If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times - we are so lucky to live here in the Chautauqua Watershed.
There are so many places you can go to enjoy the outdoors. In the past few weeks, since we were blessed with snow, I've cross-country skied, snowshoed or sledded nearly every day in a different location. If you haven't made it outside to play this winter, I urge you to do it.
On your first outing, don't try to ski or snowshoe for hours. There are many places where the trails are short but enjoyable. I like to ski the College Park on Curtis Street near Jamestown Community College. The trails are level, and the scenery is breathtaking when the snow is on the trees.
The CWC’s Dobbins Woods Preserve on Bly Hill Road is an enjoyable place to snowshoe, cross-country ski or hike.
Photo by Arlene Bonnett
I also like to snowshoe the trails at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute right across the street from College Park. It's a little hilly but beautiful, and you never know what kind of bird or critter you might see.
Another pleasant trek is the path that leads out to Tom's Point in Stow. The level terrain is nice for cross-country skiing. Long Point is another favorite spot of mine, and it is fun to ski out to the point - but that can be chilly when the wind is coming down the lake.
Once you've got a little confidence in your ability and endurance, try to make a trip to Allegany State Park. The Art Roscoe ski trails at the Summit are well groomed, and it will be an experience to remember and repeat.
One of the best ways to learn about the outdoor opportunities in our area is to participate when the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy offers a tour. My first introduction to one of the Chautauqua Watershed's preserves was when Becky Nystrom led a wildflower hike in Dobbins Woods on Bly Hill Road, just off Route 394.
The CWC teamed up with the Jamestown Audubon Photo Club, and it was an amazing experience. Since then, I have hiked, skied and snowshoed Dobbins Woods numerous times. I led a group on a snowshoe hike one year and joined the CWC on a nighttime cross-county ski/snowshoe hike just a few weeks ago. Last weekend, I showed the Dobbins Woods Preserve to my dear friend, Arlene. There is a small parking lot there, and the trail is well marked. It's about a mile loop and takes around an hour to navigate. The terrain is a little hilly, but it is not a difficult trip.
A little while back, I talked Arlene and her husband, John, into joining me on a CWC hike at the Westfield beach on Lake Erie near Barcelona Harbor. Our group numbered about a dozen people, and CWC Executive Director John Jablonski was our tour guide. The hike along the lake shore was educational, interesting and fruitful - I found a whole handful of colorful "sea glass," which I collect.
We also trekked up Chautauqua Creek. As the sunlight faded on the hike back to our car, we were hoping for some sunset pictures, but unfortunately the clouds didn't cooperate. I hadn't walked this beach before and wouldn't have done it on my own, so I was thankful for the guided tour. Now that I've visited this area, I know I will return and enjoy the experience all over again.
By the time you read this, another CWC tour will have come and gone. I am hoping to attend the ski/snowshoe tour of the newly established First Site Elm Flats Preserve on Lawson Road in the town of Chautauqua. I know I will enjoy the tour and the fact that I'll have another place to explore. Log onto the CWC website at chautauquawatershed.org to check for future events and make a promise to yourself to try to attend one, and then, oh the places you can go.
Susan M. Songster Weaver is a retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit the website at chautauquawatershed.org or Facebook page or call us at 664-2166.