Enjoying Thoughts Of Winter —1,300 Miles Away

rrived in the Chautauqua Watershed, although I’m not physically there to enjoy it right now. “Enjoy it?” I can hear my friends and family saying. “Sub-zero temperatures, wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour and 6 to 12 inches of new snow. Are you nuts? What’s to enjoy?” Maybe I’m weird, but I do enjoy winter always have and always will.

When my grandkids were home for Christmas, I was a little disappointed. My son and I had planned to take them up to the hill at Southwestern High School to sled. But this year, with two days of rain, our glorious snow pack disappeared in no time at all. When my granddaughter Allie arrived at my house, she saw the presents under the tree and was positive she was getting a new sled. Allie remembered me taking her sledding last year and had a blast doing it. Unfortunately, her present was not a new sled but a little plastic lap desk with pockets on each side for her art supplies.

But, it turned out to be okay. I told her that Santa knew the snow had melted and didn’t want her to be sad because she couldn’t go sledding. Hopefully, next year will be different.

In the past, the holiday season has always been very busy for me. I felt like there was no time to go outside and play. This year, I was smarter. I accepted an invitation to go cross-country skiing with my friend Arlene at Long Point and made a commitment to teach another friend how to snowshoe at Allegany State Park. Both adventures were amazing!

At Long Point, we parked down by the marina and skied out to the point. Though some of the lake was frozen near the shore, we saw a power boat out on the lake headed towards Bemus Point. The wake it created made the strangest sound when it rippled through the ice pack. We also skied to the beach area. The snow there started to get a little sticky, though, so we called it a day.

At Allegany State Park, a friend and I went to the Summit and snowshoed the ungroomed trail towards Stone Tower. (The regular cross-country ski trails are groomed, so you can’t snowshoe on them.) We had a nice hike but decided to head back to the car when it started to get dark. On the way out of the park, we took a chance and drove up to Stone Tower from the other end of the road. The sun was just dipping below the horizon as we climbed to the top, and we were able to savor a beautiful winter sunset.

Two times out isn’t much, but it will have to hold me until next winter since I am now in Florida for a few months.

Once the wind dies down and the mercury rises, if you want to get outside and enjoy winter, you are certainly in the right place. The Chautauqua Watershed has a multitude of venues to explore. CWC’s Dobbins Woods Preserve in Ashville and beautiful little Allen Park in Jamestown are two wonderful places for a winter walk, hike, ski or snowshoe. So is Bergman Park. I like to ski around the perimeter. There are a couple of small hills on the far side and, although it’s not Holiday Valley, you can get a tiny thrill coming down them. You can also travel over to Curtis Street and stop at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. The trails there are marked, and they are fun to hike or snowshoe. While you are at that end of town, take minute to check out the Jamestown Community College Park. It’s another great place to hike or ski the trails. And don’t forget about the overland trails. The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Trail is 24 miles long, and the Earl Cardot Eastside Trail goes for 19 miles.

Winter weather can be harsh and cruel, but it can also be so rewarding and beautiful if you give it a chance. Wearing the correct clothing is key don’t take a chance on getting hypothermia or frostbite. Always hike with a friend, and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Stay safe, and enjoy winter sports in appropriate areas never ski or sled onto a roadway.

I’ll be thinking of you out there enjoying yourself. And I’ll see you on the trails in the spring

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit land trust and watershed education organization that works to protect water quality through the conservation of lands that store, filter and deliver clean water to the county’s lakes, streams and wells.

Its 2014 membership campaign is currently underway. To donate, sign up to receive CWC’s e-news or for more information on CWC’s programs and activities, visit chautauquawatershed.org.