WINTER WONDERLAND: New York's picturesque Allegany State Park. (Photo: Wendy Card)
Nestled on the border of New York and Pennsylvania, Allegany State Park is a terrific place to get back to nature.
My first visit to Allegany State Park dates back to the early '70s when the black bears congregated at the garbage dumps and people would feed them to get that "Kodak moment." Another old tradition was to give marshmallows to welcoming parties of raccoons because they were so cute.
Little did we know back then how our irresponsible behavior would create humanized animals!
Fast forward 40 years: Allegany is still well-preserved without any commercialized attractions. Visitors still flock to the park to bike, bird watch, camp, cross country ski, fish, hike, horseback ride, hunt, play miniature golf, snowmobile, snowshoe, sunbathe, swim and enjoy numerous guided activities to include nature walks to observe wildlife. Last year, the park hosted more than 1,000 geo-caching adventurists.
During this year's fall turkey hunting trip with my sister, Darlene, we spent a week in Allegany State Park.
We stayed in a rustic cabin in the Quaker Area outfitted with electricity and a wood burning stove. Wonder what I mean by rustic? Imagine an old cabin with holes in the walls into which people have stuffed aluminum foil, toilet paper or other fillers to keep the wind from blowing through the cabin. Adding to the ambiance are terms of endearment carved on the walls, table and benches.
If you're planning a vacation in Allegany during the fall or winter, I would recommend staying in a refurbished cabin with electricity and gas heat because the tiny wood stoves require that you wake up every two hours to stoke the fire. Most of the refurbished cabins are located in the Red House Area.
Now that you have an idea of the accommodations, let's talk about our turkey hunting expedition!
Darlene and I visited all of our old "hot spots" where we've seen turkey and/or their signs. The first day we hit the ground running and were elated by the thoughts of bagging a turkey! As the week sped by, with no luck on the turkey front, our confidence level dropped and we fought off the doldrums.
One of our last days was very promising. A turkey finally answered us. It was a terrific spot, even though we had seen black bear signs in the same area the day before.
After two hours of waiting, we heard branches breaking and loud shuffling within 100 feet of our setup. I thought it was the bear. Then we saw him: it was another hunter. He wasn't dressed in camouflage and had his gun at the ready, fanatically searching for something. Then I realized he must be a turkey hunter who was stalking us. Little did he know that we were making the turkey calls. When we see another hunter, we usually call out "hunters in the area," but this guy was crazed-looking and carelessly discharged his shotgun. I hid behind a large rock and we left as soon as he was out of sight. He ruined what we thought was our prime turkey hunting spot.
On our way out of the woods we saw a bear about 50 feet from Darlene's Jeep. As we got closer, the bear took off running as soon as we closed the doors to the Jeep. We were surprised as a lot of the bears in Allegany have been humanized and aren't afraid of people. We've encountered some in the woods and at our campsites and they don't seem to care if we're there. That's why it's important that people don't feed bears. It may lead to an unfortunate outcome.
Although we struck out this year with the turkeys, we were fortunate to enjoy encounters with bald eagles, bear, chipmunk, coyote, deer, grouse, raccoon, red-tailed hawk, skunk and squirrel, among other wildlife.
I really enjoyed "getting back to nature" and spending quality time with my sister. I wasn't about to let the turkey get the best of me. We had a great time and I didn't have a worry in the world. It was truly a mind cleansing experience. Listening to the sounds of nature, breathing the fresh air and laughing about the simple things in lifeis food for the soul.
When was the last time you took a walk in the woods? Either in the park or forest, it may help you gather your thoughts and escape from any stressors of daily life.
For all you hunters, what do you cherish most? Time spent in the woods with your hunting partner or bagging that big Tom or Buck?
Please feel free to comment below or send me an email.
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