Category Archives: Fun & Games

Hidden Treasures in New York State Parks

No need to chase down the end of a rainbow to find a hidden treasure.  What if I told you that you could find unique knick-knacks, rubberstamps and secret messages in parks near you?  This spring I challenge you to explore participating New York State Parks and Historic Sites and try out these fun treasure-hunting activities!

Geocaching (geo= Earth, caching= hiding/storing) is a great hide-and-seek activity that started in 2000 with the rise of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.  Geocachers use location coordinates and a GPS device such as a smartphone to find a hidden container.

official geocache
A geocache hidden near a tree. Geocaches can vary greatly in size and appearance. Public domain image

Inside each container is a logbook, and if the container is big enough there are trinkets that you can see and swap (See Resources below for details about the different kinds of geocaches).  Occasionally the “hidden treasure” is the scenic location itself.  If searching in a New York State Park, it’s not uncommon for geocaches to be along trails with peaceful waterbodies or iconic views nearby.  Bring a buddy or two to serve as extra eyes, especially since GPS location information can vary by a few meters.

Letterboxing is a much older hobby (at least 150 years old) which involves exchanging unique rubber-stamped images instead of trinkets.  Traditionally you find the hiding places using clues or written directions, but some hybrid letterboxes may have coordinates as well.

CranmerePoolLetterbox
The famous Cranmere Pool letterbox in England, photo by Patrick Gueulle

Each letterbox has a special, often hand-made rubber stamp for you to stamp into a journal like a passport; in return, you use your own personal stamp to “sign” the letterbox logbook.  This outdoor activity began in the mid-1800s, when a trail guide left his business card in a bottle at Cranmere Pool in Dartmoor, England.  Others who hiked through the notoriously rough terrain found the bottle, and they began to place their own business cards inside as a way to say, “I was here.”  This turned into travelers hiding boxes in the woods and meadows for postcards and, eventually, stamps.  If you like clues, art, traveling and walking through beautiful trails, then I recommend giving letterboxing a try.

Who can participate in these local adventures?  Anybody!  Both activities are a great way to find new nature trails, historic sites or hidden treasures near you.  Are you ready to go letterboxing or geocaching in New York State Parks?  Here’s how!

Search for an active geocache/letterbox at a Park near you.

There are different websites and mobile apps to search for letterbox clues and geocache spots (See Resources below).  Use the “Search” features to find stamps or caches nearby, in a place you’d like to visit, or at a State Park that you enjoy.  Letterboxes and geocaches have been found in every region of the state.  Just remember that locations are subject to change, as caches/stamps can go missing or can be retired by their owners.  As a courtesy, people often record their findings online to update the status of a letterbox/geocache.

Pack your supplies

If you are geocaching:

  • The geocache coordinates
  • GPS device or cell phone
  • A pen
  • (optional) A trinket of your own

If you are letterboxing:

  • The letterbox clues/directions
  • A notebook
  • Your own, “signature” rubber stamp
  • (optional) Your own ink-pad, just in-case
  • A pen to sign, date and write any comments about your trip in the letterbox journal or your own. Make sure to sign with your trail name and not your real name!

Prepare for the weather/terrain 

As with any kind of adventure, consider the weather and terrain beforehand.  A few geocaches and letterboxes are indoors, but many others require going out on a trail.  If you are treasure-hunting on a sunny day, wear a hat and bring water.  Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts if going out in colder weather, or in an area that might require you to be walking on a path with lots of brush nearby.  Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes, and keep an eye out for poison ivy, stinging nettles, slippery surfaces, etc.

Learn the rules & be respectful of nature. 

Stay on trails, and do not trample native plants in search of a letterbox or geocache.  If you see any litter while out on a trail, remember, “Cache In, Trash Out.”  This is part of an environmental beautification effort by geocachers worldwide.  When you find what you’re looking for – whether letterbox or geocache – be subtle.  You don’t want to ruin the surprise for others, and you definitely don’t want to draw the attention of folks who might not be letterbox- or cache- friendly.  Put everything back exactly where you found it and as you found it, and remember to record your find (or attempt) online!  See online communities and resources below for other code-of-conduct guidelines.

Have fun!
You may find yourself discovering new places you never knew existed in your own neighborhood, or trails you wouldn’t have otherwise visited. You can log your experiences at one of the many hobby websites.

letterboxing stamp (photo by Erin Lennon)
Stamp, inkpad, and notebook by a river, photo by Erin Lennon, State Parks

Resources and Relevant Links:

For geocache locations & rules: www.geocaching.com, www.earthcache.org, http://www.cachegeek.com/cache-listing-sites.html, and see various mobile apps (search “geocaching” in the app store for your smartphone).  For some services, you may need to create an account.  As a note, State Parks is not affiliated with any geocaching or letterboxing organizations.  And always check with landowners and local rules before creating new caches or routes.

For letterbox locations & rules: http://www.atlasquest.com/, http://www.letterboxing.org/

Policy for placing geocaches/letterboxes in NY State Parks: State Parks Geocache Guidance.

Keep in mind that cache/box locations and maintenance statuses are subject to change.  Here are a few State Parks and Historic Sites to begin your search for geocaches or letterboxes:

Geocache

Post by Erin Lennon, State Parks

 

Celebrate Your Freedom In a State Park!

Fourth of July weekend is a great weekend to spend in a State Park or Historic Site.  You can build sand castles at Hither Hills State Park to camp on the banks of Lake Erie at Evangola State Park, fish in the St. Lawrence River at Wellesley Island State Park, listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, take a hike, enjoy the forest and more.  Find out all that State Parks has to offer this weekend at nysparks.com.

Thacher Indian Laddler Trail near Falls
Take a hike on the Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher State Park, Photo by OPRHP
Stony Point-3002
Hear the cannons firing at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, photo by OPRHP
Spider Fishing
Try your hand at fishing at Wellesley Island State Park, photo by OPRHP
schuyler
Play one of George Washington’s favorite games at Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, photo by Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site
Lorenzo
Tour the gardens at Lorenzo State Historic House, photo by OPRHP
John Jay kids in pen with Rabbits and Chickens
Check out the Farm Market at John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, photo by OPRHP
Gorge
Enjoy a cool gorge in the Finger Lakes Parks or at Whetstone Gulf State Park – photo by OPRHP
John Williams
Build a sand castle at Hither Hills State Park, photo by John Williams, OPRHP
Glimmerglass State Park summer 2008
Picnic by the lake, Glimmerglass State Park, photo by OPRHP
Boy Salamander
Get to know the residents, salamander program at Allegany State Park, photo by Tom LeBlanc OPRHP
Rockland Lake Golf DSC_9783
Try your hand at golfing at Rockland Lake State Park, photo by OPRHP
Grafton Bike event_2267 copy
Go biking at Grafton Lakes State Park, photo by OPRHP
Cherry Plain Camping_AAT0238 web
Camp at Cherry Plain State Park, photo by OPRHP
Finger Lakes Boating
Go boating in the Finger Lakes, Allan H. Treman State Park, photo by OPRHP
Trees
Marvel at old-growth trees in Allegany State Park along the Conservation or Eastwood Meadows Trails – photo of old-growth ash tree in Allegany State Park by J Lundgren, NYNHP
Fireworks_PRT0033
See the fireworks at many parks across the state, photo by OPRHP
Sunset, Golden Hill
Or enjoy a quiet evening sunset, Golden Hill State Park, photo by OPRHP

Happy Second Birthday Nature Times!

 

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In this second year of Nature Times we have gotten to know snapping turtles, carnivorous plants, black squirrels, and Sammi, Trailside Museums’ 36 year old bald eagle.  We’ve learned how trails are mapped, how a flock of sheep and goats have become one of State Parks’ 21st century mowing crews, and ways to explore State Parks on foot, in kayaks, on snowmobiles, and on frozen lakes. The stories have featured all kinds of work that State Parks staff and volunteers do throughout the year to help preserve and protect some of New York’s unique and exceptional places. These range from protecting sand dunes on Lake Ontario and old-growth forest at Allegany, to creating native grasslands at Ganondagan State Historic Site, and monitoring invasive species infestations and removing invasive species both on land and water.

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We mark this second birthday with 61 new followers and over 24,000 page hits!  And we thank the 32 staff, interns, and partner organizations who have shared their passion for State Parks through the blogs that they have written. We also want to recognize our partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program who helped in initiating this feature and continues to provide support.

We look forward to continuing our celebration of State Parks in the months to come in Nature Times.  Hope to see you soon at one of our Parks or Historic Sites!

Celebrating 150 Followers!

Today, we celebrate 150 followers of the New York State Parks Nature Times Blog!

Fireworks at Niagara Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of OPRHP.
Fireworks at Niagara Falls State Park. Photo courtesy of OPRHP.

To date, the blog has featured more than 110 posts than span a myriad of topics including park history, endemic and endangered species, special studies, quizzes, scavenger hunts and more. More than 30,000 visitors from 40 different countries around the world have visited the blog.

To become a follower, visit the blog homepage and click on the button in the upper left hand corner, just under the logo.  Tell your friends and family to “follow” the Nature Times Blog, and they’ll never miss a post!

 

Ice Fishing 101

2011 Glimmerglass ice fishing 011
Young ice fisherman with a perch, photo by State Parks

Ice fishing opportunities abound in New York State.  Winter anglers can catch a variety of fish; primarily perch, sunfish, pickerel, northern pike and walleye.  In addition, many waters throughout the State are open to fishing for trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon.

Ice fishing requires doing a little homework.  Learning about the equipment needed, proper clothing, safety precautions, the water you want to fish, and fishing regulations are all part of a successful, enjoyable winter fishing experience.  Accompanying a friend on an ice fishing outing or visiting a tackle shop in a popular ice fishing area can be great ways to learn about the skills and equipment needed.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) ice fishing webpage also has some very good information to help you get started and lists some of the waters where you can ice fish. Pay particular attention to the ice safety section. There are also a number of free fishing clinics held in New York each year, including ice fishing clinics.

DEC and State Parks will co-host a free ice fishing clinic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, at Glimmerglass State Park in the town of Springfield, Otsego County.  The event will be moved to the public boat launch at Canadarago Lake just south of Richfield Springs on NYS Route 28 if there is not sufficient ice on Otsego Lake.  Find out if the clinic is going to run by contacting Glimmerglass State Park at 607-547-8662.

Auger
Drilling the hole with an auger, by https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Kairaus_%28edit%29.jpg

In order to ice fish, you must first cut a hole in the ice.  An ice auger is a good way to accomplish this.  Ice augers come in a variety of sizes, so try to use an auger that is appropriate to the species of fish you are after. You will also need an ice scoop to clean slush and ice chunks out of the hole after it is cut.

Ice fishing methods include “jigging” with short, light fishing rods and using tip-ups. There are many different kinds of jigging poles and tip-ups available.  Jigging involves the use of a jigging rod and either an ice jig or a small jigging spoon which is often tipped with a piece of bait.  Spikes and mousies (maggots) are a good bait to use for smaller panfish, while minnows are often used for larger species.  By jigging your bait (raising the rod tip up and down a few inches), you help attract fish to your bait.  Generally, you will jig the bait a few times, then pause for a few seconds.  Fish usually take the bait during the pause.

A tip-up is basically a spool on a stick that holds a baited line suspended through a hole in the ice. When the bait – usually a minnow – is taken by a fish, the pull on the line releases a signal, such as a red flag.

Fish_Hook

Fish in similar areas you would during other seasons: weed lines, humps, depth changes, points, or other structure.  Contour maps can help you find some of these places.  Early morning or late afternoon tend to be the most productive times of day to fish.

TP Ice perch
Proper clothing helps make an ice fishing trip enjoyable, photo by DEC Fisheries

Proper clothing is critical for safe ice fishing outings.  Dress warmly, paying extra attention to your head, feet and hands – dressing in layers is essential.

Be sure to look through a current copy of the New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide before heading out for regulations on ice fishing.  Be safe and have fun.

Post by DEC Fisheries