While most people probably will be snuggled up in their houses the night of December 22, trying to keep warm, the folks at the Forsyth Nature Center have a different idea about the longest night of the year. They’re inviting everyone to come outside and enjoy the cold, crisp air, the twinkling stars and planets and the creepy night sounds – as well as to try out a pair of snowshoes.
Starting at 7 p.m. (which this time of year feels like midnight), they’ll be hosting a Winter Solstice Snowshoe Hike along the shores of the Hudson River in Kingston Point Park. If there’s snow, the hike is limited to 12 participants, since that’s how many pairs of snowshoes the Nature Center has on hand. Because of the limited number of shoes, it’s advisable to reserve in advance by calling the Nature Center at (845) 331-1682.
If there is no snow, then as many people who want to explore Kingston Point Park in the dark are welcome. Led by either Steve or Julie Noble – the married couple employed by the City of Kingston as environmental educators – the hour-and-a-half-long hike promises to be an event that will sharpen your ears, with owls on the prowl and beavers inhabiting the Park’s lagoon moseying around, preparing for winter. An advantage of the relatively warm weather that we’ve been having is that the river hasn’t yet frozen up, so more animals are still active, according to Steve Noble. Muskrats might also be prowling around, and, although they have not yet been spotted at Kingston Point, otters are another possibility. One was recently seen in the early morning at Esopus Meadows, a few miles to the south.
Noble said that a few flashlights will be handed around, although he added that ideally they wouldn’t be used much, given the brilliant illumination of the Moon this time of year (not full on the Solstice, but significantly gibbous, he said). “We thought it would be fun to give people a break from shopping and offer them an opportunity to appreciate the Hudson and a beautiful park,” he said. Indeed: Who wouldn’t pick the mystery of the winter night over the mall?
The Nobles are offering Full Moon snowshoe hikes later in the season; for a schedule, check the website at www.forsythnaturecenter.org. All the hikes, including use of the snowshoes, are free. The group will meet at the parking lot at Rotary Park, near the iron entrance gate, at One Delaware Avenue. The hike is canceled if it’s raining. In that case, one can still focus on the up side to the Winter Solstice: From here on in, the days will start getting longer.