Monday, October 19, 2009

New Springwater Nature Conservancy Trail Preserves Area's Beauty



Cars driving on Route15A seven miles north of Springwater pass a tan and green Nature Conservancy sign posted on the east side of the road marked “Rob’s Trail” in bold letters. I’ve been by it dozens of times myself and have wondered about it, so I decided to take a closer look.
I invited expert hiker and high school environmental science teacher, Rob Hughes, from Wayland-Cohocton School to walk it with me. There is so much to learn from someone with enthusiasm and experience in the outdoors. Besides, I wanted to find better ways of approaching a new trail adventure.
One hundred years ago Robb’s Trail was overgrown with hardwood trees and subsequently became agricultural except for the pastureland on the ridge top not conducive for growing crops. About ten years ago the land was no longer in use and a new succession of growth had begun. Eventually it will return back to dense deciduous forest.
Rob’s Trail is a memorial trail completed in 2008 honoring Rob van der Stricht, board chairman of the Nature Conservancy and avid outdoorsman. The trail was built to connect properties between Hemlock and Canadice Lakes.
A 1.75 mile loop trail of an easy ability level offers views of steep valleys and ridgelines characteristic of the region. A more advanced 0.75 mile spur trail leads hikers down uneven steep paths connecting with the Canadice Trail. Glimpses of the lake along the way in between the tall red oaks are breathtaking.
Hughes and I met at the trailhead and planned our hike. He said that the key to a successful hike is doing the research ahead.
“You need to understand the physical requirements that will be imposed upon you and what the trail will look like.”
In this case it was all clearly marked with a map and colored graphics at the trailhead. The Nature Conservancy has a website that devotes a page to Rob’s Trail. I had also studied a website, Leave No Trace, on Hughes’ recommendation that has sound advice for those preparing to go out in nature as proper stewards of the environment.
On each hike Hughes focuses on something new and unique, and for our hike we took time noticing various herbs and flora of late summer such as Queen Anne’s Lace, Yarrow and Goldenrod. Taking along a Peterson’s Field Guide aids in the immediate recognition of the flora and birds native to the region.
“Don’t hike until tired knowing that you will need to turn around to go all the way back,” Hughes suggested. That’s why he likes a loop trail to see new things the entire way.
We started out on the trail up a gently sloping hill looking at what was around us and thinking how the area had changed over the years. Our detective work paid off because once we got on the ridge we saw evidence of a rock wall as a property boundary and some apple trees scattered in the field. If we had left the path no doubt we would have seen the remnants of a foundation where a farmhouse had once stood. I tried to put myself back in time and visualize a working farm, and except for an occasional jet on its flight path overhead, I was in a different period with a less complicated existence.
“There’s a lot more out there than you realize,” said Hughes.
I could agree to that. Our mile and a half trail walk took over two hours because we stopped to examine animal scat, herbs and the tree line.
The trail is not for your daily exercise walk with your dog, as dogs are not allowed anyhow, but one for leisurely hiking for appreciation of the biodiversity of the Finger Lakes area. Mornings and evenings are best in our climate because that is most likely when you will see wildlife.
Since this is an all-season trail the possibilities are endless. I can’t wait to see the beauty of fall foliage and early morning active birding during the migratory season. Momentarily I even had a crazy urge for a snowstorm to try out the trail with my snowshoes.
In buying land and setting it aside all around the world, the Nature Conservancy is protecting ecologically important areas such as Rob’s Trail, a slice of ecology right in our backyard partly in Livingston County.

Please contact me at kaykaydickens@gmail.com if you have a person or place that you would like me to visit for a feature that would test my observational skills and challenge my writing ability.