Bah humbug! It's not a phrase I use very often, but one that fit my mood. Imagine being dressed in a huge, bright yellow rain suit with muck boots to your knees and a floppy rain hat pulled down over your ears - looking very much like a gigantic No. 2 pencil - in mid-December. What's going on here? Where's my snow? I should be on my snowshoes, bundled in my heavy winter coat trudging through knee-deep snow on my first hike at the Loomis Goose Creek Wetland Preserve. Yet, despite the quirky weather, I had an amazing time exploring this jewel on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.
After a lot of hard work on the part of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, 30 acres has been set aside as a preserve just minutes from downtown Lakewood. The land lies along Route 394 on the left, just as you cross Goose Creek and before you reach Ashville Bay Marina. A sign identifies the parcel, and you can't miss the nifty little parking lot. Each time I travel that section of highway, I say to myself, ''I need to take the time to explore this.'' Finally it happened, but on a rainy day.
The main reason I wanted to check out the property was to kayak the creek. I know, here I am fussing about no snow when all I'm really interested in is paddling, but a girl has to plan for the future. Goose Creek is difficult to get to. I know of no public access along the east side of the creek, and the one time I did kayak it, I launched at the marina. It took quite a while to go around the point and up the stream. So, once I had my car parked, I looked for a path leading to the water closest to the road.
The view at the end of the trail at CWC’s Loomis Goose Creek Wetland Preserve.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver
At first, I was totally confused. There were pink ribbons all over the place. I picked some going east and followed them. As I trudged through the waist-high withered remnants of goldenrod and fall asters, I thought how pretty the field must have looked this past fall. I spied some red berries on bushes and multi-flower rose hips. This was a good place for birds to forage in the winter. Finally, I reached the creek.
Large boulders line the creek bank near the bridge and the bank is steep, so it would take some doing to launch there. But, I might try, come spring and warm water. Then, if I slipped, my day wouldn't be ruined. I also made a mental note to call the CWC office to check the boundary lines of the preserve.
As I walked the creek bank towards the lake, I saw several spots that would be perfect for fishing. Other areas were so densely vegetated that hiking was difficult, but I kept going. The multi-flower rose was thick in places, snagging me more than once. Without any snow cover, I could see the preserve was nearly litter free, which made me smile.
After walking for about 30 minutes, I came across another trail. This well-marked path led me to the point where Goose Creek empties into the lake. All the stumbling, grumbling and scratches were worth it. Standing there, breathing deeply, I felt at peace and in a much better mood. The view of Ashville Bay and the lake towards Bemus was breath-taking. I couldn't help thinking about how blessed we are to have this area at our disposal. The path back to my car was easy. Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing would be wonderful here. Once I was near the parking lot, the pink ribbons made more sense to me. They marked two different paths.
The Loomis Goose Creek Wetland Preserve is a winner, snow or no snow. But don't take my word for it, check it out yourself. Happy Hiking Holidays to all!
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy presently has its 2011-12 membership drive under way and is seeking donations to conserve the Wells Bay Lakeshore. To support these efforts or for more information, visit the CWC website at www.chautauquawatershed.org or call 664-2166.