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It’s winter – time to plan for some fun in the snow. If you live in or near Monroe, Wayne or Ontario Counties, there are trails nearby that provide opportunities for a quick evening moonlit ski or a longer weekend outing. Here are 10 of my favoritesSnow Trails.

Monroe County
1. Mendon Ponds Park in Mendon has 20 miles of groomed trails for all levels of ability. The trails wind among the eskers, kames and kettle ponds of this glacially sculpted landscape. It’s a popular winter playground for avid skiers.
2. Powder Mills Park in Pittsford is another hilly park with 8 miles of marked, groomed trails.
3. For less hilly terrain, try Webster Park along the shore of Lake Ontario. It is the beneficiary of lake effect snows. Escape into the wilderness in the middle of suburbia on a myriad of loop trails.
4. Genesee Country Nature Center in Mumford is great for families. There’s a small entrance fee, but you’ll find 4.5 miles of easy, groomed trails, a warming hut, and restrooms. Plus you can rent skis or snowshoes on site.

Ontario County
5. Canadice Lake Trail parallels the west shore of Canadice Lake with gorgeous views for an easy 7.4 mile round trip. For more of a challenge, try the side loop trails up the steep hillside.
6. Cumming Nature Center is a week-end family favorite with amenities and equipment rentals. It offers 15 miles of groomed trails. There is a small entrance fee.
7. Skiers’ Mecca is Harriet Hollister State Memorial Recreation Area south of Honeoye Lake. This park sits at high elevation and promises snow cover when the rest of the area is barren. The 20 miles of trails are groomed by volunteers from the N.Y.S. Section V Ski League and are used for ski races. The trails wind through pristine woods and one trail offers a panoramic view north over Honeoye Lake.

Wayne County
8. Casey Park in Ontario offers a 1.8-mile round trip on a flat trail along the shore of a lake that formed in an old iron ore quarry. The more adventurous can continue around the lake on the hilly, narrow north shore trail with gorgeous views down to the lake.
9. Blue Cut Nature Center sits between Newark and Lyons. Here you’ll find 2 miles of easy trails through the woods and along a marshland. The trails are free, but don’t expect amenities.

When you head out to ski, it’s helpful to have a guide specific to winter such as the local guidebook “Snow Trails.” The guide describes which parking areas are plowed in winter, which roads remain unplowed and become part of the ski trail network. You’ll also learn how each trail is rated in terms of beginner, intermediate and expert runs, and which trails are too narrow and steep and are best left for adventurers on snowshoes.

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Winter is the reason many hiking clubs avoid using white blazes as trail markings.

Bob, the Natureguy, described how the Conservation Trail, a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT), became blazed orange:
“The group was hiking the Finger Lakes Trail in Allegany State Park. These were old timers in the Finger Lakes Trail organization. It was a nice fall day. A freak snowstorm hit while they were on the trail. It took them hours to get back since the early wet snow stuck to the trees and obscured the white blazes. They had to brush every tree to look for blazes and find their way back. They vowed the new trail would not have that problem and chose orange for the Conservation Trail blazes.”

He went on to explain, “It would be a momentous task to change the blazing of the FLT. It would be very expensive and take many dollars and many years. Not just the marks, but all the printed literature and reference material would have to be changed. And there is logic to the color schemes when there are trail junctions. Over almost a 1/2 century those color schemes have been worked out so there are no conflicts. All trails that intersect with the FLT could be affected. It is not just one trail. The FLT is a primary trail that a multitude of trails across the state radiate from or intersect. So, unfortunately, the color is what is, for bad or good and do not expect it to change.”

It is easy to loose the white blazes in a white-out of snow, so be extra careful when hiking or snowshoeing white-blazed trails such as the Finger Lakes Trail. Always take some extra warm/dry layers with you and some snacks and water in case your outing gets extended due to a change in conditions.

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So, if you went slogging up streams with a copy of “200 Waterfalls”in your hand, purely in the pursuit of

200 Waterfalls in Central & Western NY

waterfalls, you missed the boat. While you enjoyed the fresh coolness of that country stream and basked in the splatter of a glorious waterfall, you should have had your eyes pealed to the stream in pursuit of gold – really!

There’s even a web site on NY State Gold and, of course, a gold prospecting association.

How to Pan for Gold in NY State

No Gold in NY! Who Says!

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In the Land of Oz you have to watch out for lions, tigers, bears and even wicked witches. In the Adirondack Park it’s only bears we have to contend with. Oh lucky us.

Let me start at the beginning. Early one Friday morning 2 carloads of us (8 people) from Victor Hiking Trails headed up to the Adirondacks to climb Mt. Marcy (the highest mountain in NY State). We fully expected to get pummeled by a hurricane the first day, as Isabel made her way inland from the North Carolina coast. As we drove, we passed through some rain and several bouts of fast winds. But once on the trail we had a dry hike into our camping spot. Jane Luce and Marsha Bryant were staying in John’s Brook Lodge, a bunk cabin. The remaining six were going to set up camp in a lean-to by John’s Brook (a rarity to find it empty on a weekend – thank you hurricane). But, a ranger came along & told us that a mother bear had trained her two cubs to climb trees, shimmy out on small branches and get food bags. The shelters were on their nightly rounds. So we bagged the shelter idea & headed up a side trail then up a steep hill to a plateau well off the beaten path (to Larry Fisher’s secret spot) and set up camp with the hope that we wouldn’t be on the bear’s nightly rounds.

We did a very good job of selecting a tree with a high-outstretched branch & Dave Coleman managed to get our rope over it with a rock tied to the end. The preliminary attempts provided the rest of us with our nightly entertainment. Then we hoisted all our food, far above the forest floor. After dark we went to bed. Periodically big swirls of wind would blow through and it rained all night. Around 10 PM we heard strange honking sounds and snorts which sat me upright in the tent. It was momma bear giving instructions to her brood.

In the morning Dave Wright walked toward our hoisted food bag & brought back some remnants. The bears had totally ripped & ransacked all our food. Larry Fisher had kept his food in his tent so he was heating water & making us all some coffee/chocolate/whatever he had. Everyone was getting up & standing around taking about how we’d have to hike out & cancel our mountain climb now that we were foodless. I decided to go pick up the litter so I walked over to the scattered garbage area & began picking up scraps. All of a sudden I heard 2 snorts, the second closer than the first, and the sound of pounding feet. I ran like the blazes & crashed through the woods back to the group. They laughed at me and said, “wow, we didn’t think you could run that fast.” I never saw momma bear but the sounds were unmistakable. We scanned the treetops & found a black fur ball high in a tree just above where I was picking up littler. One of the cubs was still in the tree & momma was protecting it. We had a standoff. We couldn’t pick up the trash while the cub was there & the cub wouldn’t come down while we were there.

Dave Wright and Larry Fisher headed to the bunk house to tell Jane and Marsha our hike was cancelled & the rest of us began packing up with the intent of vacating the area for a while then circling back to see if the cub was gone. But while we packed, the cub straddled the tree and climbed down & off they went. Dave and Larry returned with the report that our hike was on. With the food of the three people (Jane, Marsha and Larry) plus donations of food from other bunk house people who were heading out, we had enough to do some communal meals. We cleaned up the litter & took 2 garbage bags full to the bunkhouse for daytime storage & hiked up Mt. Marcy.

It was fun having communal meals. Dave Wright made up a “menu” based on our inventory of food so for each break and meal we doled out equal portions of whatever was on the menu. Such as a ¼ apple to each, plus a granola bar. After dinner back at our tents, we had eaten all of the food. So we set the garbage in a pile where the bear had left it the previous night and went to sleep. The bears came back & rummaged through it again, licking it clean.

The next morning we picked up garbage again and hiked out to a restaurant for breakfast. I can report that bears do not like carrots, dried green beans, toothpaste or ibuprofen. They very much like apples, cream cheese, bagels, peanut M&M’s, cereal and most everything else.

Oh, by the way, it was a gorgeous 2 days of hiking with great views from the mountain top.

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by Susan Peterson Gately

Along Upstate New York’s Seaway Trail between Rochester and Oswego there exists an unusual landform found in only a few locations in North America. Known by geologists as a drumlin field, hundreds of elongate north south oriented hills shape the countryside. Near Fair Haven a number of these drumlins come to an abrupt end by the lake in a series of highly eroded steep bluffs. The best known of these cliffs of clay is Chimney Bluffs east of Sodus Bay, now a State Park. Its outstanding feature is a series of knife-edged ridges, spires and chimneys whose improbable shape attests to the durability of mere sun-dried clay. (A trail map and details are available in “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region”) However, several other bluffs with public access and hiking trails also show lesser, but still spectacular sculpting. Sitts and Scotts Bluffs east of Fair Haven and Port Bays respectively, present scenery nearly as interesting as the more often visited Chimney Bluffs. Another interesting badlands site is the located along the shore of the Sterling Nature Center just east of Fair Haven.

A visit to one of these sites will probably turn up something of interest at anytime of year though spring and fall are ideal times for hiking. Bugs are few, temperatures ideal for mild exertions, and you are likely to have miles of empty beach to yourself at any of these sites. These cliffs of clay are one of the most dynamic and changeable landforms in central New York. Signs of the clash between lake and clay are obvious and sometimes dramatic. Yet the bluffs are also surprisingly tough and tenacious. Their resistance to erosion results in vertical slopes and strange shapes.

As you walk along the foot of these clay cliffs, they loom above, austere and seemingly lifeless. Erosion proceeds rapidly, with up to three feet a year of land being carried away by water and wind. Outwashes of silt and clay form like miniature deltas at the foot of each gully carved by runoff. Sometimes a cliff is laced with dozens of shallow channels or rills, running down its face. Other times, several tons of clay has simply slumped off the main face in a big chunk, or you may see peculiar “caves” 4 or 5 feet deep formed by undercutting at the bluff’s foot. Dead trees slide inexorably down the face to become driftwood on the beach below, and in early spring you may note a darker horizontal streak running along the cliff face showing the presence of ground water. Often you’ll encounter a sizable rock, freshly dislodged from the clay that has then tumbled down onto the beach. Unlike the smooth water rounded beach stones, a rock that has recently washed out of the bluff still shows angles and corners. Sometimes you can even see scratches on its surface left by the passage of grit laden glacial ice over it 6,000 years ago. Though they look different with their water-rounded finish; the beach stones are identical to those from the bluff since the cliffs are the source of the beach. As you search for that ideal flat skipping stone, each rock tells its own story.

The beach tells a story too, one of storms and pounding waves cutting, shifting, sorting, and ceaselessly transporting sand, clay and rock. Waves carve away at the beach when they fall as breakers upon it. They also move the stones, flinging them forward and upward, then in subsequent storms with different water levels, moving them back out into the lake again. After a season of storms the beach shows a series of ridged berms, each one representing a past storm. The berms contain cobbles or small pebbles thrown up by the waves. The winter berm, formed by the season’s biggest waves, is often the steepest and made up of the largest stones. The sorting of stones by size is very pronounced, and you may sometimes see several parallel berms of similar sized cobbles running along the beach. (These cobbles were used pre-Civil War as a building material. For details, see “Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings.”)

The contrast in geological time scales seen along the lake shore is also striking. The clay cliffs are the insides of drumlins, piles of glacial till dating back a few thousand years to the last ice age. Inside the drumlin are rocks representing tens or hundreds of millions of years of earth history? And the beach underfoot and the gullies, rills, slumps, and slides of the bluff represent hours, days or weeks worth of erosion and form one of the most ephemeral of all local landscapes.

There are a half dozen places between Oswego and Sodus Bay off the Seaway Trail with access and hiking on and by the beach. Lofty Scotts Bluff north of Wolcott at the end of a gravel drive that runs off Broadway Road features an impressive column of clay projecting twenty feet or more from its surrounding face. You’ll also get a superb vista of the lake’s shoreline curving away to the west on a clear day. A set of steps leads down to a long stretch of state owned beach backed by the Red Creek marsh area, offering excellent beach combing and bird watching opportunities. Chimney Bluffs, a State Park just east of Sodus Bay off Lake Bluff Road is certainly the best known cliff along this stretch of shoreline. And with reason. Its spectacular spires and ridges reach 150 foot above the lake. It, too, offers a number of hiking trails to explore beach and bluff.

A smaller state-owned bluff lies at the end of Dutch Street running north off Lummisville Road just west of Wolcott. Here several hiking trails meander through the woods or follow Beaver Creek just east of the bluff though hemlock groves. Though not as lofty as Scotts or Chimney Bluffs, this bluff still offers an attractive overlook of the lake.

Fair Haven State Park offers a view of privately owned Sitts Bluff just east of it, while a few miles further east, less spectacular, but more accessible McIntyre Bluff lies within the bounds of the Sterling Nature Center. The Nature Center is well worth a day’s visit as its volunteers have laid out over 15 miles worth of trails (find a map in “Snow Trails – Cross-country Ski in Central & Western New York” and in “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region”) through the varied terrain of 1,400 acres. The Nature Center also boasts nearly two miles of Lake Ontario beach to explore and hosts a series of programs throughout the summer and fall at its lakeside year-round headquarters facility. It is a comparatively new tourist attraction, having opened just a few seasons ago, but the volunteers and staff have done a splendid job trail building. Recently the Nature Center also built a launch site on Sterling Creek for canoes and car toppers. You can put in here and then float down the east branch to Lake Ontario (find a map in “Take a Paddle – Finger Lakes Quiet Water for Canoes and Kayaks”).

The Fair Haven area boasts a half dozen private camp grounds as well as RV camping at the state park. Grants Vacation Park in Fair Haven absorbs some overflow from the nearby park and Holiday Harbor on Blind Sodus Bay offers waterfront views and access. Another waterfront RV park option is Shon’s Boat Basin 1-(800) 524-9878, also offering waterfront cottages. This is also the home port of Silver Waters Sailing. We offer day trips on the lake that provide views of the shoreline cliffs east of Fair Haven aboard our 32-foot sloop. Call (315) 594-1906 for Silverwaters Sailing.

Editors note: Susan Peterson Gately is the author of “The Edge Walker’s Guide To Lake Ontario Beach Combing” and several other books as well as a newsletter called the Lake Ontario Log. Find out more about both at her web site www.silverwaters.com.

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Rich and I headed out one summer morning for what we expected to be a short paddle – maybe two hours worth – nothing more. Everything we read about paddling Black Creek near where it merges into the Genesee River, said that we wouldn’t get far upstream before encountering logjams and blown down tree obstructions. So we didn’t expect much. Still, we were looking forward to a morning of paddling without having to drive far.

We heaved the kayaks to the top of the van, loaded in our PFDs, paddles, spray skirts, water bottles and emergency supplies, and headed to the launch point off Balantyne Road in Chili. We didn’t take lunch with us since we figured we’d be home in time to eat.

Launching into Black Creek was easy. DEC’s Black Creek Fishing Access Site offered a big parking area and a nice ramp for sliding our kayaks into the water. Being summer, the current was slight and we easily paddled upstream. Keeping a leisurely pace, we rounded the many small islands and explored the side channels where blankets of duckweed covered the surface of the water. Our only challenge came when we approached the arched stone tunnel that carries the Genesee Valley Greenway trail over the creek. I could sit upright and paddle slowly through the tunnel. Rich, being taller, had to duck his head.

Jets rumbled overhead a few times, on their approach to the Rochester airport. Continuing upstream, we paddled under a high cement bridge that carries an active railway over the creek. Gradually we followed the winding channel upstream, passing splotches of red cardinal flower alternated with bands of yellow flowers. The wide, deep, sun-drenched channel morphed into a narrow ribbon meandering through shaded woods. The noises of suburbia disappeared; replaced by the gurgle of water, chatter of birds, and wind rustling through the tree leaves. Red tendrils reached out from the mud banks – tree roots exposed and washed bare.

A rumbling sound began emanating from my belly. I glanced at my watch to find we’d been paddling for two hours and had yet to reach any logjams or other obstructions. My stomach knew it was lunchtime and my arm muscles sang out for a rest. Fortunately, we had some dried fruit in the emergency supplies. So, we tied up the kayaks to trees along shore and sat in the peaceful forest to enjoy our fruit and water.

Take A Paddle – Western NY

We never did find any blockages. Come to find out, workers from the Town of Chili had wielded their chainsaws and cleared the waterway the previous year. Eventually we ran out of water. Somewhere west of Archer Road the paddling became more difficult and at times we had to get out and drag the kayaks. So we turned around and headed back downstream. The day didn’t turn out as we expected – it was longer and much nicer than expected.

(Black Creek and many other waterways to paddle can be found in “Take A Paddle – Western New York Quiet Water for Canoes & Kayaks.”)

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Take A Hike – Rochester (NEW) 3rd edition

It was a beautiful, blue sky, fall day. And, as luck would have it, the Crescent Trail Association was leading a hike. Rich and I wandered through the woods on the trail with 20 others in search of fall’s beauty.

The club was offering a shuttle back to our car, but we wanted to walk, so we headed back down the trail. This time we walked in silence, just the two of us. The temperature had dropped and big snowflakes began to fall. It fell in blankets that stuck to our hair and soaked into our clothing.

Rich and I made mistakes that many people make when heading out for a hike. We didn’t prepare for a change in weather. We were wearing blue jeans and we didn’t have gloves or hats. We had gone on a guided hike and didn’t have a map or compass with us. In fact, we had nothing with us.

We plodded through the deepening snow. The trail and the blazes became hard to see. Then it happened. We passed a landmark along the trail for the second time! We had gone in a circle and didn’t even realize it. We’d read about people getting lost and going in circles. But we were two intelligent human beings. How could it happen to us?

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes

So, we were lost and getting progressively wetter and colder. We knew major roads formed boundaries for the land we were on. We guessed at the direction and headed to the road noise. When we reached the road we discovered we were back at the farthest road, not the road with our car. Without a compass we had guessed wrong. We had embarrassed ourselves enough for one day, so we decided to follow the roads and walk about 3 miles back to our car in the dark, arriving exhausted, cold, and soaked to the skin.

In hindsight, we were fortunate. We knew the roads surrounding the woods and the area was small. Making a similar mistake in unknown territory farther from roads could have been fatal. And we learned a valuable lesson. We now go out prepared, even if it’s a short, guided hike. We put together a survival kit in a zip lock bag that is kept in our daypack and taken on every hike. We make sure we always have a map of the trails with us, and we each carry a bottle of water. We no longer wear cotton (except on short summer hikes) and we put clothes in our daypack for one level of wet or cold below what it is when we head out.

We’ve fine-tuned our route finding abilities over the years as we’ve explored the hundreds of trails throughout Western and Central New York. I can happily report that in the ten years since this incident we haven’t been lost once.

Survival Kit
compass
pocket knife with scissors
small flashlight
waterproof matches
small emergency space blanket
iodine tablets (to purify water)
small roll of toilet paper
sun screen
lip balm
band aids
mole skin
bug repellant
bandana

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