Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Fishing at Letchworth State Park with Cray Outdoors

Kevin K. here; I happened to come across this vlog today from the YouTube Channel of "Cray Outdoors" as part of a Facebook thread about fishing at Letchworth State Park and thought since Trout Season opens in just over a month it would be fun to share now, especially since we're supposed to get a blizzard starting tonight. This may give you something warmer to enjoy while the snow and wind are howling outside your window.  

A couple of points worth mentioning; 1.) towards the end of the video you'll see he is unable to access the river at "Lee's Landing".  The video was shot in May of 2017 and that trail was closed due to a partial collapse that had occurred at the beginning of the month.  The trail was repaired in the fall of 2018 and has been re-opened to public access.  2.) for those who may be interested, we offer fishing trips through the gorge at the park and here's our shameless plug -

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Winter's HIke in Zoar Valley

Vlogger: Mike Radomski

Let's accompany Mike as he spends a day hiking through the Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area.  

(We cannot stress enough that should you opt for a hike in this beautifully pristine wilderness the importance of staying on the marked trails and to follow basic hiking safety rules.  Numerous rescues and recoveries occur here on a regular basis.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Snowmobiling at Letchworth State Park

The view from Archery Field Overlook.
I have spent a good part of the past 37 years at Letchworth State Park, first as an employee of "Adventure Calls Rafting" and then as the owner of "Adventure Calls Outfitters, Inc.".  Off and on during all this time I have dreamed of enjoying the serenity and beauty of the park in the winter via a snowmobile. After reading several long range forecasts calling for a colder and snowier winter for this region I finally decided earlier this fall that the time for dreaming was over, and made it a reality. 
Our 2001 Polaris Touring Classic.
The winter recreation area is located at the South end of the park, accessed via the Castile Entrance. Here, not only will you find the "Humphrey Nature Center", which is open year-round;, but also the tubing hill and "Trailside Lodge", which has bathroom facilities and is a great place to warm up after a few hours of fun wintertime activities. The parking lot is quite large, with plenty of space for tow vehicles and trailers while still leaving ample room for others coming to use the tubing hill or to cross country ski / snow shoe to park their cars and trucks as well.   
Follow the signs to Trailside Lodge. 
Warm up by the roaring fire inside!
Despite some promising snowfall in early December that allowed me to take a few laps around the yard, I spent most of the warmer than usual January walking past my "new to me" purchase as it sat on a trailer in our yard wondering if I would ever get to really ride it this winter.  Finally, the weather turned this past week and thanks to the snowfall on Thursday and Friday the news came that I had been waiting for; the snowmobile trails at Letchworth State Park; would be open as of Saturday (02/08/20) AM.  HUUZAH!!
Let's ride!
We arrived at the park late Sunday morning with temps in the mid-20's, mostly sunny skies, and no wind to speak of.  After putting on all of our snowmobile gear and unloading the sled the moment I had waited years for had finally arrived. To say I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning would be an understatement.
Our first stop - Humphrey's Overlook".
Sunday morning's ride was idyllic, to say the least.  We couldn't have asked for a better day to experience the park. Near perfect weather and the trail conditions were close to ideal, freshly groomed powder over a packed 6" base, most of which runs along the closed portion of the main park road. Better still, although we would see small groups of other riders from time to time, we generally had the trail to ourselves for the two hours we rode.
The view to the South, from"Great Bend Overlook". 
Such beauty, eveyrwhere you look!
Our ride on Sunday was more about enjoying some of the winter splendor of the park rather than logging alot of miles. We traveled along the main road as far as the original North entrance (DeGoyler Road) and then turned around, stopping at each of the overlooks along the way to take in the beauty of our surroundings.  

The view upstream from "Tea Table Overlook"
Wolf Creek Cascade
The Wolf Creek picnic area has long been one of my wife Krista''s favorite places to enjoy nature and take photographs during the spring, summer, and fall so seeing it as a snow covered landscape was a real treat for her. As an added bonus, this was the very first time we'd ever had the whole area just to ourselves.    
This is definitely a "thumbs up" place to be!
Our view of the iconic Wolf Creek stone bridge in winter.
After spending some time here we headed back towards Trailside Lodge to ride the trail from there out of the park.  
The parking lot at Trailside Lodge is up ahead.
Unlike the actual road we had just been riding on, upon heading Southwest from the parking lot this section of the trail was far more like what one would expect.  Trail 2A or the "Hemlock Trail" winds up and down over the terrain through a very peaceful wooded section of the park until it exits the park and we came to a farmer's field.  At this point we were riding on Snowmobile Trail C3, which is maintained by one of areas local snowmobile clubs, the Oatka Valley Snowmobile Association;  We spent a few minutes in the open space, just to take in the peace and quiet of the moment and then headed back to Trailside to load up the sled and call it a day.  
Trail C3 heading West out of the park.
Trail C3 as it enters the South end of Letchworth State Park.
Back on the trailer, awaiting our next adventure!
On a scale of 1 to 10 our first snowmobile ride at Letchworth State Part was definitely a 10. The weather was perfect, the trails were in great shape for riding, and there were no mechanical issues during our ride. The day I had hoped for turned out exactly as I imagined and it will be a memory I will cherish for some time.  
An Awesome Day!!


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Winter Hikes - Completing the WNY Winter Hiking Challenge

When I first started this challenge, I was wondering if it was possible to complete the 9 trails for the WNY Winter Hiking Challenge and a bonus trail in a single day.  Three weekends later and I am finally on target to complete the challenge.

Trail #8 of 9 - Eighteen Mile Creek County Park

For this hike, I reached out on social media looking for others to join me.  Hiking alone in the quiet is extremely relaxing an fun, but I also love sharing the outdoors with others.  My friend Daviyion decided to join me for a morning hike back to the waterfalls along Eighteen Mile Creek. 

The landmark that we are looking for is the second large waterfall at the end of the blue trail.  In total, this is a hike of 3-4 miles out and back.

If you are looking for the fastest route to see all of the waterfalls, follow the blue trail from the parking lot to the waterfalls at the end and then turn around and come back.  However, since I only have two hikes planned today, we are going to take our time and explore as many of the trails as possible.

Starting at the parking lot, the trail is paved and well kept.  After a short walk. the asphalt gives way to nature and dirt, mud and leaves replace the paved trail.

As we continue down the path, I'm amazed at just how close to the gorge the trail is. 

Along the trail, there are two primary sets of waterfalls, but keep your eyes open.  Depending on the day, you may see many more falls.  Thanks to a large amount of rain in the last 36 hours, there are a number of bonus points of interest today.

We passed the time catching up on things and admiring everything that nature offered.  While following the blue trail, you will come to a split in the path.  If you are looking for the speedy route, stay to the left.  Since we are exploring today, we followed the path to the right and walked down into the gorge.  A series of impromptu lean-to's have been constructed at the bottom of the trail.  Turn around and back up the gorge to follow the remainder of the blue trail.

We eventually came to the first waterfall on the trail.  Be careful walking trough the section immediately after this as you will need to cross the stream.

At this point, we decided to follow the red trail through the woods and look for a better crossing on the river (on the way back we realized that sticking to the blue trail would have been easiest).  

A short time later and we are once again descending into the gorge.  This time to find the landmark for this hike. 

The path to the river had a small tree blocking the path about chest height, but we were able to easily walk around and duck under the tree to get to the riverbed.

Time to pack up and head back to the parking lot.   Daviyion and I part ways at this point and I'm heading to the final trail for the challenge.

Trail #9 of 9 - Chestnut Ridge - Eternal Flame

This is it, the last trail of the challenge.  The hike that has been laughing at me for the last few weekends.  When I pull into the parking lot, I realize that I will not be alone on this hike, in fact, I will be far from alone.  Despite the warnings for this weekend to be careful outdoors due to the rainfall, there are a large number of cars in the parking lot.

This hike is one of the shortest hikes on the challenge, but do not mistake the short path for an easy hike.  For the second half of the trail, hikers must navigate the riverbed and any obstacles along the way.  

Don't forget to bring a lighter along, just in case the flame is out when you get there. The path from the parking lot is well maintained and offers benches and tables for picnics.

When you reach the treeline, the trail morphs into a more rustic feel going from stone to dirt.  The trail markers for the Eternal Flame are by far the easiest to read of all of the challenge trails (and maybe anywhere in WNY). 

Stay on the trail, watch your step especially when descending to the stream and please follow the warnings along the trail.

It's about 1/4 mile from the trail head to the stream.  Once you get here, the technical part of the hike begins.

There are trails on each side of the stream, but be wary of wet rocks and take your time.  As you get further along the trail, the obstacles show up.

The most difficult part for me to navigate was the log jam near the falls.  As always, take you time, watch your footing and ask for help if needed. 

The Eternal Flame Falls are a short walk from here and my guess was correct.  There is a line waiting to take that picture of the flame.

I patiently wait my turn and finally get the shot that I have been waiting for.

Eternal Flame Falls
And there it is, I have completed all 9 trails on the challenge.

When I started looking at this challenge, I always knew that I wanted this to either be the first or the last trail I would do.  Just like the Olympics, the torch signifies the start and the end of the journey.  

For me, it is the end of this journey, but the flame is also fueling my desire for the next journey.

I'd like to take a minute to thank Mike at Outside Chronicles for creating the challenge and giving myself and others something to do on what could be a boring winter weekend spent at home.  Instead I've gotten a change to see a different side of winter and I hope that if you are reading this, you will be encouraged to do the same.  

It doesn't have to be hiking, but find something that looks fun, or something new, anything to get out and be active and enjoy all that the world has to offer.

Keep an eye out for my next adventure...

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Our Visit to the Western NY RV Show

How true that is!
This past week my wife and I made our annual visit to the Hamburg Fairgrounds for the "Western NY RV Show". I first started going to the event as a teen with my grandparents. who were some of the most avid rv'ers I've ever known.  I owe my love of camping to them and going to the show each January always brings back a flood of fond memories, recalling walking around the arena floor with them as they talked about the pros and cons of each model on display.

Once again this year, there were travel trailers of every shape and size (and budget) to admire, in addition to a good selection of some of the basic necessities you'd need for an improved rv'ing experience.  For anyone interested in buying a "new to me" camper, all of the dealers on site had a wide selection of those to pick from as well. We've been enjoying our 4th such travel trailer for the past several years, a 2007 Dutchman "Freedom Spirit" thanks to the fine folks at

"Skyline RV" (Darien, NY) Used RV Display.  
Of the several tiny campers we saw, for anyone not quite ready to give up on tent camping but, tired of sleeping on the cold wet ground, the "Coachman Clipper Express 9"; might be to your liking. It can be towed by even the smallest of cars / suv's while still providing some of the basic essentials.     
Coachman Clipper Express 9
Retro campers are still quite popular.  It wasn't hard for us to imagine ourselves retired and enjoying a few days relaxing at one of our favorite campsites in a "Gulfstream Vintage Cruiser";

Culfstream Vintage Cruiser
The Cruiser has a lovely retro themed blue interior as well.
Although most of the campers we toured had the same general layout and interior color scheme (sandstone seems to be the consensus this year), there were a few surprises to be had.  I cannot recall ever seeing twin beds in place of a queen in a camper before, although I'm sure they've probably been an option.  Our guess was this "Mini Winnie" floor plan is geared towards heading out for a few days with your buddy hunting / fishing. It also can be made into one large bed if needed.

Well, that's something different.
Of all the travel trailers at the show, our favorite was a 27' "Palomino Puma".  
We really liked the interior layout, very spacious throughout. It's similar in size to the camper we own now which meets our needs quite nicely.   
Maybe, if we win the lottery in the near future...............
The interior floorplan.
Plenty of room to move around from front to back. 
A good amount of workspace in the kitchen area.

Even the bathroom is fairly spacious. 
In addition to the many campers on display it's always nice to visit every year with some of our local Tourism friends that are campground owners.  Two of our favorites are which is in the Cattaraugus / Chautauqua region of the State; and, located  25 minutes West of Letchworth State Park;  

Triple R Campground in Franklinville, NY will have a new waterpark for the 2020 season.
Patty Daniel Jarnot can't wait for camping season to begin at "Dream Lake"!

All in all, it was an afternoon well spent, sort of like being able to walk around in the Sears Christmas Wish Book, only for "big" kids. Now we can dream of some rv'ing to come once camping season returns in a few months.  Hooray!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a great way to get out and explore nature in the winter.
Now that we actually have some snow cover on the ground here in Western NY perhaps those of us that got some snow shoes for Christmas can finally try them out, maybe for the first time ever.  Before doing that though, here's a well written article via with quite a bit of info to help you enjoy the experience.

Okay, so you're read up and have tromped around the yard a few times to master the basics.  Now it's time to head out and explore a little which begs the question; "Where's some good places to enjoy my new winter pastime?"

For starters, here's a few awesome spots locally;

1.) Letchworth State Park - Castile, NY
2.) Genesee County Forest & Park - E. Bethany, NY
3.) Audobon Beaver Meadow Nature Center - Jave Center, NY
4.) Chestnut Ridge Park - Orchard Park, NY
5.) Genesee Valley Greenway Trail - Cuba, NY 


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Continuing the WNY Winter Hiking Challenge

Last weekend I started the WNY Winter Hiking Challenge with the ambition to complete not just the minimum 6 trails, but all 9 trails (and a bonus hike) in the same day. If you read my previous entry, you already know the outcome of that epic day of hiking.  If you haven't read it yet, you can find it here.

At the start of this day, I have completed 5 of the 9 trails.  My goal is to still complete all of the hikes, but I'll be taking my time today to enjoy the challenge.

Unlike last weekend, the weather today finally feels like winter.  The temps are in the low 30s and an overnight showers have provided a fresh coat of snow on the ground.

Trail #6 of 9 - Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area - Valentine Flats

I love rafting and guiding in Zoar Valley in the spring, but I haven't spent much time here during the winter months.  Of all of the trails in the hiking challenge, this is the one that I spent the most time preparing for.  You should always prepare for any hike of adventure outdoors, but Zoar Valley presents it's own unique challenges if something were to go wrong.

The drive to the parking area wasn't bad but when I turned onto Point Peter Road, I realized I was in for a treat today.

The road was completely covered in snow, no plow marks, no tire tracks, no signs that anyone but me would be on the trail this morning.  Just a fresh coat of snow.  I happily put my truck into 4WD and continued on to the parking area.

The trailhead to the Zoar Valley MUA
In addition to my normal essential items, I've brought a few extra items today.   Extra water, food and supplies, just in case I want to spent a bit longer on the trail.  I've also brought along my new micro spikes.  With the fresh snow, it will be a good test of the spikes which slip on over boots.

I text my wife and let her know that I'm heading out on the trail and will be back in a few hours.  The plan is to text her when get back to the parking so that someone knows where I am and that all is well.

After passing the gate and a short walk down the trail, it's time to make a decision.  Go left and head up to Peter's Point or go right and head down into the gorge.  Today, we will be heading down into the gorge.

The trail down into the gorge is a gentle slope, and as expected there are no other human footprints anywhere to be seen.  I do pass a number of animal tracks.  From what I can see, the fox, rabbits other animals have been busy overnight.

As I head down the trail, there is only one item that bothers me.  The trail markers chosen for this trail are small red circles.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but at this time of the year I've noticed that the trail markers blend into the background quite well and are difficult to spot at times. Normally this may not be an issue as you can see a fairly distinct trail from foot traffic, but today, it is just that fresh coat of snow.

When I reached the bottom of the gorge, I realized that I don't see any trail markers anywhere.  There is what appears to be a clean path in front of me, but looking further into the forest, I still don't see the trail markers. If you find yourself in this situation, turn around and follow your footsteps back to the last marker you see.  Then turn back around to the direction you want to go and look again for the next marker.

 In my case, I took several things into account to decide on my next move.

1.  I know where I am in the gorge, and I have my map and compass with me along with my GPS app on my phone which has the coordinates for my way points all preset and saved.

2.  I have two extremely identifiable landmarks in front of me if I keep moving forward (Pyramid Hill and the South Branch of the Cattaraugus Creek).  If I get to the hill, I can use it to pickup the trail again.  If I follow the flow of the South Branch of the Cattaraugus Creek, I will pickup the trail again where the South Branch meets up with the main branch of the river.

3.  I have plenty of supplies and my wife know my expected timeline and planned route.

I continued forward on the "trail" I saw in front of me.  After following it for a bit (based on the number of the animal tracks I see) I'm guessing this is a favorite root for the animals in the area.

After I short walk I come upon Pyramid hill and find my way back onto the foot trail again.  My spikes are working well, the only downside is that I am having to stop and knockoff the buildup of snow, mud and ice that keeps building up on my feet.  On the plus side, traction is not an issue.

I finally reach the challenge target for the trail, the Giant Fluted Cliffs near the confluence of the branches of the river.

Desired destination landmark achieved!
Time to head back to the parking lot.

The climb down wasn't bad, but climbing back up reminds me just how far we descended into the gorge (almost 200 feet).  I take my time climbing back up, but I know that I'm getting close to the time limit that I had given my wife earlier.

Luckily the cell coverage in this part of the trail isn't bad and I'm able to send a message to let her know that I am okay and just enjoying the views.

On the way back up, I run into other people for the first time today.  It's just after noon and a two small groups are starting their hikes for the day.

Trail #6 complete.  I have completed the challenge, but I'm ready to continue on with the remaining hikes.  The plan is still to complete all 9 trails.

Trail #7 of 9 - Franklin Gulf County Park

A short drive from Zoar Valley to North Collins and I'm in the parking lot at Franklin Gulf. Unlike my first hike of the day, I won't be alone on the trails here.  The parking lot is almost full and there is just enough room for me to park.

Franklin Gulf County Park Welcome Sign.
On this hike we are looking for the remains of another cabin.   A direct hike to the remains and back to the parking lot is just over a mile and is a mostly flat hike.  If you wish to do this, head to the left at the trail head and follow the orange trail back into the woods.  

I head to the right and plan to take the long way around to the cabin.   The trails here are muddy and not getting any better. I finally turn around and head down the orange trail in search of the cabin.

There are other hikers on the trails, some with dogs, others with friends and some alone.  Even with all of these people on the trail, it is still quite and the views are amazing.

I'm taking my time this afternoon as this is the last hike I have planned for the day. I wonder along the trail and finally come upon the remains of the Larkin Cabin.  

The Larkin Cabin.
The foundation and chimney are all that are left of what had to have been a great place to get away during it's day. 

Seven trails down, two to go.  

The look of another satisfying day on the trails.
Check back for my next entry where I'll be completing the remaining trails for the challenge.

Fishing at Letchworth State Park with Cray Outdoors

Kevin K. here; I happened to come across this vlog today from the YouTube Channel of "Cray Outdoors" as part of a Facebook thread...