By Jenny Lee Fowler (Recycled from January/February 2014, Edition 3)
A winter walk offers opportunities to catch a unique glimpse of wildlife through the tracks that various creatures leave in the snow, the chance to meander along less crowded trails, and a healthy dose of sunlight and fresh air.
One of my favorite memories of hiking as a child was a trip into the mountains for a winter visit to a waterfall park. On one trail, we walked behind a veil of ice and you could see the sun shining through it. I still remember how cautiously we managed our footing across the stretch of rock, how we held onto each other for support, and how time also froze in that moment of wonder.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that this lush valley that we call home was also once home to a sweeping glacier known as the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered much of North America tens of thousands of years before our time. Evidence of the massive and dynamic changes in the land can be found in the fossils of aquatic species that pepper the rocks of our highest peaks. While some waterfalls are carved by bodies of water moving at dramatic differences of speed and force, we also have glaciers to thank for many of the waterfalls that we enjoy in New York State. Over nine hundred and ten of them have been catalogued in the World Waterfall Database. New York has the 4th highest number of waterfalls in the country, and the most in any Eastern state. Many of these waterfalls are the jewels of public parks.
Though technically in Mt. Washington State Forest in Massachusetts, in that neat little corner where the tri-states come together, Bash Bish Falls can be accessed through a trailhead in Copake, New York, so many claim it as one of our own. If you’ve ever wanted to take a short walk across a state line, this is that hike. Access from the New York side offers a gentle mile and a half round trip out and back stroll along a wide trail following the rifﬂe-rich Bash Bish Creek. The incline is very gentle; so much so that a four year old can manage the hike with limited parent-shoulder time.
Make sure to bring your camera, for the winding stream that follows you back up to the falls from whence it came offers several gorgeous angles for photos that’ll be well worth the real estate in your social media.
Charles Blondin, French acrobat famous for being the ﬁrst to cross Niagara Falls on tightrope and quite possibly the only person who will ever cook an omelette in that transit, also crossed a cable over Bash Bish Falls. Though we can draw inspiration from the daredevil feats of the Great Blondin, today visitors are best advised to respect park regulations and the boundaries of the trail and keep a safe distance to view the falls. There is a metal fence that provides a stunning view at the top, just be careful of the steps if you’re planning on heading down to the lower landing; they can get very icy in the winter.
Wondering what to pack for a winter adventure? January trails can be more treacherous than other months. Be sure to wear shoes or boots with solid tread. Dress like an onion with lots of layers that can be shifted around for maximum comfort and protection from the elements. Bring back-up socks and gloves. Carry a hearty snack. Some Russian friends of ours once impressed us with baked potatoes and hard-boiled eggs in foil that they’d tucked in pockets close to the heart. My parents always carried a thermos for an on the trail warm-up: cider, cocoa, or tea. Before you go, be sure to check the weather conditions (where you are and where you’re headed), and plan ahead for a start time that puts you out and about in the light and warmth of the day. █