This New Year’s Day, many New York state parks and historic sites are inviting the public to celebrate 2017 in the outdoors with a First Day Hike. The guided hikes are part of the sixth annual First Day Hikes program taking place throughout the nation, giving people of all ages an opportunity to connect with nature and experience the guided walks with family and friends.
Here in New York, fifty hikes are being hosted, nine more than the previous year, at 44 state parks and historic sites with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill level and destinations within the park. State park staff and volunteers will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location. This past year’s program welcomed more than 2,860 people who hiked a total of 6,897 miles.
The start of the new year is the perfect time to leave the hectic holiday pace behind and embrace the outdoors with a walk or hike in New York’s breathtaking scenic settings. First Day Hikes are a family-friendly tradition that offer a fresh seasonal perspective of the state’s natural treasures and vast opportunities open year-round at State Parks.
Among the many programs being offered this year are a seal walk, winter woodlands, a walking history tour, a snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, canal artifacts, nature detectives and more. New entries for 2017 include the Jones Beach boardwalk, Gilbert Lake’s wilderness trail, Green Lakes’ hike around the lakes, Seneca Lake and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, exploring Grafton’s lakes and following along the Old Croton Aqueduct.
If weather conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Many hikes will be offering refreshments. A listing and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain, registration requirements and additional information are available at nysparks.com.
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.
Get outside to a State Park this New Year’s Day! New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) is putting RECREATION at the top of this year’s New Year’s resolution list with First Day Hikes. Now in its 5th year, First Day Hikes are a great way to help you get your New Year’s resolutions started on the right foot.
On January 1st State Parks is hosting 41 First Day Hikes in parks and historic sites across the state from eastern Long Island and Staten Island, to the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Erie, and much more. Hikes range from accessible, level walks; a leisurely stroll across the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, explorations of historic landscapes or quiet forest; dog-friendly rambles, mountain hikes, family-orientated activities and more. If there is snow, bring your skis or some parks have snowshoes you can borrow.
During your hike you’ll be able to meet new people, see new places, spend time with family and friends, get a bit of exercise, and enjoy time outdoors. Could there be a better way to spend the first day of 2016?
Remember to dress in warm layers, wear appropriate footwear, and bring water and a snack for your group. Most hikes range from one to three miles in length.
Remember your camera and please share your photos on State Parks’s Facebook Page!
Click here for a complete listing of “First Day Hike” events and registration guidelines.
A highlight to any winter beach walk on a Long Island State Park beach is the sighting of a seal, either hauled out on sand bars during low tide or swimming off the beach at high tide.
Harbor and grey seals, and more rarely hooded, ringed, and harp seals can be seen off of Long Island from late fall through early spring. These seals belong to the family Pinniped, meaning “feather-footed” or “wing-footed.” They are considered true seals – meaning they have no ear flaps, their front flippers are short, and their necks are short. Seals are excellent divers; they can hold their breath for 40 minutes, swim up to eight miles an hour, and dive up to 600 feet. They eat a variety of fish and invertebrates including crabs and squid. Thanks to a thick layer of fat and a dense coat seals keep warm in winter.
The best time to see large groups of seals is at low tide when they haul out of the water to rest and sleep on sand bars and rocks. When seals are hauled out at low tide they hold their head and tail up in a “banana-shaped” position. Be sure to watch the seals from a distance since seals can be easily scared.
Harbor Seals are the most common seal that you will see. These 4-1/2’ – 6’ seals range in color from tan to brown to light gray with irregular black spots. They have a smallish head that looks like a Cocker Spaniel in profile. This profile gave them the nickname “sea dog.” Their nostrils are “V” shape when seen from the front. Harbor seals weigh 250 lb.
Gray Seals are a large seal with gray coloration. Interestingly, adult males are dark gray with small black markings and adult females are light gray or brown with dark patches. Males can be 8’ long and weigh 800 lb., females 7’ and weigh 400 lb. They have a distinctive “horsehead” profile and their nostrils form a “W” when seen from the front. Females have a slightly smaller head than males.
Hooded Seals are the largest seal that winters off of Long Island; males are 9’ long and females are 7’ long. Males weigh 900 lb., females 670 lb. The coat coloration of silver-grey with irregular black spots is the same in both adult males and females. First year pups have a slate colored coat. All female and juvenile male hooded seals have a larger head and broader muzzle than the harbor seal. Adult males have an unusual nasal apparatus that they will inflate when they are angered or threatened. Juvenile males do not have this nasal sac.
It is always a thrill to see harp seals and ringed seals because they are rare visitors to Long Island.
Harp Seal adults are white with a dark harp- or saddle-shaped pattern on its back and flanks. The more common juveniles have a light coat with dark blotches. Harp seals look similar to harbor seals in profile but they are slightly larger (both males and females are 6’ long and weigh 400 lb.) and they have a stockier body than the harbor seal.
Ringed Seals are the rarest and smallest seals found off of the New York coast in the winter; they measure between 4’-5-1/2’ long and weigh between 150-250 lb. Generally, the coats are a gray-black color with numerous dark spots surrounded by light areas that look like rings. Juvenile ring seals have a fine silvery coat. From a distance, ringed seals have a slightly smaller head than a harbor seal and their nose is more pointed than a harbor seal.
And please keep your dog at home. You wouldn’t want your dog scaring the seals.
Katona, Steven, Rough, Valerie, and Richardson, David (1983). A field guide to the whales, porpoises, and seas on the Gulf of Maine and Eastern Canada : Cape Cod to Newfoundland. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons.
Every winter, thousands of anglers take to New York’s frozen waters in quest of their ice fishing bounty. Ice fishing can be a relatively easy and inexpensive way for the entire family to enjoy some mid-winter outdoor fun. Terrific ice fishing opportunities can be found within or in close proximity to many state parks; with several free fishing clinics and derbies occurring each year that introduce new ice fishing anglers to the sport. Chances are one of these hard water fishing opportunities is close to you!
Ice fishing does not require a lot of expensive gear to get started, especially compared to other winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Unlike open water fishing, you don’t need a boat to get out on the water…just a nice pair of insulated winter boots. Once out there, you can use all sorts of tools to get through the ice to access your fish, including axes, ice spuds, augers and power augurs. Fishing techniques include actively fishing with small jigging rods or setting tipups (fish traps) rigged with live bait (e.g., shiners or suckers). Many types of fish are active and feeding under the ice throughout the winter months, including bass, pike, walleye, trout and panfish.
To learn all about the basics of ice fishing and what you will need to get started, visit the NYS DEC webpage for “Ice Fishing Basics.”
When you feel you are ready and dressed appropriately for New York’s winter weather, come out and join our OPRHP and NYS DEC staff and volunteers at an ice fishing clinic or derby near you!
Coming up in February, there are two ice fishing clinics scheduled for Central New York – February 22, 2017 at Otsego Lake, Glimmerglass State Park and February 26, 2017 at Lakeland Park (Cazenovia Lake), Cazenovia. Both clinics are free fishing day events, with no fishing license required for participants. For more information on the 8th annual ice fishing clinic at Glimmerglass, call 607-547-8662 or visit the State Parks calendar. For more information about the ice fishing clinic at Lakeland Park, contact Judy Gianforte, Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, 315-877-1742.
Click below to watch a video of Anna & Izzy Hughes catching their pickerel. (Note: You must be using Internet Explorer in order for the video to stream properly).
Click below to see another angler Derek Conant from Otisco catching his first fish through ice on Otisco Lake.
Post by Tom Hughes, photos by Tom Hughes and Matt Fendya, videos by Tom Hughes.