Category Archives: Family Fun

Letchworth State Park Snowmobile Trails

Snowmobile trails at Letchworth State Park offer more than 25 miles of trail passing through some of the most beautiful scenery in Wyoming and Livingston Counties.  The corridor trail (C3) extends through most of the length of this 17-mile-long park.  Entering the park in the North from the Genesee Valley Greenway, the corridor trail follows along the main park road.

Between the Perry and Castile entrances, the trail is the main park road.  This stretch of the corridor gives riders spectacular views of park gorge overlooks not seen by many patrons during the winter months.  On the corridor, south of the Castile entrance, riders can view the iconic Archery Field Overlook of the Genesee River Gorge.  Continuing south, the corridor trail passes by the Humphrey Nature Center and Trailside Lodge where it then traverses the mature oak-hemlock forests of the park.

Parking areas to offload snowmobiles are located at the Highbanks Recreation Area, the Highbanks Campground Parking Lot, and at the Trailside Lodge.  The South Highbanks Shelter and Trailside Lodge are available as winter warming shelters with comfort stations available nearby.

Riding at night requires a Genesee Region night time snowmobile riding permit.  For more information regarding snowmobiling, winter accommodations, trail conditions, and permits online or call the Letchworth State Park Visitor Center at (585) 493-3600.

State Parks reminds all snowmobilers that their machines must be registered and insured to enjoy the trails in Letchworth State Park and the over 10,000 miles of additional trails throughout the state. The bulk of the registration fees is directed to the many volunteer-run snowmobile clubs across the state for trail development and maintenance. For information on joining a snowmobile club, visit New York State Snowmobile Association.

To help ensure a safe and enjoyable season, OPRHP offers the following tips:

– Young riders are required to attend a snowmobile safety course, but all riders can benefit from safety education. State Parks maintains a list of snowmobiling safety classes, check for course availability and age requirements.

– Use caution while traveling across frozen waterways. Check local ice conditions (ice should be at least 5” thick,) carry or wear a flotation device and self-rescue picks, limit travel at night, and “if you don’t know, don’t go.”

– Use the buddy system, leave a travel plan, and emergency contact information with someone at home.

– Wear proper clothing and remember that helmet use is required whenever operating a snowmobile. Using of a rigid chest and back protector is also recommended.

 

Grafton Lakes State Park is another great place to go snowmobiling. Grafton Trail Blazers will be offering free snowmobile rides during WinterFest, January 27, 2018.

Post by Bennett Campbell and Doug Kelly, State Parks

First Day Hike 2018

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Join the “Military Musicology, Walking Tour of Old Fort Ontario”

What better way to kick off 2018 than to join family and friends in the outdoors on New Year’s Day for a First Day Hike. On January 1, New York State Parks and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be hosting a set of guided hikes as part of a nationwide effort to encourage people to get outdoors. Now in its 7th year, New York’s First Day Hike (FDH) program will offer 75 hikes across every region at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas and trails.

Each year, this enjoyable holiday tradition draws more and more visitors with multiple hiking options from Western New York to the tip of Long Island.  Additionally, since some FDH events are held in the afternoon, there’s no need to get up early for those who like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with gusto!

Hikes are being offered at 59 state parks and historic sites, with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill level and destinations within the park; and at 14 DEC wildlife areas, trails and environmental educations centers.  Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles in length, depending on location and weather conditions.

“First Day Hikes have become a popular outdoor tradition for families and friends; a healthy way to kick off the New Year amidst the stunning beauty of our state’s most scenic natural backdrops,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “This year’s program includes an expanded variety of winter walks and hikes and is the perfect reminder that New York’s parks are open year-round, offering world-class recreation and enjoyment for people with varying interests and abilities.”

Some host locations welcome dogs on leashes and several have flat, even surfaces for strollers.  Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted.  A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, a walking history tour, a snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, military musicology, canal towpath walk, and more.  New entries for 2018 include a bird survey, full-moon hike, mountain trails, views from a fire tower, and a walk through a maritime forest.

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Letchworth State Park will offer four different hikes from Letchworth CSI – Who Done It: Journey for young children to a fast-paced hike to the Great Bend Gorge.

The First Day Hikes program originated in neighboring state Massachusetts in 1992 for their state parklands. Since 2012, the program has been held in all 50 states and branded as America’s State Parks First Day Hikes. January 2018 marks the year that First Day Hikes will become an international movement with Ontario Parks in Canada offering these family favorites as well.

If conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with equipment for rent if available or participants can bring their own.  Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways.  A map and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain, registration requirements and additional information are listed at parks.ny.gov.

Last year’s event featured nearly 4,000 participants, who hiked a total of 7,900 miles amidst New York’s winter beauty. So, start your own tradition, grab some sturdy footwear and a warm jacket, and join in the fun!

“Bate” and Switch

Happy Halloween! Children all over are dressing up in their costumes to head out trick-or-treating. But these children, disguised as spooky vampires or Wonder Woman, aren’t the only ones with a few tricks up their sleeve. Animals can use disguises too! Some animals have actually developed physical or behavioral characteristics that copy other species or objects, a strategy called mimicry. Using appearances, sounds, smells, or behaviors, mimicry provides an animal with some advantage, usually protection from predators. But unlike kids throwing on a costume for a day, the mimic’s display isn’t a conscious choice by the animal; rather it is the product of millions of years of natural selection. Because the mimicry helps the animal survive in some way, those characteristics are more likely to be passed on to the next generation.

There are many types of mimicry. Batesian mimicry, named after the English naturalist Henry Walter Bates, is one of the most common forms and occurs when a tasty or vulnerable creature mimics an unsavory or dangerous creature. Below are several examples of Batesian mimicry that can be found right in your backyard!

Hoverflies are excellent mimics, warding off predators with their coloration. These small flies are harmless, but with their black and yellow stripes they look like stinging bees and wasps. They can often be seen hovering at flowers, feeding on nectar and pollen. Can you tell which two photos are of hoverflies and which two are not?

Here’s another example of mimicry through colors and patterns. “Eyespots” may mimic the eyes of a larger animal and serve to scare away potential predators, especially young birds. Eyespots can frequently be found on the wings of butterflies and moths, as well as on caterpillars.

These two species of caterpillars have clear eyespots near the front of their bodies. These body markings could help the caterpillar mimic the look of a snake or other more threatening predator. The actual eyes are located on the head, which is the smaller bump at the base of the large pseudo-head.

Another deception – the eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar mimics the appearance of bird poop in its early stages, which reduces the likelihood of getting eaten by birds or other insects.

A second type of mimicry is called Müllerian mimicry, named after the German naturalist Fritz Müller, in which several species that are equally harmful or unsavory have evolved with shared characteristics. Predators quickly learn to avoid that characteristic, which then benefits all the mimicking species. One example of this is the monarch and viceroy butterfly. Scientists have determined that birds tend to dislike the taste of both butterflies. By sharing a similar color and pattern, these butterflies are advertising that they are not tasty and birds are more likely to avoid both species.

Viceroys and monarchs can be difficult to tell apart. If you look at the lower wing of the butterfly, viceroys have a bold black line that monarchs do not have. Also, viceroys are usually smaller than monarchs.

Mimicry is not only used by animals, but plants and fungi use it as a survival strategy too. There are orchids that have evolved to resemble female insects, so that male insects will be attracted to the fake mate and will collect and/or deposit pollen when they land on the flower. There are fungi that mimic the smell of rotting meat to attract insects, which then help spread the fungi’s spores. There are plants that very precisely mimic the chemical signals released by insects during mating season, which attracts more potential pollinators to the plant.

Mimicry plays a very important role in the survival of many species. It is a complex system involving plants and animals, predators and prey alike, each trying to deceive for safety, food, or propagation. So this Halloween, when kids are in full disguise, think about all the plants and animals that have precisely developed costumes too. If some prey can’t come up with a good trick, the predator may be in for a treat!

Pug Costume - Public Domain
Similar to the hoverfly, domestic dogs have sometimes been known to mimic bees, though with much less success – Happy Halloween! Image – Public Domain

Post by Kelsey Ruffino, Student Conservation Association and State Parks

Featured image: praying mantis by Lilly Schelling, State Parks

Adventure Awaits At Allegany

What’s your idea of adventure? Is it something exotic like scuba diving, mountain climbing or bungee jumping? Perhaps something quieter, such as camping under the stars or exploring a stream in search for brook trout? Adventures can be big or small, but they all push us out of our comfort zones as we learn about new activities and exciting areas of our world.

Allegany State Park, known as the “Wilderness Playground of Western New York” is one such place where adventure abounds. With 65,000 acres of pristine forests, miles of trails, serene lakes and natural beauty everywhere, it’s hard not to find an activity to enjoy.

The Outdoor Adventure Series hosted by the Environmental Education and Recreation Department offers informative, hands-on, free clinics for all those want to be adventurous souls. Each program is led by an outdoor enthusiast who shares their knowledge and passion of their favorite activity. They bring their gear, suggest what you may need to get started and then let you try your hand at fly fishing, paddle boarding or geocaching.

Allegany State Park hosts several unique events throughout the year, such as Geobash, one of the biggest geocaching events around;  Raccoon Rally, a bike festival featuring both  road and mountain bike races  and the Art Roscoe Loppet cross country ski race. The Adventure series promotes these events by hosting a program about the sport or activity in the same month as the event to give people the chance to try a new sport or volunteer at the event. Remember it’s about getting people out, trying something new.

Maybe you’d like to have an adventure without many people around. Quiet water activities such as kayaking, fly fishing and paddle boarding are things anyone can do at any age.  Local shops such as Sportsman Outlet in Bradford, PA provide kayaks to try. Not only will they help you decide what kind of kayak you might like, they also advise you what gear you should take with you to be safe on the water, such as a life vest.  Adventure Bound on the Fly in Ellicottville, NY, introduces one of the newest sports – paddle boarding, and one of the most graceful – fly fishing to young and old giving all a chance to paddle on Quaker Lake or cast with finesse.

If it’s the woods that calls your name, programs such as mountain biking, cross country skiing, backpacking or camping might be more to your taste. Just Riding Along out of Bradford, PA, offers all kinds of mountain bikes – fat bikes, fast bikes and bikes with all the bells and whistles.  Find dirt on the Art Roscoe trails which become tracked cross country ski trails when the snow flies in December. The Allegany Nordic Patrol not only keeps skiers safe during the winter, but they help educate winter enthusiasts about the joys of gliding and sliding on skis through a winter wonderland of snow cover trees.

Camping has always been a favorite activity since the park was first founded in 1921. The first adventurous souls camped in old WWI tents on platforms. Today the education staff pulls out tents, hammocks, and backpacks of all shapes and sizes for even the youngest of explorers to get out in the woods. Staff also answers questions such as what to take, how to pack, and what to do if you see a bear – all important things to know when going out in the woods of Allegany.

The Outdoor Adventure Series covers a wide range of interesting activities for every season, from photographing fall colors, to snowshoeing under a full moon, to fishing for native trout, and paddling on a warm summer night watching the sun set across a lake.

No matter what you try, I agree with Amelia Earhart: “Adventure is worthwhile in itself”.

Be sure to check out the last two programs this year:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 – 5:00- 7:00 – Summit Warming Hut – Night Hike- What’s in your Pack? Night hike on Bear Paw trail following a short program on the 10 essentials we should carry in our packs. Bring a flashlight or head lamp.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 -5:00- 6:30 – Summit Warming Hut – Prepare for Cross Country Ski Season – Allegany Nordic will discuss everything you need to know about cross country skiing, from equipment selection to proper clothing.

These programs are open to the public and weather dependent. For more information, visit the Allegany State Park Facebook page or contact the Environmental Education Department at 716-354- 9101 ext. 236.

Post by Adele Wellman, State Parks

Fall in Love with Autumn Camping

If you think camping in a state park campground is enjoyable in the summer, wait until you experience an overnight getaway in September or early October, when New York’s outdoors is awash in enough colors and sounds of the season to overwhelm the senses.

The autumn mist rising from the water’s surface on a brisk morning, paddling along a tree-lined shore edged in spectacular reds, oranges and golds, the crunch of leaves underfoot on a hike, the aroma of coffee over a crackling fire — these are just a few of the experiences awaiting those campers who prefer to camp once the crowds thin, schools are back in session, and Labor Day is in the rearview mirror.

Benefits to fall camping include fewer neighbors, fewer bugs, and a greater selection of sites from the peak summer season.  With the right clothes and gear, the slightly cooler temperatures make fall camping more comfortable than in the commonly muggy dog days of summer.

Plan to extend a leaf-peeping day trip and sleep under the autumn stars. You can book ahead to reserve a spot or opt for a spontaneous adventure and just grab your gear and go. Many state park campgrounds throughout New York are still open with availability for tent and trailer sites, yurts, cabins, and cottages.

Here are just a few of our fall favorites:

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Listen to the rustling leaves while you camp at Allegany State Park, photo by State Parks.

At 65,000 acres, Allegany State Park is the perfect setting for embracing nature’s colorful palette in the fall months.  Lakes, ponds, and miles of trails, beckon outdoor lovers for hiking, biking, nature walks, fishing, paddling, and more.  Choose from tent and trailer sites, cabins, and cottages.

The Middle Falls At Letchworth State Park
Ballooning at Letchworth State Park, photo by Jim Vallee.

In the Genesee Valley, the sweeping views at Letchworth State Park are jaw-dropping in every season, but add vibrant foliage to the mix and prepare to be amazed by the sheer grandeur.  For campers, the park offers tent and trailer sites and cabins.  Visit the new Humphrey Nature Center or explore the gorge trail on your own — views from Inspiration Point and Middle Falls are a must-see.

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Enjoy the waterfalls at Taughannock Falls State Park, photo by State Parks.

The Finger Lakes gorge parks also provide a stunning backdrop for camping this time of year.  Take a break from campfire cooking and enjoy the bounty of farm-to-table restaurants or the premier wineries in the area. Home to 19 waterfalls, Watkins Glen State Park on Seneca Lake welcomes campers to an array of wooded campsites (many with electric hookups) and rustic cabins.  Walk along the winding paths of the gorge or take a bike ride on the nearby Catharine Valley TrailTaughannock Falls State Park on Cayuga Lake leaves visitors spellbound with its namesake waterfall and rocky cliffs that perch high above the gorge.

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Fall camping with a furry friend at Green Lakes State Park, photo by State Parks.

The only thing more colorful than the fall foliage at Green Lakes State Park is the actual Caribbean-like hues of the glacial lakes themselves.  With campsites nearby including many full-service sites and renovated cabins, campers also have easy access to the park’s 20 miles of hiking trails and championship golf course.

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If you camp at Moreau Lake State Park, take a hike around the lake, photo by State Parks.

Moreau Lake State Park is situated in the foothills of the Adirondacks with tent and trailer sites, cabins and cottages. Hike or bike on the 27 miles of trails and enjoy paddling and fishing on the scenic waters of the park’s beautiful lake or the Hudson River.  Wildlife viewing is a favorite!

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Autumn campers at Taconic State Park, photo by State Parks

Taconic State Park offers autumn campers incredible sites for tents or trailers, cabins and cottages, and plenty to see and do including biking, hiking, fishing, paddling, and more.  As part of the adventure, be sure to check out the Harlem Valley Trail, the South Taconic Trail, Bash Bish Falls, and the Copake Iron Works Museum.

 

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Fall colors at Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site, photo by State Parks

Tip:  Whether planning a fall camping adventure or taking a leaf-peeping day-trip, a good resource to determine peak color location is the I Love NY Fall Foliage Report issued weekly.