ITHACA, N.Y. — When Heather Houskeeper hits the Finger Lakes Trail again Tuesday morning, she will be strapping on a nearly 40-pound pack and hiking for five more days on the 860-mile trail before she gets to Cortland.
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Bus To Nature: Route 22
Houskeeper — known to many as The Botanical Hiker — has about 350 miles left in her journey. When she’s done in August, she’ll be the first person to hike the main trail and all the branch trails.
“I’ve had my sights on the Finger Lakes Trail since 2010,” she said.
Not a rookie to long-distance trailing, the 32-year-old hiker said she has also trekked the 1,200 mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina twice and completed over 2,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail.
Nonetheless, she said her time on the Finger Lakes Trail has been challenging because of the rainy wether and hilly terrain.
She said mud on the trail sucks her shoes down as she hikes, and she anticipates getting a third pair of boots soon. In comparison, she used just one pair of boots during her 2014 hike through the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
“That’s a lot of shoes for the distance I’ve gone so far,” she said, saying it shows how trying the journey has been.
She said members of trail groups throughout the state have been integral to her success trailing.
In Ithaca, she said Roger Hopkins, former president of the Cayuga Trails Club and Finger Lakes Trail board member, and hiker Andy Sciarabba met her at the Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve Saturday night with portabella pizza, salads and pastries from Ithaca Bakery.
They told her she can restock on supplies in the city and prepped her about what to expect on trails in the area.
Houskeeper said she made it to Ithaca Sunday night, where Paul Warrender and his wife Robin Carlisle-Peck picked her up at Robert H. Treman State Park to host her for the evening.
She said the two hikers — both members of the Cayuga Trails Club and Alley Cat Crew — took her to the Ithaca Bakery and Viva Taqueria & Cantina.
She’s now staying with a friend, Cornell grad student Saba Alemayehu, until Tuesday morning.
Houskeeper currently lives in the Tri-state area and often calls Asheville, North Carolina home. But she intends to move to New York within the next year and has been impressed with Ithaca since she’s been here.
“It seems like my kind of place,” she said. “It’s really progressive and funky and all the things I look for in a city.”
Houskeeper is also documenting edible and medical plants on the trail and plans to publish a guide of her findings. She’s already published a similar guide for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Follow Houskeeper’s journey at her blog, The Botanical Hiker.