Walking (or snowshoeing) in a winter wonderland

Dec 15, 2018

EAST BETHANY — When snow settles on the ground this winter, small tracks left in the snow give hints to what happens in the quiet of nature.

That’s when you can see the imprints left in the cold, white blanket of snow by animals and humans alike.

“The best thing about hiking when there is snow on the ground is that you get to spy on all the animals,” said Shannon Lyaski, coordinator for Genesee Park & Forest, adding when the conditions are slippery and snowy, snowshoes — which have claws on the bottom helping get traction — make it easier for people to enjoy their nature works. Mark Carra, naturalist-in-residence at the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, said people get stir crazy during the winter and getting out and walking around is a big positive during a time of year when it is dark and depressing.

“There are times where there is animals on the surface of the pond. It depends on if there is any open water, people might see beaver, muskrats come up to the ice typically,” he said. “If there is open areas, we might even see certain birds come back. I mean there is times early and late in the season when we have great blue herons hunting for fish in little puddles on the side of the pond where there is little melted snow.”

Snowshoeing is a sport completely dependent on the weather. Lyaski said Genesee Park and Forest tend to get people on the weekends. Carra said its been difficult because to snowshoe properly, a minimal amount of snow is needed. He said people don’t want to tear up the area since snowshoes have metal grab-ons the bottom and they don’t want to harm the snowshoes by hitting rocks.

“In order to get the effect of snowshoes you want to have about six inches or more before you get the effect of having the snowshoes help you walk through deep snow,” Lyaski said. “They can be used when there isn’t a ton of snow.”

Genesee Park and Forest offer snowshoe hikes on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon for groups. The fee for that is $15 per person with a minimum fee of $75. They also have two Winter Wonderland hikes scheduled this year on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16 — both are from 1-3 p.m. If the weather is too dangerous, the rain dates are Jan. 26 and Feb. 23. These hikes are open to the public and are $5 per person, which includes snowshoes and the most a family needs to pay is $15. Then there is Moonlight Hikes on the same days as the Winter Wonderland hikes, though these are for ages 18 and over, and happen from 7-9 p.m. Those nights were picked in particular due to their closeness to the full moon. Finally there is the First Day Hike on Jan. 1, which starts at 1 p.m. at the Interpretive Nature Center. The hike itself is free, and snowshoe rental is $5 per person.

Here is a breakdown of other outdoor activities you can enjoy in the GLOW region this winter:

Dewitt Recreation Area Ice Rink115 Cedar St., Batavia

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

• Stick and Puck — 2-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; no figure skating.

Genesee County Park & Forest11095 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany

• Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing — Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

• Snowshoe rentals are $5 at the Interpretive Nature Center from 10 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays; and noon on Saturday and Sundays; must be returned by 3 p.m.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge1101 Casey Road, Basom

• Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing on Mohawk Skil Trail — open to 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 Center1610 Welch Road, North Java

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

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

Letchworth State ParkCastile

• Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling is allowed in designated areas, and the park is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

• Organized trail hikes depart from the Humphrey Nature Center at 1 p.m. every Saturday in December.

• A Crepuscular Walk celebrating the Equinox Sunset will depart from the River Road junction with Route 408 near Mt. Morris at 3;30 p.m. on Dec. 21.

By Mallory Diefenbach, Batavia Daily News

Category: Outdoor Adventures