Snowshoeing allows winter exploration at area park

Nov 11, 2017

EAST BETHANY — So long as you watch your step, snowshoes will keep your feet as you take in the scenery on the region’s wintry trails.

“If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” said Shannon Morley, the Genesee County Park and Forest’s conservation education program coordinator. “It takes a little bit of practice, but after about ten minutes, people are on their feet, and are off and running. It can be a bit awkward at first, because they are larger ... but if anything, you’re less likely to fall over because they have crampons on the bottom designed to keep you for falling over.”

Snowshoeing, or just walking in a good pair of boots is just one of the ways to get around the GLOW Region this winter — skiers, skaters and snowmobilers are also hoping for a snowy season; but taking it one step at a time can be an amazing experience.

“Even just walking the property if there isn’t snow in the winter, people find solace in the beauty of this place,” said Mark Carra, the naturalist-in-residence at the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center. “It’s a respite from the craziness of this world ... I love it.”

Both the East Bethany park and the Java refuge offer showshoe rentals for all-season trails that wind through forested areas. Morley said that as long as it snows, the paths become an active thoroughfare.

“The trails are very well marked for skiers and people walking dogs, but there is potential to explore ... but you need to (watch out) for if you are over water,” Morley said. “Snowshoeing makes it easier to take a hike when there’s a lot of snow out there. You don’t get as tired as easily ... it allows you to explore more.”

Carra said the arrival of snow leaves a clearer reminder of the variety of animals that live around Beaver Meadow. From his residence in the park’s original cabin, he recounts seeing the footprints of deer, fox and coyote drawn by the refuge’s 40-acre pond; as well as rarer appearances. A five-inch tall Least Weasel appeared one day on a window ledge, peering in.

“In the winter, right by the pond, you can see all the footprints going out on the water from the muskrats,” Carra said. “There’s always something to look at.”

If you’ve never snowshoed before, Morley recommends bringing your most comfortable and waterproof boots. Snowshoe bindings click over your boots, and are sized to match your foot size. Just don’t expect to float.

“You’re not going to levitate, you are going to sink a little, but it’s four inches instead of two feet deep,” Morley said.

Here’s a breakdown of other outdoor activities you can enjoy in the GLOW region:

DeWitt Recreation Area Ice Rink, 115 Cedar St., Batavia

• Public Skates — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

• Stick and Puck — 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

• Free, bring your own skates and equipment.

Genesee County Park and Forest, 11095 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany

• Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing — Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

• Around 12 miles of all-season trails.

• Snowshoe rentals are $5 at the Interpretive Nature Center from 10 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays; and noon on Saturdays and Sundays; must be returned by 3 p.m. Driver’s license must be left with rentals.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, 1101 Casey Road, Basom

• Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing on Mohawk Ski Trail — open sunrise to sunset

• Trail is a self-guided 7.5-mile loop of Mohawk Pool

• Free, bring your own snowshoes and skis.

Beaver Meadow Audobon Center, 1610 Welch Road, North Java

• Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing, Hiking — Nature Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

• Almost eight miles of all-season trails.

• Snowshoe rentals are $5 at Nature Center; free to ski, but bring your own equipment.

Letchworth State Park, Castile

• Cross-Country Skiing, Showshoeing, Snowmobiling in designated areas

• Organized trail hikes depart from the Humphrey Nature Center at 1 p.m. every Saturday in December, heading out on the state park’s Pond, Hemlock Loop, Bishop Woods Loop, Pine Loop, Inspiration Point Loop trails.

• A Crepuscular Walk celebrating Equinox Sunset will depart from the River Road junction with Route 408 near Mt. Morris at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 21. The twilight hike will go through the Mt. Morris Canyon, with sky gazing to follow. Bring a flashlight and a picnic supper.

By Jim Krencik, Batavia Daily News