Not sure what the problem is but it appears names have been dropped off the email notification list for people who should still be on it. So if you have been getting the email notifications and some time in the past month stopped getting them, let me know. They go out approximately every other day or so. If a week goes by and you don’t get one, something is wrong.
The day started out with this alert which was on my phone the first time I looked at it at 6am. I’ve never been anywhere that got an air quality alert but since it is specifically aimed at the very young, the elderly, persons with breathing problems or heart disease, we decided David fit into at least the last category and we probably didn’t want to be outside doing any exercise. So there went our hiking plans. we looked for things we could do by car. Who would think you would get air quality warnings in the Finger Lakes.
We have hiked the Gorge Trail which takes you to nearly all the overlooks on the driving trail but there was one we wanted to return to. The St. Helena stop on the drive is at the site of the former town which at its peak, was a prosperous riverside hamlet with a flour mill, two sawmills, a shingle mill, paper mill, two general stores and 25 dwellings. Apparently the town slowly faded from its once prominent position after the bridge that once carried a local road across the river at that point had washed out during high water, and the use of water powered mills declined. In the 1930s, with few people living in St. Helena, the utility companies acquired the land with plans to build a power-generating dam at Mt. Morris. They demolished all the buildings and relocated the bodies in the cemetery. Before WWII a CCC camp was on this spot. Today, we’ve come because David noticed a mulberry tree in full fruit and we’re here to help releave it of some of its weight. If you’ve never tried either white or black mulberries, you are missing out. We had both at the farm and made cobbler, jam and pies. DELICIOUS! David thinks this is not too strenuous on this poor air quality day. Wonder if air quality warnings have to do with lack of rain?
One place we haven’t been is the brand new Nature Center which just opened within the last 10 days. It’s a LEED certified building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). We can see the roof is entirely covered with solar panels. They also have a huge rain barrel on the corner that we later learn they use to water the butterfly garden out front.
Inside the building is new and smells of fresh paint. It’s really beautiful and has a great deal of information in a relatively small space. Although the building looks large from the outside, I suspect some of it must be offices. There is a bench in front of a giant flat screen. The woman in the picture is sitting on it.
Pretty soon we are sitting there too watching a continuous video of the park in all seasons.
Very interesting to see it during the winter, a season I probably would never be here. I took a video of their video but my connection just isn’t good enough to upload it. So these pictures will have to do.
Just as I suspected, Letchworth State Park is magnificent in the fall.
In another room are exhibits on the park through the years beginning back in the ice age.
We really enjoyed this exhibit of the barks of the park’s trees. I would love to be able to ID a tree by its bark but that seems extremely difficult to me. I have to have the leaves to know who is who.
This was my very favorite exhibit. It shows how erosion in the canyon happens. I am turning the dial and chunks of the rim are breaking off and falling into the river. It’s the best look at erosion I’ve ever seen. Took a video of that too but…..well you heard our problem earlier.
We happened to be in the Nature Center when a talk on the Butterfly Garden in front of the center started.
On the way out the door the ranger pointed out a Luna Moth that had been hanging around for a few days. He said he was afraid the moth would never find a mate since he really could not identify the pheromones with his feathery antenna from behind that overhang. I didn’t know that you could tell the sex of a Luna Moth by their antenna. The feathery ones are the males. They certainly are beautiful and BIG!
He pointed out another moth on the side. The Rosy Maple Moth who also finds his mate by pheromones and is going to have the same problem. Not sure who his friend to the left is.
Like the center, the garden is very new and we didn’t see very many butterflies since only a few of the plants were in bloom. You can see some black eyed susans in the bottom left of this picture. Some of the garden is fenced to keep out the deer which are having a very detrimental effect on the south end of the park. There are just too many of them and no predators.
He pointed out all the plants in bloom or not and which butterflies or moths are attracted to them. He also taught me something I didn’t know. Butterflies hatch from a chrysalis, a life stage made of a hardened protein. A cocoon is spun from silk and surrounds the pupa of many moths. So a chrysalis is like a single butterfly bedroom and a cocoon is a moth dormitory.
We head back home for dinner and shortly David calls me back to appreciate that just like at the farm, he has raspberries in his backyard although he can only pick a few since the poison ivy is so thick here.
With no weather alert today we head out for some more hiking. David wants to do the hemlock trail which is 2.5 miles but requires that we hike 3/4 mile of the Trout Pond trail to get to it. Since it is an out and back that will make about a 6.5 mile hike which sounds perfect.
We begin at the end of the Trout Pond trail which starts out along what we assume is an old farm road. Very shortlly we come to what must be the park boundary. The neighbor has it marked every 2 feet with orange tags and signs and paint. This continues all along the Trout Pond Trail until we finally veer away from the edge of the park into the interior.
At the corner of the property there is a view out over his property where he has fields of corn. It was definitely knee high by the fourth of July.
Moving into the interior, we begin to see the hemlocks which darken the forest where they are.
David reaches the bridge first.
The babbling water adds to the calm feeling walking here brings.
I get down to the bridge and find him picking raspberries. He needs a bumper sticker on his back pack that says “I brake for berries”
We follow the stream along listening to its song and then head up hill still next to it but moving up and away.
We reach the end of the line and turn around by a field where the queen anne’s lace is growing.
On our return trip we hear the most amazing warbler sound that we don’t recognize. Or we think it must be a warbler. It’s a long and intricate song. David searches the trees with his binoculars but cannot locate the singer. I actually take a video of the area and the stream below hoping to pick up the song. It’s faint but I get it and again can’t upload it. SIGH!
There were many large hemlocks to hug thankfully but we aren’t sure for how long. The Hemlock Wooly adelgid has been found in the park and it is another of those imported pests that have no predators here and completely destroy a tree species before moving on. At present no one knows any way to stop them or prevent them. It’s very sad to think of losing these venerable trees which have made this forest and today’s hike so beautiful./
In fact, I’d say of the hikes we have taken here at Letchworth, for me, this one is going to be hard to beat.
After dinner we decide to check out the other Village that was located on the park grounds, Gibsonville. Like St. Helena, the village was founded in the late 1700’s. Ebenezer Allen built a small saw mill along the Silver Lake Outlet. At its peak Gibsonville was home to 16 houses, a general store, post office, shoemaker mill, blacksmith and primary school. By 1900, it was no more and from 1933 to 1941 the CCC had a worker camp here just as they did at the former St. Helena site.
Our information says the mowed trail follows the main street of Gibsonville but if so, it was a pretty short street. There are no signs at all of the village and few signs of the former CCC camp. I just don’t understand why either of these villages was completely dismantled and then so were the CCC camps at both St. Helena and Gibsonville. It seems to me that all of it would be “cultural history” and very interesting sites on the trail which without them isn’t much.
The one relic left is this large stone chimney which looks like it might be quite surprised to see us or yelling at us. It was once in the officers’ barracks for the Gibsonville camp as seen in the picture they have posted at the information plaque in front of it.
When we went to the Visitor Center on our first day in the park, we purchased the Letchworth State Park Trail Guide which stated “Revised, All New” on the cover. The date was 2012 so we thought not much would be different in 4 years. But as we’ve used this book for all the hikes we have taken, those I’ve posted about and others I have not, we have found that it most certainly has not been REVISED in at least 10 or more years. It has been Reprinted perhaps but be careful of it if you come here.
We eventually got so exasperated that I was nominated to find out what was up at the visitor center. They claimed ignorance and said they would give my phone number to the President of the Friends of Letchworth who had put out the publication. I’ll let you know the outcome of that.
But for now, the directions for the Gibsonville hike and the things we are supposed to see are totally inaccurate. In an attempt to find the well and a foundation dating back to village days, we follow some unmarked but clearly used paths.
The trail eventually peters out when it gets down almost to the river and we are forced to turn around but along the way we do get a glimpse of what we later find out is called Papermill falls. Probably another of those 25 falls in the book I didn’t buy but it sure wasn’t listed in the Trail Guide I did buy. I’m betting both the falls and the river are mere shadows of their normal selves but it was fun finding it by following its sound once we were close enough to hear it.
So the highlights of the Gibsonville hike, it’s a stretch really to call it a hike, are the shocked chimney, the falls and this giant plant leaf. Is it Elephant ear?