Add Nature To Your Holiday

by Sue Freeman

The holiday season is always a busy and often stressful time. There are decorations to put up, baking to do, presents to buy, and parties and family gatherings to attend. It can become all consuming.

A few years ago we decided to cut back on some of the traditional celebrations and add communing with nature to the mix. It actually enhanced our holiday experience and has become a part of our new holiday traditions. On Christmas Eve, we decorated our backpacks with big red bows and headed south to Urbana State Forest in Hammondsport. Driving along Bean Station Road, we knew we had escaped holiday commercialism when a sign directed us to the Finger Lakes Trail parking area “just a whoop and a holler down the road.”

We parked, donned our backpacks and headed up the hill, passing Covell Pioneer Cemetery. Our hike to Evangeline Shelter was short, but got us huffing and puffing none the less. As shelters go, Evangeline is palatial. It’s a two-story, three-sided open shelter. The second floor is a sleeping loft. The lower floor comes complete with a couch and chairs and a telephone (non-operable). In front of the shelter is a raised stone fire pit, covered by a high roof.

Dark was quickly engulfing us so we spread our sleeping bags in the loft and quickly built a fire in the fire pit. Then we snuggled into the bags, trying to get warm, and alternated our views between the star-filled sky above and the flickering flames below. Gradually the stars faded from view and a soft snow began to fall, shielding our fire behind a translucent veil of white. We drifted off to sleep, cozy in our down sleeping bags.

Daylight dawned and spread before us a world glistening in pure white. We drank our thermos of coffee, ate our breakfast bars, and packed up. We continued hiking uphill to the deck overlooking Huckleberry Bog. In summer, this is a magical place where bog plants, such as bug-eating pitcher plants, thrive on a high plateau. Today it looked like a snow covered field. Still, it was beautiful with its fresh coating of white. We breathed in the fresh country air deeply – or, were we just gasping for breath? Either way, just like the snow covered earth, we were refreshed and rejuvenated. It was time to head home for a holiday celebration with family.

To experience this adventure on your own, pick up a copy of the guidebook “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region,” available at or call 1-800-431-1579.

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