If the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” is to be believed, the upcoming winter will be milder than normal in our region.
By Paul Hicks
If the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” is to be believed, the upcoming winter will be milder than normal in our region. However, its competitor, the “Farmers’ Almanac,” is predicting significant amounts of snow, especially in the early part of February, just in time for the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands. Despite their differences, both forecasts indicate that the next couple of months could be a great time for all sorts of outdoor activities.
Walks in the county parks should be high on the list of choices for many outdoor enthusiasts, especially because there is a new free app available for iPhones and Androids called the Westchester County Parks Pocket Ranger. The interactive mobile guide can be downloaded to help you find, select, and navigate Westchester’s 50 parks and 18,000 acres of open space from Yonkers to Yorktown.
The new app allows you to choose a park by name or location by clicking on the “Visit” icon, or, if you use the “Nearest me” icon, you will find a map with icons that link to a multitude of locations around the county. In the Rye and Harrison area, there are links to Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshlands Conservancy, and Saxon Woods Park.
Alternatively, you could search by activity. If we are going to have a snowy winter, you and your family might like to know where to find some of the better places to go sledding. All of the Westchester County golf courses permit sledding, and two are nearby. One is the Maple Moor Golf Course on North Street in White Plains (on the north side of the Hutchinson River Parkway) and the other is the Saxon Woods Golf Course in Scarsdale, which is a short distance on the right after taking the Mamaroneck Road exit off the southbound Hutch.
However you make your selection of a destination, once you get to that specific page, you can click on the highlighted address, and the GPS mapping function will give you directions from your present location as well as a map of the surrounding area. Descriptions of the trails are shown for some locations and trail maps are included for a few of them (see the one for Blue Mountain Reservation as an example). Hopefully, these features will be added soon for all the locations with trails.
There is useful information on each park’s web pages about its size, terrain and amenities as well as the range of activities it offers. For example, the activities listed for Read Sanctuary include bird watching, hiking/running/walking, and nature study. The operational times and regulations for each park are shown, including whether dogs are allowed. You can even check the current weather conditions if you are heading to a more distant destination.
A good way to learn how to use the Pocket Ranger is to click on the GPS Map heading on the first page. The bottom symbol on the map is an ALERT button, which you will want to activate in case you are lost or have an emergency. Above it is a symbol of an open box that will take you to the user guide to the app and GPS map features as well as to a game called GeoChallenges, which your family might enjoy playing. The next enhancement of this software should make the user guide much easier to find.
The “Westchester Pocket Ranger” was created through a collaboration between the non-profit Friends of Westchester County Parks and ParksByNature Network, which has produced similar apps for state parks around the country. There is more information on its website (www.pocketrangerexchange.com/apps) and the Westchester County government website also has more details on the county parks. For trail maps, the best link to use is http://parks.westchestergov.com/trailways.
If, however, you want to go to a park or preserve in Westchester that is not owned and operated by the county, one of the best on-line resources is the website of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which can be found at http://www.nynjtc.org/. On their home page, click on the heading “Go Hiking” and then on the heading “Find a Park.” If you then click on the column heading “County,” all of the parks in Westchester will be grouped together. By selecting a particular park you will find a detailed description, directions and dog rules. Printable trail maps are available for some of the parks.
With Thanksgiving coming soon, the Pocket Ranger and NYNJTC park and trail guides will give you, your family, and visiting guests a great incentive to work up an appetite and/or work off some turkey dinner with a walk in the woods.