. The shore line is undeveloped and is a state forest. Kayaks, canoes and small fishing boats (trolling motors only) are the only boats allowed in the lake. The lake is seven and a half miles long with two boat launches. The northernmost mile of the lake is closed to boating. Hemlock lake is in a valley of sorts with hills on the east and west shores. Conditions can get windy if you move away from the shore as hills can create a wind tunnel. There is less effect at the south end. The south boat launch is at a point where the areas south is more wetlands. The two portions of the lake give you different experiences. Hemlock has great fishing and some nesting eagles.
    Kayaking Mendon Ponds Park Sea Eagle 330

    Kayaking Mendon Ponds Park

  • Mendon Ponds Park: This is the largest park in Monroe County and has always been one of my favorite places to hike. Now it is also one of my favorite places to kayak. The Hundred Acre Pond is a great place to explore. The water is shallow and mostly flat. Like Hemlock, it is for Kayaks, canoes and small fishing boats with nothing larger than trolling motors. Great place only a few people on the water. The first time I went there, it had only 6 kayaks, all inflatables.
    Wellesley Island State Park: The park is located in the Thousand Islands region of New York in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River.

    Ell Bay at Wellesley Island State Park

  • Wellesley Island State Park: The park is located in the Thousand Islands region of New York in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River. The park has three boat launches with two being hand launches. The Ell bay side of the island has less boat traffic and is perfect for kayaking. I did get a little nervous when four turkey vultures kept an eye on me. Two of them had wingspans that must have been five feet.
     Wellesley Island State Park st Lawrence River Kayaking

    Wellesley Island State Park. St Lawrence River Kayak launch site

From the Sea Eagle Website

About the Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak

Our lightest, most portable kayak is America’s most popular, the versatile Sea Eagle 330. It weighs just 26 lbs. and packs down small enough to fit in the smallest car trunk. Don’t let the lightweight fool you, it’s a rugged kayak able to hold 2 people or 500 lbs and yet easy enough to be carried and paddled by one.

Specifications

Person Capacity

2

Hull Weight

26 lbs.

Length

11 ft. 2 in.

Width

2 ft. 10 in.

Interior

9′ 6″ x 15″

Load Capacity

2 Person or 500 lbs.

Deflated

24″ x 16″ x 7″

Chambers

3 (port, starboard, floor)

Tube Diameter

10″

Air Valves

5 Deluxe One Way

Inflation time

6 min

Seam

High Frequency Welded

Material

33 mil Polykrylar (K80 PVC)

Floor

Inflatable I-beam construction

Whitewater Rating

Suitable up to Class III

Inflation Pressure

1.1 psi

I have really enjoyed my Sea Eagle 330, and for me it was the right kayak to buy.