Friday, August 20, 2010

Zoar Valley

Cloudy day. Skinny Dip Beach, Zoar Valley. Camp fire rafters. No skinny dippers, just a man in a yellow banana hammock. You know, the usual. Typical afternoon...heavy sweat, strong current, tall cliffs. Weak photographs. Worth every minute. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Top Ten Reasons for Loving the Erie Canal in Lockport no particular order...


Chimney Bluffs

Just past Sodus Bay are the Chimney Bluffs, geological masterpieces of hard pact soot along Lake Ontario that have eroded into tall spires and peaks of what appears to be sand. While the Bluff formations appear to have eroded slowly over time, annual visits have proven that the landscape is quite vulnerable to the winds and weather offering a sometimes dramatic change in the landscape from one year to the next.

With two entrances located at each end of the bluffs one may opt for a quick walk up a steep hill or meander through wooded trails towards the top. I often opt for the steep hill, a stroll along the top rim, a shimmy down one of the less steep portions of the face of the bluff and a walk back to the parking lot along the beach. It is often very warm when I visit and the lake provides a refreshing cool off before embarking onto the next destination. Motor boats are often seen along the shore line and I always wonder what the view must be like from the lake.The best time to be at the lake is well...most of the time, but if you stick around until sunset, the view from the top of the bluff looking out is amazing. *Just keep in mind that the the rim trail is dangerous in the day time, so a flashlight is a must if you can't get out and down before it becomes completely dark.

This particular day was humid and hot. We had arrived on the heels of a heavy down pour and the lake was churning with sedimentary runoff from the bluffs. The long awaited dip in the lake following our hike would have been as refreshing as rolling around in sand and broken shells so we opted for some air conditioning in the car.While a lot of people come to this spot just to spend time at the lake along the shore and to swim, most come to see the bluffs themselves, and even more do not even know what the bluffs are. Of course, this is what makes them even better for those of us who do know.

I have to say that my favorite time to come to the bluffs is in late summer when the touch-me-nots that cover the steep hill leading up to the bluffs are almost past the flowering stage. A light touch of the seed pods causes them to burst open, providing a sudden burst of excitement that is always fun to share with the person you are with, often scaring them.           

Allenburg Bog

A couple weeks back we went on a ramble down past Salamanca, New York to the Allenburg Bog. The Allenburg Bog is a nature preserve managed through the Buffalo Audubon Society. I had been warned that if I had never been there before and wasn't going with someone who had...I would never find it. Two sets of directions (one left at home) and a hand drawn map later, like a couple of city folk we were still forced to stop and ask a farmer where the bog could be located. Sure enough, we were within 500 yards of the trail, and no, we never would have found it. Especially since there were farm lanes up and down the road on both sides at every hedge line. The locals always know as long as you can find one that won't chase you off of their property when you track them down to ask them.

We made our way down the lane to the mailbox in the middle of the woods and on to the bog. Wouldn't you know it, looking up we heard a car driving on a road overlooking the swamp. The road and swamp that we had driven past not 30 minutes prior saying, "well there's a swamp...we have to be close!" Close alright. It was a nice ramble through the woods anyway.

The area had seen heavy rain with flash flooding on the days prior to us arriving and it was pretty mucking in areas with high water levels. We were not able to cross the bog and we did not spot any pitcher plants and sun dews much to my disappointment. Alas a ramble through the woods is never a disappointment and we saw an unidentified owl, a deer feeding in the swamp in water up to his haunches, and a scarlet tanager along with a multitude of other winged creatures. The bugs could have been much worse and overall, it was a hot and quite lovely afternoon. Hopefully next time we will actually get to enjoy the bog itself and will be sure to have some experienced bog trekkers with us for a proper tour. We will probably need help finding our way back there anyway.