Virgil, N.Y., is an upstate town of 200 – 300 residents that is situated 20 miles northeast of Ithaca, 40 miles south of Syracuse, 40 miles northwest of Binghamton, 212 miles northwest of New York City, and 1,799 miles northeast of the Alamo in Texas.
Once boasting healthy populations of wolves, bear, panthers, deer, and smaller animals, the Onondaga Nation had used the area for summer hunting grounds. The town of Virgil was formed from Military Township #24 following the Revolutionary War, separating from Homer in 1804 and named in honor of the Roman poet. It received its first settler, Joseph Chaplin, in 1792. A school came in 1799, a Grist Mill in 1805, a cider mill in 1819 and church in 1835.
The number of families increased after 1800 and the hills were stripped and land guided into agricultural use. Most of the landscape was cleared of trees for agriculture during the mid-to- late 19th century by European settlers. Between 1931 and 1976 approximately 2,280,500 pine, spruce, cedar, larch and red oak were planted. The trees were planted by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp S-125 based in Slaterville Springs, N.Y.; Conservation Department employees; Camp Pharsalia crews and social service crews.
The James D. Kennedy Memorial State Forest was established between 1931 and 1974 and named in honor of the District Forester. Tuller Hill Sate Forest was purchased by New York State during the 1930s when large scale reforestation projects were underway. The lands that had once been used extensively for agriculture would be converted back to their original forested state. This would not only combat soil erosion problems, but it would also create and maintain biodiversity, produce forest products, and promote important recreational opportunities for all of Upstate New York's residents and visitors.
The region is home to over 100 wineries, countless state parks with tight gorges and hundreds of waterfalls for viewing and swimming, the wonderful college-town of Ithaca, and a fine running specialty store by the name of the Finger Lakes Running Company (shameless plug, yes, I know). Virgil is the home of Greek Peak Resort and the soon-to-open Gatherings Restaurant. If able, please drop them in on each of them while in town, lend a note of appreciation for use of their land and facilities, and, if open grab a bite and relax. Additionally, we owe many thanks to the following without whom this event would not be possible: those private land owners and organizations maintaining the Finger Lakes Trail including Joe Dabes, Alex Gonzalez, Ray Kuzia, the Adirondack Mountain Club Onondaga Chapter, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and countless volunteers and sponsors.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the trails!