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Outdoors by Will Elliott: WNY, as seen by foot

When Foothills Trail Club members tell you to take a hike, they mean it in so many nice ways.

From a sunny-day saunter around Delaware Park Lake to a leg of the Appalachian Trail, Foothills folk walk the walk and talk the trails about everything from stunning, off-road lands and waterscapes to buildings and monuments not fully enjoyed at vehicular street speeds.

Tuesday morning we met up with a dozen or so Foothills hikers at the Buffalo Historical Museum for a low-impact, casual stroll the club stages nearly every Tuesday of the year, calling them saunters. The hike leader, Deloris Kennedy, said right at the start, “I’m the leader but not at directions,” a reference to the many, complex hikes that require orientation as well as familiarization. Not this morning.

Kennedy explained that these saunters cover familiar, easily followed trail paths and walkways.

“For the more complex hiking trails that Foothills leaders take, markers called ‘blazes’ are placed along the way,” she said as we set out from the Historical Museum parking lot.

The pathway around Delaware Park is an easy walk with a great series of views of everything from Buffalo’s historical buildings to land and aquatic wildlife usually not seen within city limits of a major city.

But before one heads up or down the Delaware trails, it would be good to stop by the Buffalo History Museum and take a few minutes to look around the beautifully designed layout of the entire park depicted on the main floor of the museum.

The to-scale depiction is of the lake, its surrounding buildings and landscapes during the 1901 World’s Fair held at this site. Back then, the lake offered three boat launches and options for aquatic as well as shoreline promenades on sunny Sundays at the start of the last century.

Our sunny day Tuesday morning lacked veiled bonnets, top hats and ties, but the grandeur of this area made this short hike seem like much more than a walk in the park. Any day, especially while green and floral growth is in bloom, would be a good day to hike around Delaware Park.

For example, as we headed up a slight hill on the south side of the lake, a gentle southeast breeze wafted odors of roses well before we got to the raised-bed gardens of the park with planting varieties that would make an ice cream vendor proud – flavors from chocolate to orange greet viewers viewing the rose varieties.

Along the way, Donna Flood described how the Foothills club began in 1962, when Mabel James, a curator with Audubon, organized volunteers to establish hiking trails around Western New York.

Hikers and outdoors enthusiasts sought land-owner permission to set up these trails, which eventually led to a grand plan of building a hiking trail from Allegany State Park northward to the shores of Lake Ontario.

That trail, today known as the Conservation Trail, is part of the Finger Lakes Trail Western Portion (west of the Genesee River). The Conservation Trail is an active site for many of the Foothills hike sessions. The Finger Lakes Trail covers about 562 miles, depending on current land-access rights in 11 New York counties; the Conservation Trail crosses Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Cattaraugus and Wyoming counties.

Flood generously cited club members and the many landowners for their help in obtaining and maintaining the miles of trails. She also thanked Wegmans Food Markets for their support of the Conservation Trail program as part of the Finger Lakes Trail. Wegmans produces a Finger Lakes Trail pamphlet/booklet “Get Your Passport to Family Wellness” available at either wegmans.com or fingerlakestrail.org.

Foothills weekly slate of hikes, listed each Sunday on the Outdoors Page under ‘Hiking/nature,’ welcomes hikers of all ages, interests and abilities. Barbara Morrissey has been hiking with Foothills for ages and enjoys the walks each day. “I also like to volunteer for outdoors events and recently signed on with Tifft Nature Preserve,” she said as we passed the reconstruction project underway at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in the Richardson Olmsted Complex.

At the other extreme of hiking efforts, Chuck Feldman of Springville, goes for distances. “I like to do 20 to 30 miles a weekend,” Feldman said as we crossed the Scajaquada Expressway Bridge.

“I usually have to work during the week but have off today,” Feldman said as we began checking out aquatic bird life on the lake’s shore. Sightings included geese with goslings, a great blue heron and one night heron, a species we usually see but missed on the Penn Dixie Miss Buffalo Nature Cruise the previous Sunday.

These and many other interesting beasts, birds, buildings and back-country views await all on a hike with Foothills Trail Club leaders and members. For details on the clubs hiking schedule and its many activities, visit foothillstrailclub.org.

email: odrswill@gmail.com