Cool mists came down over the valley, screening the fall foliage and creating a yellowish blush through the fog during the Genesee Valley Conservancy's Autumn Colors Walk on Saturday Oct. 5. Members of the Geneseo community - children, adults and students - met at the bridge on Nations Road just past the old stone wall.
As we filed past a livestock gate, we strode up the hill to glance over the valley. Big Genesee skies were quiet with cloud cover while sheep floated in the distance like vapors as the valley was laid out in front of us.
GVC Executive Director Ben Gajewski led the group on the tour of one of the properties the organization has worked to preserve - what he calls a fundamental part to any nature walk.
“We have relationships with many of these landowners because either we've worked with them on the protection process or they have since bought the property, and then we've been working with them since they owned it to protect the habitat or farmland,” Gajewski said.
Among the sites showcased on the tour included a waterfall, horse pastures and a serving of oak trees, among other types, that the Genesee Valley is renowned for.
While there was not much red present in the foliage, burnt yellows and oranges alongside browns spotted sweeping vistas of fields and plaintive forests.
“We have protected 14,400 acres of land, so there are certainly a lot of choices to find some fall colors,” Gajewski said. “The harder thing is coordinating the weather … the fall colors walk is tough because you want to hit the colors right.”
GVC coordinates many seasonal excursions in its jurisdiction to allow nature enthusiasts access to otherwise privately held trails as well as to familiarize participants with the organization.
“We work in the Genesee River Watershed. That is primarily Allegany County … Livingston County and then the eastern half of Wyoming and western half of Ontario County. Pretty much anything draining into the Genesee is where we're focused,” Gajewski said.
While many walks take place over the summer, the GVC does hold several throughout the academic year while students are present, most notably the Bluebell walk in the spring. While much of the work takes place on privately-held land, Gajewski said landowners usually open their property for the walk.
“One of the downsides to what we do is a lot of the conservation work is on private land so people don't have access to these special places any time they want,” he said. “Landowners recognize that so they let us organize a walk or two to show off the work we have been doing.”