by Robin Cuneo, Go Erie, link to original post
Two of the region’s best-kept secrets are reaching their zenith of fall gorgeousness.
One is in Erie County, and the other is just over the New York state line in Chautauqua County. Both are absolutely worth a drive, followed by a hike. Or a bike ride. Or a cross-country ski ride. Or a horseback ride. But no motorized rides are allowed on either one.
Happily, our area is rich in stunning places to walk, but these are two of my favorites, both for their beauty and because my titanium-enhanced spine likes level ground. Surprisingly, I rarely see very many people there. Both are treasures in plain sight, so consider this your official invite to share the wealth.
Howard Eaton Reservoir, also known as Bull Dam, is part of the drinking-water supply for North East Borough. The borough does a fabulous job of maintaining it. Launch areas at both ends allow people-powered and electric motor boats, but not gas-powered boats. As a bonus, the Fish and Boat Commission makes sure there are fish to catch.
But the real attraction for me and the Cuneo pack of dogs is the wide, meandering 3-mile trail around it that offers forest and field atmospheres, plus rustic benches and picnic tables. My late beloved horse, Knute, and I used to mosey around it, and our dogs adore running around it. I still mosey.
We even found one of our dogs there. Husky-mix Rain was a snarling, burr-covered bag of bones when late golden retrievers Brutus and Ginger rescued him on their 10th birthday hike, and invited him home for birthday cake.
Many years later, Rain is still with us, and the next generation of the pack adores the place, too.
More information, including directions, is available at: www.rtpi.org/howard-Eaton-reservoir.html.
In Chautauqua County, the eight different trails of the Chautauqua Rails to Trails are spectacular examples of the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that preserves old rail beds for recreation.
The dogs and I are most familiar with the 7-mile Ralph C. Sheldon Jr. Trail that begins just outside Sherman, N.Y.
We drive to Sherman from Findley Lake to dump our garbage at the transfer station and make regular trips to the feed mill. Whenever there’s room, golden Manny and English springer Millie ride along for a romp on the trail.
The ponds, wetlands, forests and meadows are utterly stunning. And there is something just so enchanting knowing you’re seeing an area visible no other way. Train passengers and rail workers likely relished the view in a departed age, but the only way to enjoy it now is on the trail.
If you can walk far enough — I can’t — you’ll find Summerdale. Once a little railroad service stop, it’s now a ghost town of leafy, weedy foundation holes. Tons of bird species frequent this trail, so you may want to carry binoculars.
The dogs and I have sought out some of the other trails, too, and if the weather improves, we plan to hike the rest. More information on all the trails is available at: www.chaurtt.org. Brochures are also available.
You’ll be glad you visited.