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Morgan Hill State Forest, along with the other neighboring state forests, was heavily logged during the 1800s and the early 1900s. New York, realizing the need to preserve the wilderness for the future generations, quietly began buying land to establish control over its resources. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, planted millions of conifer, maple, and hardwood trees, blazed new trails, and established roads for the park rangers to use. In the nearby parks, they also built stone bridges, roads, buildings, and retaining walls.
The closest large town is Cortland, just under 20 miles to the southeast. Settled in 1791, the town has several buildings and homes that were built in the late 1700s and early 1800s, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the earliest truck manufacturers, Brockway Motor Company, was based in this town, and to this day, Cortland holds an annual Brockway Festival that includes an exhibition of these trucks. Search for an RV in Onondaga County, NY, and embark on an idyllic RV camping trip in New York’s serene woods.
Walking through Morgan Hill State Forest, it’s hard to believe that these hills were once stripped bare and razed to the ground. The 5,300-acre forest, though young, tower overhead. The lacy canopy filter sunlight onto the forest floors in dappled beams. Ferns, ivy, and other greenery line the paths, sheltering delicate flowers that peek out for a few short weeks in spring. Twelve miles of hiking trails meander and weave through the woods, crossing tiny babbling brooks and through open meadows, and there are an additional 11.5 miles of dirt roads that are available for hikers to use.
When the winter snow arrives, transforming the lush green woods into a barren, cold wonderland, the fun doesn’t stop. All of the trails are open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiles. Hikers should wear blaze orange in falls and early winters. Hunting in Morgan Hill State Forest is permitted. In addition to deer, many hunters enjoy bagging rabbits, grouses, turkeys, and other small game. Many fishermen enjoy visiting Labrador Pond and various creeks running through the forest, which has robust trout, panfish, and largemouth bass population. Other fish commonly caught in the waters include yellow perch, brown bullhead, bluegills, and pumpkinseed.
Birdwatchers, photographers, and nature lovers will enjoy exploring the Morgan Hill State Forest. When the forest was replanted, several species of wild animals returned the forests, and now make their home in these hills. White-tailed deer, rabbits, grouse, and turkeys are common sights, and the lucky few may spot a black bear or two on a quiet morning. Overhead, ospreys, songbirds, and warblers flit and fly about.
Skip the long commute from a noisy, dingy hotel and get closer to nature by renting a camper. Surrounded by nature in a travel trailer rental, it’ll be easier to get out the door at the crack of dawn for the next thrilling adventure. Morgan Hill State Forest has a few roadside campsites, but no official RV campground for visitors to use. However, there are several options in the area that may suit.
RV camp at Forest Lake Campground near Truxton, NY, which boasts around 60 RV sites spread out over 350 acres. Guests can choose to RV camp in woods or open space. Each site comes with its own fire ring, electric and water hookups, and wifi.
Alternatively, Otisco Lake Campground may be a good candidate. Outside Otisco, NY, the old-fashioned campground features 50 sites with full or partial hookups, an on-site convenience store, and a laundry room.
No visit to the Syracuse area is complete without a stop at the historic Erie Canal Museum. The museum details the challenges that the engineers had at the time and how they were able to construct the canal with the limited technologies available during that era. The eye-opening museum is well worth a trip in an RV rental.
Continue the tour of upstate New York’s countryside by venturing into the wine country. Along the Finger Lakes region, there are several wineries that thrive in spite of New York’s harsh winters. Owera Vineyard near Cazenovia is an award-winning family-run vineyard. Owera Vineyard welcomes visitors. The tasting room looks out on acres of grapevines laid out in neat, tidy rows, apple trees, and a small herb and vegetable garden.
At the end of a long day of adventures and fun in the sun, retreat from the mosquitoes into an Airstream rental and enjoy the sounds of nature outside.