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Take a hike with Earth Spirit Educational Services

SPRINGVILLE — It has been a cold and snowy winter in Western New York this year, and even the most hardy veterans of the season may find themselves coming down with a case of cabin fever.

For those itching to get out and about, Earth Spirit Educational Services offers ways to battle the winter blues, with a number of area snowshoe hikes, including one at the Chaffee Nature Preserve, scheduled for Feb. 15, from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

“We do what we like to call ‘adventure hikes,’ where we like to go out and see what’s out there,” said Mary Jo Graham, community relations manager and naturalist with Earth Spirit Educational Services. According to Graham, these hikes are more than a stroll through the woods.

“These are interpretive hikes, so we’re not just simply doing snowshoeing and going from point A to point B,” she explained. “We’re actually doing environmental and nature interpretation. We’re looking for wildlife finds and we talk about winter ecology, as far as the plants and the animals are concerned – what changes during the winter, what behaviors do we see – things of that nature.”

Hikes in Chaffee have been especially exciting, noted Graham, who said hikers have observed a family of red fox, on a number of occasions. “We kind of stay low and watch them for awhile, and they sometimes stay low and watch us for awhile and we have kind of a stare-off,” she laughed.

Hikers of all skill levels and ages may participate in a showshoeing event.

“Probably half of our groups that do come on the snowshoe hikes have never snowshoed before,” said Graham, “so we have half [who are] rookies, maybe they’ve done it a couple, three times, and the other half are veterans that come with their own shoes.”

The organization provides gear for participants ages 8 and up, though hikers may bring their own shoes. Graham did note that it is important to dress for the weather. “Just use common sense,” she said.

Most hikes require a registration fee. The Chaffee event will be free of charge, thanks to underwriting by Waste Management Inc. Pre-registration is required for all events – including Chaffee – to Earth Spirit to notify participants in case of a cancellation.

Earth Spirit Education Services is a nonprofit organization that has been providing educational programs and public events since 1980.

According to Graham, “We’re probably one of the highest-regarded environmental education organizations in the region, because we’ve been around for so long, and our staff is very experienced and well educated. We offer things from a little bit of a different point of view. We have a very strong environmental ethic and all of our instructors lead that kind of a lifestyle.”

The organization holds events for the public year-round, including “wild edible hikes,” focusing on edible and medicinal plants; warm-weather adventure hikes and excursions to parks outside of WNY.

Earth Spirit has already led two snowshoe hikes this year, one in Grand Island’s Beaver Island State Park on Jan. 18, and the other in Delaware Park, in Buffalo, on Jan. 25. Besides the Chaffee hike, a fourth is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Yates Park, located in Orchard Park.

To register for a hike or for more information about snowshoeing and other programs, visit earthspiritedu.org/events.html, or call 941-6267.
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