Posted in Allegany State Park, Cattaraugus County

Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski and Mountain Bike Trail System

Allegany State Park is in the southwest corner of New York State. There are two entrances from I-86. Red House is Exit 19 and Quaker is Exit 18. The Art Roscoe trail system is most easily accessed from the Red House exit. The beautifully maintained trail system provides hiking and mountain biking in spring, summer and fall and cross-country skiing in winter.

If the shop/warming hut isn’t open, you can use the restrooms in the bathhouse on the Summit Cabin Trail.

Allegany Nordic maintains a website and posts trail conditions during ski season: http://alleganynordic.org/.

Posted in Allegany State Park, Finger Lakes Trail

In Search of a Loop

In Search of a Loop
by Jennifer Schlick

Through-hikes are fine when you have a friend and two vehicles and the patience to spot cars.  Sometimes, though, you just want a loop.

I had searched for this one once before on a sunny fall day with only dogs for companions.  They weren’t much help.  And I, distracted by the beauty of it all and confused by a trail that needed some TLC, I got lost.  Not lost-lost… just temporarily misplaced.  I finally found my way back to the car, though not by the route that looked so clear and easy on the topo.

For my second attempt, I take a human buddy, as well as the dogs.  We pick winter when the foliage is gone, eliminating bright-white sun-spots on the bark that look like blazes.  We opt to tackle the most confusing part of the trail first while we are fresh – the opposite way around the loop than my first attempt.  Besides, Coon Run Road isn’t plowed up to the where the FLT crosses.

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The dogs played while we drank coffee.

This “loop” is actually one half FLT, maintained by some of the best trail stewards ever, and one half Tuscarora Fire Tower, maintained by Allegany State Park.  An unfortunate combination of events – strong winds, tree falls, and a cut to State Park funding – made for the difficulties on the ASP portion.

Shortly into the Tuscarora trail, we lose the blazes near a tree fall, puzzle our way past it, and continue along what appears to be a trail.  When it ends abruptly we take it as a sign that it’s time for coffee and regrouping.  The dogs aren’t ready for a break so soon and romp impatiently in the snow.  We check the topo, figure out where we are and plan our strategy.  After coffee we retrace our steps to the fallen tree and investigate.  Sure enough there are blazes in amongst the tangle of branches.

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Views that stretch from one hilltop to the next.

Back on track, the trail begins its climb – gentle in some spots, steeper in others.  I know the effort will be worth it.  I love the views from the summit.  Through the upper canopy you can see over the valley to the distant hills on the other side.  I’m ready this time for the confusing bit where the loop takes its hairpin turn – I’ll enjoy the views without getting too distracted by the beauty of it all!

Our stomachs growl as we enjoy the view, but we opt to follow the FLT and put off lunch until we reach the lean-to at Willis Creek.  After lunch we hike from the shelter to Coon Run Road, then take the road back to the truck where after-hike beers await.  We did it!  I’m sure we’ll try this loop again.

Trail Update:  I took this hike in January of 2013.  A friend who works in the park tells me that he spent two long days on the Tuscarora this summer (2014) to open it up.  He also says that people interested in volunteering should call and ask to speak to the park managers.  The number is at Allegany State Park is (716) 354-9121.

Other Info:

Posted in Hiking Etiquette

When Nature Calls

This article was published on Jamestown Audubon’s blog, as well as in local newspapers. It is hard for me to speak so calmly about the topic, because it just makes me mad when I come upon piles of poo and toilet paper in the woods. It doesn’t help that both the dogs I walk with enjoy eating the stuff. So gross. I’m guessing anyone who reads this blog is responsible about it, so I am “preaching to the already-saved” as it were. Anyway…


When Nature Calls
by Jennifer Schlick

The spunky little twenty-something facilitator of the workshop asked us all to think about something we all do every day, perhaps even several times a day. In fact, she encouraged us to review in our minds a typical day and count how many times we do it.

Willis Creek Leanto
The Willis Creek Lean-to on the Finger Lakes Trail in Allegany State Park has an outhouse and an artesian spring.

Once upon waking, once after breakfast. Again before lunch, and once before supper. Once before bed and that makes at least five for me.

Next, she instructed us to take marking flags – one for each time we do it – yellow flags for number 1, oranges ones for number 2 – and “plant” them in the surrounding woods.

There were probably twenty of us at the Leave-No-Trace (LNT) workshop – by now all giggling, some slightly embarrassed. When we returned to the teaching circle, we were surrounded by over one hundred yellow and orange marking flags – a visual representation of the impact we might have on an area – just doing what we all have to do.

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There are no facilities along the Patterson and Snowsnake Run trails, so be prepared! These are great trails for hiking – and skiing when there is snow. There are restrooms at the warming hut at the top of the Art Roscoe ski area.

As with any human activity, there are ways to do even this while having less impact on the environment, which, of course, was the whole point of this part of the LNT training.

What prompted me to write about this topic? I recently took a nice long hike along trails in Allegany State Park and found three little piles of toilet paper on top of the fresh blanket of autumn leaves. One was right next to – almost right in the trail. One was within 3 feet of a creek. And the third – of the orange flag variety – was behind the lean-to where campers eat and sleep. Really, people?

What makes someone do that? Is it a disregard for other people’s experience? “I’ll be gone in a few minutes, what do I care if someone has to come upon my excrement while hiking?” Is it a fear of our own bodily functions? “Ew! I don’t want to touch that any more than I have to!” I hope it’s just that they’ve never been taught the proper way. So let me teach you.

The Leave-No-Trace guidelines instruct us to use facilities if they exist. This seems like a no brainer, but I’ve camped at several lean to areas where others have not used the outhouse. If no facilities exist, and you are camping together with several others, you are best to designate a potty area at least 200 feet from trails, campsites, and water sources, and dig your own mini-latrine. If you are hiking, walk 200 feet away from trails, campsites, and water sources. Deposit human solid waste in a “cat hole” 6-8 inches deep, then cover and disguise the hole. Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. Read it again: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.

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East Meadow Trail, Allegany State Park

Some of my hiking companions are “grossed out” by this last guideline. It’s not that hard to do. It just takes a little planning. One of the pockets on each of my packs is the potty pocket. In one ziplock bag is clean toilet paper; in another is the dirty stuff that I’ll throw away when I get home.

You may be surprised to learn that there are some heavily visited natural areas that require you to also pack out the human solid waste. Oh, I can hear you screaming, “That’s so gross!” But think about it. Is it less gross to pull your canoe up onto a sandy beach to setup camp only to find that every place you dig brings up someone else’s deposit? That’s what was happening along the Colorado River as rafting became more and more popular. And that’s what prompted organizations to recommend “pack it in, pack it out” – and to have that principle apply to EVERYTHING you bring in. There are products to facilitate the packing out of your own waste.

Next time you are online, do a search for “how to poop in the woods” and see what comes up! In addition to products and advice, you will find a lot of conversation and disagreement about whether it is necessary to cart ours out. Isn’t ours just as natural as the animals’? Won’t ours disintegrate just as the animals’ does?

Turkey Scat
Under the right conditions, animal scat disintegrates and becomes part of the soil. This deposit was left by a turkey.

Sadly, given our diet and medications, ours is not as natural as the animals. And yes, ours will disintegrate over time, just as the animals’ does (or doesn’t depending on the weather and climate)… but as it breaks down (if it breaks down), our pathogens and medications are passed along.

One of the websites I read encouraged people who will be hiking or camping together to have The Potty Talk before venturing out. Don’t make assumptions about what your friends know and don’t know about the proper way to dispose of human waste. Talk about it. Laugh about it. Make rules about it. But for all our sakes, please be responsible about it. The natural world is full beauty and wonder. Let’s not mar it with bad habits. When nature calls, answer responsibly.

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is now on winter hours. Trails remain open from dawn until dusk daily, but the building is closed Tuesday through Friday, except when there are special programs, or by appointment. Monday and Saturday the building opens from 10:00am until 4:30pm. Sundays the building is open from 1:00pm until 4:30pm. Even though the building is not open, if we are inside during business hours, we will hang a sign and unlock the door that leads to our restrooms. If you are hiking or skiing, feel free to stop inside to make your deposits, if you know what I mean!

Jennifer Schlick is program director at Audubon.

Posted in Allegany State Park, Finger Lakes Trail, North Country Trail

Birthday Hike

Last week, I worked 6 days.  So my weekend was Sunday-Monday.  Monday dawned foggy with promise and I decided to take myself on a little hike.  OK, a LONG hike.  At Allegany State Park.

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My companions – canine only.

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Glock & Lolli – and neither would sit still for a proper portrait.

The hike turned into a wee bit of an adventure with being “lost” a part of the bargain. I didn’t have a solid plan as I started out. I knew I wanted to hike to the Willis Creek Lean-to. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure if I would just hike back out again and go to some other part of the park – maybe Thunder Rocks… I had the whole day to myself and no one but the dogs to answer to, so it didn’t matter what I did!

Golden-crowned kinglets were the first to greet me as I started out.

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When I got to the lean-to, I discovered campers. It was 10:30 and they didn’t appear to be awake yet. Hmm… I ate a snack by the creek and pulled out my most wonderful topo map of the park. (You can buy yours by clicking here.)

I had forgotten that the Finger Lakes / North Country Trail meets up with the Park’s fire tower trail. I decided to hike to the intersection, then back to my car along the Park trail and then back up Coon Run Road. Perfect!

Now, hiking in Autumn can be rather challenging. Especially on a sunny day. First, the trail disappears under a thick blanket of leaves:

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And second, the sun is either in your eyes so you miss the trail markers completely, or it is making strange patterns on the trees that you easily mistake for trail markers! The FLT/NCT blazes are white.

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This is NOT a blaze. This is the sun hitting the bark of the tree!

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There is a blaze (and a drip) on this tree!

I am a grateful member of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and the North Country Trail Association because I appreciate the work they do to keep the trails open and well marked. The white blazes on the trails at Allegany State Park that are maintained by the FLT group are fresh and easy to see and I whisper grateful Thank Yous to the crew every time I hike one.

That being said, I got briefly lost when the trail took a sharp turn. I was distracted by a gorgeous view and incredible fall colors! But thanks to my trusty map, I found the steep climb I was supposed to be taking and when I got to the top, I stopped for lunch… and to take off the long underwear that I needed in the morning, but certainly didn’t any more!

Map with comments

The last leg of the trail should have been easy. Sadly, though, many of the Park trails have fallen victim to state budget cuts. There were so many downed trees and missing trail markers. And when I got to the crossing of Willis Creek, I think I got distracted by an older, abandoned trail – which eventually just ended completely.

I knew if I followed the creek upstream, I’d eventually find the lean-to again and could follow the FLT/NCT back to my car. Unfortunately, this strategy left a bad taste in my mouth! When I got back to the lean-to, the campers were gone… but not their garbage… but that is a rant for another day.

My hike was delightful. I saw deer, grouse, squirrels, a pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, juncos, nuthatches, and chickadees. It was a great day and a great way to celebrate my birthday (a few days early). And such adorable hiking companions.

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I don’t know what Terry’s dog is doing this evening, but Lolli is snoring!

Posted in Just a Woods in the Neighborhood

Dawn Hike

Time: 5:30 am
Temperature: 27 degrees Fahrenheit
Forecast: mid-forties by noon

I am determined to go snowshoeing as soon as it is light.  It may well be my last chance at powder for quite some time.

I work at my computer, glancing every minute or so at the window, waiting for the dark to slip away.  As soon as there is the slightest hint of sun, I slip into my winter gear and head for the park.

The first ten minutes are cold cold cold as usual. The wind-swept field between the road and the woods is uneven; deep drifts of fluffy snow  alternate with a crusty ice surface.  Lolli is confused: we did this loop the other way two days ago.

Lolli Hears Something

I am entranced by petite leaves on a petite oak at the edge of the woods.  Once inside where the hickories tower above me, I begin to notice the birds who seem to know the temperature is rising and associate it with spring.  Chickadee, Titmouse, Crow, and Woodpecker all exercise their voices.  Cardinal is particularly pleased to practice several of his songs.

I trudge along in the gray light following some other snowshoer’s days-old path.  He (she?) takes me on a different route than my usual and I thank him (her?) silently for showing me another way around the fallen tree that blocked the trail a few years ago.

Over the creek, around another fallen tree, up a small rise, and wham! The sky brightens suddenly and fluffy white clouds slip quickly across a powdery blue.

Fast-moving Clouds

My whole body smiles. I see colors I never noticed before and finally understand the purples, blues, and greens used by the watercolorist when painting snow.

The Sun Breaks Through Snowshoe Trail

It has been a long time since I hiked regularly in these woods. I realize how much I have missed it. Simple pleasures are the best.

Posted in Allegany State Park

Wanna Go Out for a Cup of Coffee?

“Wanna go out for a cup of coffee?”

“K.”

So I perk a pot and pour it into the thermos. You scrounge around in the cupboards and refrigerator but all you can find is a hunk of venison summer sausage. We throw the coffee, the sausage, a bottle of water, and some extra socks and mittens (just in case) into day packs. And dog biscuits, of course. We pull on our snow pants and boots and slip into our jackets. Hats. Mittens. Let’s go!

While trying to shuffle the vehicles, I get the car stuck in the driveway. Twice. Finally, dogs behind the seat and whining with excitement over the anticipated adventure, you throw the truck into gear and we are on our way to Allegany State Park. Oh wait… we need gas. We buy a couple of granola bars, too, to supplement the sausage.

On the way to the park, we discuss possible hiking trails… A loop would be nice, but most are so steep and Mo just can’t do steep anymore. We decide to hike out and back on a section of the North Country Trail that starts with a brief steep part, but then levels off.

Alas, we find the snow much deeper than we anticipated and the old dog struggles mightily. Luckily, at the top of the steep part, we hit the snowmobile trail: wide and well-packed, and – at least for now – completely uninhabited by machines.

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ASP Walk-11It’s such a pretty day. The fast-moving, variable-thickness clouds paint the wintery scene with ever-changing lighting schemes.

As we walk the easy, level trail, our eyes scan the edges for the perfect log. We opt to drink at the Hemlock Grove Cafe:

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After coffee, as long as we’re here, we follow the snowmobile trail to the intersection of Black Snake Mountain trailhead. Someone has skiied here and packed the snow, so we give it a try. Wait, what’s that? I’ve walked this trail a couple of times before and never noticed that…

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We continue on, crossing the creek, watching Lolli sniff the weasel tracks… until the level trail hits the steep, and then we turn back. What a pretty trail… Note to self: must come back in May for the wildflowers.

A little more distance on the snowmobile trail, and then we turn back. It seems snowmobilers rise later than we. We dodged none on the first part of our hike, but several on the return.

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We parked on the south side of ASP 3 where the Finger Lakes / North Country Trail crosses. We headed south on the FLT/NCT – a short, steep uphill climb to the snowmobile trail where we turned left (east). At the Black Snake Mountain trail, we took a detour up the creek a ways, then back down. We hiked east a little more – probably almost to Science Lake, though we didn’t realize at the time how close we were.

Posted in Audubon Sanctuary

XC Ski at Audubon

After a fun-filled day of leading walks through the woods with small children, the Audubon education staff headed for the Igloo in Frewsburg for ice cream cones. It was a perfect June day; the walks had gone well; the ice cream flavors were sublime. I looked over at our college intern who had a rapturous look on her face and said, “Karen?” And she responded, “I am irrationally happy right now.”

Irrationally happy. I so loved that phrase that it has become one of my own.

Irrationally happy. I get that way a lot at this time of year. There is something about temperatures in the upper teens and low twenties combined with fresh white powder that makes me irrationally happy.

My SkisI can’t remember exactly when I bought my first cross country skis… perhaps the winter after graduating from high school. I learned how to ski with my friend Sue and one of our practice sites was Audubon. Sue still has her wooden skis that must be prepped each time with the right color wax, depending on the temperature – blue wax for my favorite conditions. When my sister moved to Florida, I sold my wooden skis and began using her waxless skis… saves me a little time when all I can spare is an hour at lunchtime!

I usually start at the kiosk near the parking lot and follow the yellow signs. To warm up, I ski fast and steady until I get out to the far side of Spatterdock Pond. Eastern HemlockThen, I like to stop in the Hemlock woods. For the first minute or so, all I hear is the sound of my heart pounding in my ears. Once my heart rate normalizes, the sounds of nature wash over and refresh me. Wind through the needles. Snow falling from boughs in a soft whoosh that then plops onto the trail. Foraging chickadees and nuthatches: chick-a-dee-dee-dee and that nasal ent-ent-ent.

After this brief rest, I ski more slowly, taking it all in, breathing in the peacefulness of the forest, letting the stresses and irritations that have built up fall away. MouseSometimes I scare up a couple of deer who bound off to safety… they should have known they were in no danger from me. I cannot resist stopping to decipher animal tracks and signs in the snow – mouse, squirrel, fox, coyote. Or I might attempt to take pictures of things I find… a winter caddisfly, wingless wasp, cutworm, or spider crawling slowly over the snow.

I reach the big mowed field with the intent of skiing fast, practicing long strides, but the delicate winter weeds stop me in my tracks and I marvel that even without color they are beautiful and deserve to be photographed. The round, dark seed heads of Black-eyed Susan. The “baskets” of Queen Anne’s Lace. The empty, dried Milkweed pods that have already released their fluffy contents.

Black-eyed Susan Queen Anne's Lace

I return to my desk energized. Hopefully no one minds that my 1-hour lunch break has turned into an hour and 15 or 20… Truth is, the afternoons almost always turn out to be twice as productive as the mornings after a good ski.

Not everyone enjoys winter. In fact, most of the people I meet seem to grumble about it. As for me… it makes me irrationally happy.


The Audubon Center and Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road. Even though their mailing address is Jamestown, NY, they are technically in the town of Kiantone. The trails are on level ground, though small hillocks and roots and sharp twists and turns can make for somewhat challenging skiing for beginners if there isn’t a good deep base.

Click “View Larger Map” to see map in its own window.