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Happy Trails to You

Posted on Nov 12, 2013

It’s no secret winter is on it’s way. With the forest floors completely littered with orange and yellow leaves and snow beginning to intermittently fall, it’s hard to ignore what is soon to come. While some folks are already grumbling about the blustery, winter-like conditions we are currently experiencing, many are hoping this is a good preview of a long, cold winter on it’s way. Some folks (including myself) are hoping the area gets buried with snow this season so that we can fire up the snowmobiles and get out on the trails as much as possible in the few months we have of actual winter. Chautauqua County offers some of the best riding in the region with it’s 450 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and 200+ inches of lake-effect snow that keeps the trails open. With such a big trail infrastructure in place, you could imagine how much work must go into keeping these trails maintained during the winter and what all it takes to get them ready before the season begins. Countless hours are spent in the cabs of large, four track groomers throughout the winter, while hours upon hours are spent talking with landowners, re-decking bridges, clearing the trails of trees and debris, and signing all the trails to ensure they are safe for the snowmobiling season.

This past weekend, my husband, friend and I all joined up with others from the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club (CLSC) to help sign the trails. Once we arrived at the CLSC clubhouse, located in Mayville NY, we began to load up stakes, post pounders, signs, nails and drills. We worked our way down the trails in and around Mt. Pleasant State Forest, stopping every so many yards to pound in posts (and make our arms sore) and put signs and reflectors on each. As we worked down the trails we had many laughs as we seemed to take turns getting stuck in the mud with our four-wheelers and “off-road” golf-cart, but we also got super excited to look back at the newly signed trails and imagine in only a month or so we will be going down them on our sleds. Rather than being covered in mud like we were this past weekend, we will soon be bundled in our snowmobiling gear and see the area in a much different perspective.

Instead of driving alongside a pine forest in a car, we’ll get to ride through it and enjoy being underneath the big, snow-covered tree boughs. No matter if we are going through the trails at 50 mph or 10 mph, we still love the scenic view and the experience of being in amongst nature. Just because I’m a snowmobiler doesn’t mean I don’t care about nature. If we didn’t have the forests or streams, there wouldn’t be as much to see while we are out on the trails. Some of the best rides I’ve been on include seeing cool wildlife or riding through a thick, snow-laced forest. I will admit however, that it can be easy to pass by something on the trails while we are out. This area in particular has a lot more to offer than just a good bit of snow. Biologically, this county is loaded with all sorts of diverse species worth seeing. There are several interesting historical sites scattered about the area as well. With so many great things worth seeing on the trail, we here at RTPI thought it would be a fun and exciting endeavor to design a self-guided tour for those out on the snowmobile trails. Working with CLSC, we have established a cell phone tour for their trail system that will highlight those very things that make this area so unique. Signs will be posted at ten different interesting spots within the county. And with that said, we have more signage to put up and more stakes to pound!

For more information on the snowmobile cell phone tour please visit our winter trails page: http://rtpi.org/conservation/winter-trails-cell-phone-tour/

Happy trails!

Tyler pounding in the posts

Putting up the signs and reflectors

Trail signage completed

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Intern

Photos © Elyse Henshaw