The cooler days and nights mean that people have stopped swimming at Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County.
But they’re still in stride. Trail walking above the water is one of the most popular activities at the Gansevoort nature spot once autumn arrives.
That’s fine with Peter Iskenderian, the park’s manager.
“It’s just getting out in the nice air,” he said. “We also get a lot of horseback riders doing that trail; it’s a nice, easy trip for the horses. And we get just as many in the winter, too, because the lake is frozen and you can walk on the lake. We post until it’s ready; 6 inches is what we go by.”
The October set doesn’t want to talk about cold weather and cross-country skiing yet. They’re glad to have Moreau and parks like it that offer small lakes and short hikes, and exercise that can be started and completed in a morning or afternoon.
Worth a drive
“Usually, I just walk along the shore,” said Leah Bronsther of Clifton Park, watching her golden retriever Bruce run by the water. “It’s worth the drive, there’s nothing like this in Clifton Park. Most of the time, there aren’t a lot of people, so Bruce can run free.”
Other brief lake walks can also be found in the Capital Region and Adirondacks. Among them are:
— Bullhead Pond, 1 mile round trip in Indian Lake
— Fawn Lake, 2.2 miles round trip in Lake Pleasant
— Jockeybush Lake, 4 miles round trip in Arietta
— Cascade and Stevens Ponds, in Blue Mountain Lake
— Christine Falls, Speculator
— Tirrell Pond, Blue Mountain Lake
— Beaver Lake, Inlet
The price is right during the week — admission is free after Labor Day. Weekends and holidays cost $6 per car through Oct. 11.
The walk around the lake is about two miles and takes 45 minutes to an hour. By early October, the oak, ash, maple and hemlock trees in the park should be in orange, red and yellow modes. Iskenderian said people should also be looking for wildlife.
“There are a lot of deer, a lot of beaver activity,” he said. “We have a back pond that’s called the mud pond — there’s a lot of beaver activity there. And we have otter, muskrat, mink. There’s a lot of bird activity, red-winged blackbirds, hawks, osprey. We get bald eagles here.”
Iskenderian is glad to host people who may not want to drive farther north into the Adirondacks to circle a small lake. It helps that Moreau Lake State Park receives some free advertising on the Adirondack Northway. “We have the sign on the Northway; we have our own exit,” he said. “It helps a lot.”
Wildlife on view
On the first day of fall, a walk on trails and sand gave hikers the chance to see minnows in the water — tiny gray fish that cast shadows on the lake floor. Squirrels and chipmunks were the only visible terrestrial representatives of the forest; other animals were on the night shift. Breezes moved leaves and acorns; the small nuts fell constantly, knocking into tree branches before landing in leaves and on the paved roads that run through the park. Geese flew overhead. Crows cawed in the trees.
“The water level is down,” said Ellen Kreckman of Houghton, on the nature path with a companion. “I think this year, you can walk around the whole lake.”
Iskenderian sees people walking — some are fishing or paddling kayaks and canoes — throughout the day.
“In the morning, we get people who come before work to get their exercise routine in,” he said. “Seniors come during the day. After-work people come, a lot of dog walkers, runners.”
Other people do the same things at other lakes. At Grafton Lakes State Park in Grafton, Rensselaer County, five ponds receive attention from autumn visitors. The longest walk is 21⁄2 miles.
“We have something for everyone regarding hiking options and seeing fall foliage,” said Liz Wagner, the park’s naturalist, adding that some people come just to sit.
“Folks will drive up, sit on the beach and enjoy the sunshine and the colors,” she said.
Iskenderian said people are welcome to cook out and picnic after walking on park grounds. He also said there’s a way for people to “see” Moreau’s water and paths without leaving home. The park is the first in the 178-park state system, he said, to get the virtual tour treatment at www.nysparks.com.
“You can see the lake, the cabins, the campsite,” he said. “They can go through everything in the park and decide if they want to come.”
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