Have you ever set your alarm for 5 am, thrown on a sweatshirt and hiked to a place where you can watch the sun rise and enjoy a thermos of coffee while the world wakes up? Or hiked a creek in sandals and stopped to watch the water just run over your feet, turn over rocks for crayfish or take pictures of flowers along the banks? Have you left your bedroom windows open so you can hear the peepers’ chorus as you fall asleep and the chickadees’ good morning as you wake up?
If this brings back fond memories of simpler, childhood days, it’s not too late to live them again.
There’s one place in particular where there never is a shortage of things to see and do — and is almost completely unaffected by what’s going on in the civilized world: the outdoors. You can always count on the completely untethered, constant beauty and flow of nature, even when our own heavily work- or obligation-prioritized day-to-day circles are put on a very short leash. Plus, it’s a known fact that time spent in nature improves physical and mental health. Check out some of this evidence:
Fortunately, enjoying the outdoors can be as simple as a walk around your neighborhood or local park, or as involved as packing-lists and zero cell service. There’s no substitute for filling your tank with woods, water and wildlife. The key to beating the COVID doldrums is being a little deliberate, embracing a change in routine or priorities, and letting yourself be present.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life. Well, if you’re not an avid outdoor enthusiast, there’s more spice out your front door than a basket of extra-hot Buffalo wings. And if you are well-versed in all things nature, you know firsthand that there’s always more to explore. How about trying one of these?
• Flatwater canoeing or kayaking on a river
• Hiking a trail or pedaling a mountain bike
• Spotting birds or catching trout on a fly rod
• Keeping an outdoor journal or pointing a camera lens
• Teaching your kids or grandkids about the lifecycle of frogs — or learning with them!
Maybe you already have some favorite spots to visit. But there’s nothing saying you can’t get to know them a little better, from a different perspective or with a loved one.
Life is absolutely full of distractions. There’s no shortage of people and to-dos all clamoring for your undivided attention and energy, all claiming their place at the top of the priority-heap. Even carrying the anxiety of those distractions with you, of course, the only way they can actually reach you when you’re outdoors is through your phone.
We know it’s not always prudent or possible to leave it behind, but Airplane Mode or Do not Disturb are perfectly reasonable alternatives. If you’re not carrying a camera, this strategy also allows you to use your phone’s camera function or audio recording app to chronicle moments in the day.
There’s no better way to be fully present wherever you are, and with whoever you’re with, than to make the time and put those distractions on pause. Besides, you’ll appreciate posting that great picture on Facebook or Instagram even more afterwards since it will let you revel in the experience a little while longer.
Speaking of places to go, did you know that we are all public landowners? It’s true. We are wildly fortunate (no pun intended) to be endowed with public land and water that belongs to us. From local municipal parks, beaches and historic sites to our State and National Parks and Forests, we have access to thousands of miles of trails for hiking, biking and camping, and thousands of miles of rivers, coastlines and lakes for swimming, fishing or paddling.
Here in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region there’s no shortage of things to do outside. But if you want to get up close and personal with some nature, here are a few recommendations to do just that.
If you haven’t been to Chimney Bluffs on the shores of Lake Ontario in Wolcott, you need to go. And if you have, it’s probably time to visit again. Hiking the slow path up through the woods and then down to the otherworldly clay spires transports you to a time that feels almost prehistoric. This is a perfect destination for a day-hike and picnic. Boaters like to sail or motor close to the bluffs, drop anchor and wade onto the beach.
Chimney Bluffs from the trail, looking back toward the east as you begin the descent.
Two Point CEO Jack McGowan and his niece Maria share a sunset moment at the eastern entrance to the park. (Bring your bug spray!)
You can get on the water even if you don’t own a boat, or a friend with a boat. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard (SUP), which are all simple and inexpensive ways to see our lakes, rivers and wildlife from a whole new perspective. The paddling is also a great workout and if you time it right, the sunsets can’t be beat. Check Bay Creek Paddling Center on Irondequoit Bay and Canandaigua Sailboard at the north end of the Canandaigua City Pier.
The 992-mile-long Finger Lakes Trail, built and maintained by volunteers, and the 6,000 square-foot Hi-Tor Wildlife Area in Naples, NY offer maintained paths that take you to some of the best views in the area. You can access the trail from various places. On the west side of Monroe County, Northampton Park offers some great, simple hiking trails, and you can hike and take the grandkids on a geocache adventure at Greece Canal Park. (Never heard of geocaching? Learn all about “the world’s greatest treasure hunt.”) Finally, download a map of all of Monroe County’s parks.
The many glens located in South Bristol and Naples are a perfect way to experience the unique glacially formed landscape of the Finger Lakes. Grimes Glen, Clark’s Gully, Conklin’s Gully and Tannery Creek are beautiful hikes right along (and even in) the streams. Make sure you wear hiking sandals or sneakers and pack water and snacks!
In our own recreational travels (and often to visit with clients), the Two Point Capital team has compiled some favorite activities in other regions, such as the western mountain states, and Florida. Check back for those in the next few days.
Montana’s Bridger Hike
Sunrise on the beach in Florida
There are innumerable resources beyond these for information about trails, access points, recreational opportunities, and regulations to be aware of, especially during COVID times. One great place to start is your state’s Department of Environmental Conservation or Fish & Wildlife website.
Trip Advisor offers unvarnished reviews from travelers and often specific warnings about, for instance, hikes that started off easy and then turned tough, as well as insider secret spots to find a sunset. You can search by activity or by region.
Hiking, biking and running groups offer a lot of great information on where to go. Or ask your neighbors on your social feed or the Next Door App.
The good news is you don’t have to fly (and then quarantine!) or even road-trip for hours and hours to take advantage of your birthright. You might be able to take a short drive, ride your mountain bike or even walk to the trailhead or park entrance.
Just like Katherine Lee Bates originally wrote in “America the Beautiful,” “This land is your land. This land is my land.” Get out and enjoy it—it’s just one more way to discover a richer world.