"The Botanical Hiker" Arrives in Watkins Glen

Written By: Isabel Garcia
Botanical Hiker

July 8, 2015

Watkins Glen (WENY) -- Many of the attractions around the Twin Tiers draw in people who have a love for the outdoors, especially during the summer months. One woman traveling through the area is taking her love of nature to the next level.

     Heather Houskeeper is on a mission to hike the entire Finger Lakes Trail, but she's doing this for more than just her personal enjoyment. On Wednesday, her adventure landed her at Watkins Glen State Park. She is not only hiking the Finger Lakes Trail and its 6 branch paths, but she is also documenting the edible and medicinal plants along the way.

     "What I do that's a little bit different than your typical hiker is that I am researching as I go, so I may walk a quarter mile and then stop, put everything down, pull out my research books, pull out a plant guide, take some photos, and then pick everything up and move on again. But usually I hike for about 8 - 12 hours a day," Heather explains.       

     Heather is certified in herbal medicine and plant identification. Being able to conduct research while hiking is something she believes enhances her project.

     "For me, it heightens my experience out here on the trail. Instead of the trail just being a tunnel of green, as you walk and you learn the plants they stand out to you," she says.

     Heather's livelihood travels with her on her back, in what she calls, "The Beast" - her backpack. Strategically packed away, she fits a tent, sleeping bag, food, one change of clothes and even a small alcohol stove. So far, the Twin Tiers area has been unique for Heather. 

     "What makes this trail different is that everyday you aren't coming across a grand summit, or some spectacular view. You don't come across Watkins Glen everyday on the trail. But what you do get to see is the simple beauty while you're coming across a meadow full of wildflowers. It's more subtle. Subtle beauty."

     Heather's next stop on her adventure is Ithaca and she hopes to finish the entire trek by August. She plans to write a book on her findings after her research is completed, but in the meantime, she manages to blog while she travels from town-to-town. You can follow her adventures and learn about plants in this region through her blog-site: