Surroundings here are pretty wild
Chautauuqa County is full of buildings and bridges, excellent colleges, shopping malls and a system of highways to get us around. For the most part it is these structures that make up our everyday lives. But there is another area of Chautauqua County that remains rather wild and primitive.
The northwestern sections of land along the top of the Lake Erie Escarpment from the earliest days have been sparsely settled, and thus retain a natural atmosphere. This unique area of our county perhaps offers more than the sections full of human-made attractions. This is the part of the county where animals have enough room for breeding and raising families. Birds thrive in this area as well, in fact it is on a major migratory route which is followed by hundreds of thousands of birds each year. These migratory flocks include eagles, hawks, warblers and other songbirds down to the tiny hummingbird. In many ways it is the last vestige for nature.
One of its most unique features is that it’s a continental watershed divide. This means that some of its waters flow into Lake Erie and then through the St. Lawrence seaway to the northern Atlantic Ocean. On the other side of the escarpment the waters flow south, many draining into Lake Chautauqua and other streams which eventually find their way to the Allegheny River and on to the Ohio, the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.
At the College Lodge on Route 380, there is a swampy place where you can actually perceive two different directions of water flow.
Perhaps a small thing, but how amazing to have it in our own northern county. The College Lodge’s scenery is unique in itself because it contains many diverse plants including some endangered ferns. It is a treasure trove of unique wildlife. It also is a haven for migrating birds and a breeding and nesting ground for many native species. With over 200 acres available for exploration, the college woods along with many other wild areas in this part of our county could well be the last refuge for many plants and animals.
Our county also has the Luensman Overview to offer. The overview is a 70-acre overlook to a glacial ridge. You can view beautiful sunsets and even see the shores of Canada. There are areas for outdoor picnics, hikes and connecting back to nature. Along with scenic areas comes Chautauqua?s Rails to Trails. These are trails for non motorized travel that wind through wetlands, pine forests, hardwood forests, pastures and vineyards: perfect for observing and learning about nature.
Chautauqua Road is situated connecting Route 20 to Chautauqua County 380. The seasonal sections on this road have spectacular views of Lake Erie and are surrounded by dense forests. It is beautiful in the spring, summer and especially fall. The many trees provide an avenue isolated enough to suggest driving slower in order to enjoy the view. Its roughly 10 mile stretch gives those who travel on it a time to bask in nature and sights of the countryside.
Chautauqua County has so much to offer. From its shores of Lake Erie to its border with Pennsylvania, natural beauty flourishes. It is a paradise for plants, animals and people, and it is our responsibility to preserve it as much as we can. Nature is the primary sustaining force behind all life. Here in this vital wild area of our county, nature still thrives.
This section of our county is advantageously situated for forest bathing. What is forest bathing? Forest bathing as a term is not familiar to most of us, but in Japan it is a commonly known practice and even supported by the government. The act is simply going into a wooded area, taking in the scene and absorbing all that a forest has to give us mentally, emotionally and physically.
On these endeavours, no phones and no company are required. Get up close and personal to exchange air with the trees, for they breathe in our carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Forest bathing also allows you to breathe in the natural aromatherapy that comes from phytoncides and pheromones produced by the trees. There have been studies conducted that prove forest bathing is good for your health.
Jim Shearer, Springville resident, is a marketing major from the State University of New York at Fredonia.