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Hiking Around Western NY

Great hikes to enjoy with children and family around western NY and the Finger Lakes

Happy Kids, Happy Hike – Tips for Hiking with Kids

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The great thing about hiking is there isn’t a lot of special equipment needed, no dues to pay, no uniforms or costumes to buy and no set hours of running to practice during the week. Hiking should be relaxing, fun, and a way to encourage the love of nature in children.  Little kids love to walk in the woods! Ask my 3 year old if they’d like to go for a hike and they ‘Yeah!” Ask my 10 year old if they want to hike, and the reply isn’t as always so enthusiastic. What can you do to make kids love to hike.. or at least enjoy it once they are out there in the woods hiking?

  1. First and foremost… be sure your child has the proper footwear. Nothing ruins even a short hiking trip, like a pair of ill fitting shoes.  I’ve learned this lesson when I have decided to let natural consequences come into play  and allowed my child to wear her flip flops hiking. Did she learn that flip flops should not be worn hiking? Yes. Did I have to put up with her whining about her sore feet? Yes.  It was a battle I know longer have to fight because she knows. But if you start out with shoes your child chooses for hiking, it makes it that much more special. Waterproof boots with good tread that fit without giving them blisters, that they choose… these are all important when making sure they have the proper footwear. No whining.. happy kids, happy parents.

2.  Bring Food and water. It seems obvious doesn’t it? But it’s not just something nice to have            when hiking with kids.. it’s a necessity. It seems as soon as children get were there is no              place to buy they food, they are starving! If they are so consumed with hunger, the                       chances of them enjoying the hike is slim. Hand them some trail mix or fruit along with               their water bottle and they will be more likely to happily hike along, at least until the                    food runs out.

3.  Have a bird or a tree guidebook with you. Hiking is more fun when you are paying attention to your surroundings. Get the kids involved in really observing what is around them in nature. Have them bring a guidebook for something they are interested in.. it could be different kinds of trees, birds, animal prints, flowers, etc. and see how many you can identify as you go. Keep a notebook that you carry on each hike and have them record what they find in it. It will be interesting to read later.

4. Go on a Scavenger Hunt.  Before leaving for the hike, work with your child to create a scavenger hunt of things you may find along the trail, being careful not to include items that would harm the flora and fauna in the area. Some ideas could be a: a fossil, a white rock, a pink flower, a dead tree, a salamander, waterfall, animal tracks, etc. and as you and your child finds the item they can mark it off. You could work together or you could make it a competition for the older children.

5.  Get them behind the lens.  Give your child a camera and let them go crazy with the pictures. Challenge them to zoom in and really take some up close photos of interesting items they find as well as landscape photos . You both will be amazed at how kids see the world and what natural photographers they are. You could work together to upload the photos of each hike and then each year make a photo book with photos and captions detailing the hikes you have taken.

6. Let them choose the hike.  Know ahead time what is doable for a hike that day and then choose 2-3 places that could possibly be an option for a hike. Have your child go online with you as you look at the trail descriptions. Teach them to read the maps and let them choose which trail they’d like to go on. Having some choice in the matter is a great buy-in for older children.

7. Get them cool hiking gear. It doesn’t need to be expensive.. it can come from the local secondhand shop. I just picked up some great hiking sticks for myself and my husband at the local resale shop for less then 4 dollars. A backpack, new water bottle, hiking sticks and a hat are all things you could allow your child to pick out. My kids have always felt special getting suited up in their special hiking outfit to go on a trail with us, even if was just a green backpack we called “the survival pack”.

Those are just some ways to ramp up the enjoyment of hiking with those kids who getting bored with tramping through the woods on a Sunday afternoon. Happy kids, happy parents, happy hiking! 575011_3835290528709_446633417_n
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The Most Painful Hike Yet! Hiking Harriet Hollister Spencer State Rec Area

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Entrance to the State Recreation Area

My husband and I, sans children, were looking forward to trying out this park down in Springwater, NY- the Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation area. To be honest, we had never heard of it before, but we must have been the only ones, because it is one of the few places we have hiked where we have run into other hikers (and in this case mountain bikers). We were surprised because the entrance was on a rather secluded road but as soon as we pulled onto the main entrance road into the park, it was apparent why it is so popular! The view alone would be enough for me to visit this park.

 

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Awe-inspiring view of Honeoye Lake

 

As we got out of the car to enjoy this amazing view of Honeoye Lake, a biker appeared on the trail below us, and told us if we looked carefully we could see the tiny tops of buildings in Rochester, NY which is about 40 miles away! I can only imagine how spectacular this view will be when the foliage is at peak and hopefully I can make it back to share some photos of it.

When you pull into the park, there is nice area with picnic tables and a bathroom (no running water and noted as a comfort station on the trail map) and plenty of parking space to start your hike. As you look at the trail map, we parked and started our hike just past the abandoned shed on C4 (Corridor 4). I was just hiking along, enjoying the forest view, when I suddenly rolled my ankle on the uneven ground. Disclaimer… the trails here are not smooth.. they are uneven and rocky.. but they aren’t difficult to navigate. I tend to be on the clumsy side especially when I’m not paying attention to the terrain.

Luckily, there was a bench right in front of me, so I hobbled over to it and sat, trying to breathe through the pain for a few minutes while my husband hovered around me, saying we needed to pack it up and go home. Well, in what may have been not one of my smarter moves, but definitely one of my stubborn ones, I insisted that we were going to hike the trail with the help of a walking stick my husband found that was perfectly formed for the job.

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Entering the main hiking trail.. and the conveniently placed bench.

So for three miles we hiked along one of the wider trails, C4,  to eventually Upper and Lower Sidewinder Trails. It would help to take a map.. while the trails are marked at intersections, there aren’t many markers along the trails themselves and with so many interconnecting mountain biking trails, it was often hard to tell which trail we were actually on.  There are points when the trail is wider and then narrows, there are some long inclines and declines and the trails themselves are by no means manicured. Be prepared to hike through mud, rocks,and  uneven terrain with dips and holes (!) but also be ready to enjoy some beautiful wooded views, wildlife and the peace and quiet of the deep woods. If you are a biker, this is a popular spot with many trails… as well as cross-country skiing. snow-shoeing and snowmobiling trails.

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A wider portion of one of the trails

Would I take children? I probably wouldn’t navigate far into the woods with younger children, but older children would be able to handle the hike.. and a comfort station at the beginning and end of the trail is an added perk! Also… something to consider… hunting is allowed in this management area, so I’d use common sense when hiking during hunting season.

As for my ankle.. I ended up finishing the hike, going for x-rays and finding out that I had an avulsion fraction, where the ligament tears away from the ankle bone and takes some bone chip with it. Needless to say, my hiking days are on hold for awhile!

     Down in Southern Livingston County/Allegheny County  is a great place to hike –Rattlesnake Hill Wildlife Management area.  It is situated 8 miles west of Dansville, NY and is comprised of over 5000 acres of upland used mainly for wildlife management. But it is a great place to hike with children or if you are a beginning hiker because the trails are wide and flat and easy to follow. It is also fairly isolated and we didn’t see any other hikers on the gorgeous late summer day when we decided to hike

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At the start of the trail. The paths stayed this size throughout most of the hike.

When you first arrive, you will go down a small dirt road with places to pull off and park head out on the trails. There are about 10 parking areas along Ebert Road (small, barely two cars wide dirt road) to choose from marked with a Trail marker at the beginning. We chose the 4th parking area and headed out on this nice wide path. 

We really enjoyed this trail. On a day when we didn’t want to get in a strenuous hike, it was perfect. You meander up hill and down, into the woods, meadows, by and between various ponds and thankfully, we even came to an outhouse which is invaluable when you are hiking with kids.  (Outhouse is a great word for it.. nothing fancy here!)

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Here we are less then a mile into our hike at the first pond we came to.

 

The trail will eventually loop you back to Ebert Road but you’ll have to walk up the road a little to get to the parking area that you started in. 

When heading into this management area, I’d recommend printing off a trail map because although there was one on the large wooden board at the start of one trail, I like to have one handy with me when I’m hiking, especially if I have children with me.  I definitely would love to go back and hopefully see wildlife because besides birds, we didn’t see any on this trip. But in the area there is beaver, mink, raccoon, and yes… rattlesnakes but don’t let that keep you from hiking. The timber rattlers prefer the remote areas since they are as shy of us as we are of them. 14292250_10210556446855344_4840577784320185405_n

We had a great day hiking and the ride through the countryside was equally lovely. 

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Genesee County Park Hike

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One place that hubby and I decided to go hiking that was close by was the Genesee County Park. We had driven by before but had never actually checked out the park. We were both really impressed. First, the drive there has absolutely beautiful scenery in the summer.. I can only imagine what it will be like when the leaves start changing. If you are not from the area, just the drive will be worth it. 

The park has a few really nice, well marked trails to choose from depending on who you are hiking with. We went just when the Nature Center was closing, but if I go again and bring grandchildren, I’ll definitely make a stop at the interpretative nature center. Starting in October, it is open Thursday-Sunday.. 10-4 on Thursday and Friday, 12-4 on the weekend. There are nature exhibits and a Discovery Zone for kids (and adults like me who like that sort of thing).

The trails are numerous and varied. Alone, they are not long.. ranging from .2-..87 (General Conservation Trail) but you can put them together with the help of the trail map that is at the Nature Center or downloaded and printed from the website. Genesee County Park trails and you will have a hike of any length you would like.

The trail we followed was along Black Creek, easy, flat trail and well marked. In the park, there is a 4 acre wetland along with a bog, pond, open fields, some hilly terrain and woodlands. There is also a unique trail called the Touch and See Trail that is bordered by a chain fence for those with visual difficulties.

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If you take children, there are plenty of places for a picnic, a playground and bathrooms in various parts of the 431 acres. And in the winter, there are toboggan hills that we just may check out! This is a great family friendly park to take a hike and spend a few hours.

 

 

 

Simple People Who Like to Hike

From the first time my husband and I were dating, we loved taking walks and hiking through the woods. We started casually. Once we started adulting, we moved to western NY and bought a house around the corner, literally, from Letchworth State Park. We love taking hikes there. By “hikes” I mean glorified walks through the woods with a walking stick in hand and staying on paths through the woods. We don’t climb mountains, we don’t blaze our own trails, and we often bring children with us.

Maybe some don’t consider that “real” hiking but for us it is. We love to get up on Sunday morning and head out to a park or state recreation area and hike through the woods. When we decided that we were going to hike, not just when the spirit moved us, but on a consistent basis, it was hard to decide on where we wanted to hike. There wasn’t a website that I could find that had family friendly hikes in western NY laid out with photos, tips and links. So the idea was born for this site.13606842_10209969167533728_5059232889504758208_n

Hopefully this blog will encourage other regular people who just like to go on simple hikes and enjoy the outdoors either alone or with their family. And when winter comes, which is inevitable in western NY, hopefully we’ll be trying out something different… snowshoes!

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