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Four Feet, Four Paws



Cross-Country Hikers Take Break in EVL

By Colleen Mahoney

Roughly 700 miles from their starting point, hikers Christine “Buttons” Herpfer, Rick “Bearwalker” Carbonell and four-legged companion Molly arrived in Ellicottville via the Finger Lakes Trail for a bed and “zero day.”

The trio is on a 4,600 mile trek from Vermont to North Dakota, following the North Country Trail (NCT).

The longest scenic trail in the United States, the NCT was created in 1980 and passes through seven states and 12 National Forests. Although the trail begins in Crown Point, NY, Carbonell said they began in Vermont because a bill in the Senate proposes to extend the trail into Vermont. If passed, the NCT would extend into Willard Gap, VT and connect to the Appalachian and Gap trails.

Taking two nights to rest, the hikers stayed at the Ilex Inn in Ellicottville, which Carbonell called a retreat.

“This place is really nice and Rick and Glenda [Jackson], the innkeepers, have been great,” Carbonell said. “And I had a banging burrito [at Bike & Bean].

Before they arrived, Rick Jackson picked up a resupply box from the post office, which was sent by a friend of Carbonell’s in Allentown, PA. After their stay in Ellicottville, the three were headed to Allegany State Park before continuing into Pennsylvania.

Though their stay in Ellicottville has been pleasant, the beginning of the journey didn’t go according to plan.

“We have an itinerary, but I think after about day two it was messed up,” Herpfer said.

Having started their hike on March 6, the couple and Molly encountered a bit of snow while hiking through Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains.

“We hiked up Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York,” Carbonell said. “We took it because we thought it’d be the most challenging. Then we regretted it.”

While hiking up the 5,343 foot mountain, Herpfer said they lost the trail and had to improvise.

“We had to make up our own trail, then road walk,” she said. “We road walked about 100 miles before reaching the Northville Placid Trail.”

Although road walking has its negatives, the road took them through Lake Placid.

“You get to see some great stuff going through towns,” Carbonell explained. “And there are gas stations and stores. Dunkin’ Donuts too, we love that.”

They picked up the trail and continued to the Old Erie Canal Trail, through Rome, NY and to the Onondaga Trail, before getting onto the main Finger Lakes Trail, which they’ve been following ever since.

“We haven’t seen that many hikers, but we’ve run into landowners,” Carbonell said about the first portion of their trip. “It’s nice running into other hikers. I think we’ll start seeing that more, now that the mud is drying up.”

Although their current trip, which is expected to be completed in November or December, is their first on the North Country Trail, all three hikers have experience. Both Carbonell and Herpfer have hiked the Appalachian Trail, which is where they met, as well as the Long Trail. Molly, a beagle-Australian cattle dog mix, hiked 100 miles on the Long Trail and the entire Massachusetts portion of the Appalachian Trail. Few have hiked end-to-end on the NCT, Carbonell said, but if completed, Molly will be the first dog to do so.

“It’s exciting if we finish,” Carbonell said. “I always say we’re ‘attempting’ to hike [end-to-end] because you never know. But hey, you only live once.”

And while Ellicottville provided plenty of amenities for the trio, Carbonell said there is one more thing he’d like.

“I’d love to see Ellicottville become a trail town. It would be great because it has all the services a hiker needs within walking distance,” said Carbonell.

According to the NCT website, a trail town is a “community through which the North Country Trail passes that supports hikers with services, promotes the Trail to its citizens and embraces the Trail as a resource to be protected and celebrated.”

“And they get a plaque to be proud of,” Carbonell added.

For more information on the North Country Trail, visit To learn more about the Finger Lakes Trail, visit To follow Carbonell, Herpfer and Molly’s through-hike, follow their Facebook page NCT4feet4paws.

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