Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ugly orange fencing all over Saratoga Spa State Park and trees cut down to keep golfers happy mar beauty for the rest of us.

Spa State Park a draw despite deep freeze
Sunday, January 3, 2010
By Jessica Harding (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Barry Sloan

Tina Purdy of A Time to Remember Carriage and Sleigh Rides guides her horses toward the Gideon Putnam Resort to pick up passengers in Saratoga Spa State Park on Sunday.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jerry Todd of Saratoga Springs walked his 8-year-old Shetland sheepdog Kayla in Saratoga Spa State Park Sunday afternoon as a light snow fell. He periodically had to stop to remove ice from the pads of Kayla’s paws. “She doesn’t like it when that happens,” he said.

Despite the below-freezing temperatures Sunday afternoon, the state park was still bustling with activity, from cross-country skiers to snowshoers and ice skaters. People don’t stay away from the park, even in winter.

Temperatures on Sunday did not get above 14 degrees, according to Hugh Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. Average lows for this time of year are 15, he said.

On top of the chill, winds gusted between 20 and 30 mph all day, making it feel like it was between minus 5 and minus 10 degrees outside.

Regardless, Todd said he tries to get out to the park every day, no matter what it’s doing outside. He said he’ll spend an hour at least walking Kayla around the park. Todd said he likes the way the park looks in the winter, covered in snow, and how peaceful it is.

“I love it out here. It’s so nice. It’s cold, but once you start going you warm up,” he said. Peace and quiet is also what draws Hilarie and Jene Beach of Saratoga Springs to the state park most days. They were bundled up for a walk to the tree farm Sunday afternoon. Jene Beach said he likes the fact that no one else is around and it is often quiet enough to spot a deer, fox, or rabbit among the trees.

The couple said they don’t mind the cold for an hour or so and like to get outside for fresh air even when the temperatures are in the teens.

Jim Stegman of Saratoga Springs was skating alone Sunday afternoon on the skating pond in front of the Victoria Pool.

Stegman said he skates on the pond as often as he remembers to. He said the skating pond isn’t a highly publicized activity in the park, so he sometimes forgets about it.

Stegman said he likes being outside skating because he likes feeling like he is doing a traditional Northeast activity.

“Skating is good exercise. It’s cheap to do. All you need is a pair of skates that, if you’re an adult, could last you a lifetime, and it’s a classic outdoor activity,” he said. “It almost takes you back in time.”

A new winter activity in the Spa State Park also attempts to take participants back in time.

Tina Purdy has begun to offer horse-drawn carriage rides in the park through her new business A Time to Remember Carriage and Sleigh Rides. Purdy began offering carriage and sleigh rides

on Christmas Eve and said they have become another popular attraction for the state park.

Her two black Percheron horses, Ivy and Leah, pull the carriages through the park each weekend to take riders on a half hour trip.

A Time to Remember Carriage and Sleigh Rides has been a dream of Purdy’s for years, she said Sunday.

Purdy, who lives in Hudson Falls, has three Percherons along with a bunch of riding horses.

The carriage rides are popular, especially in the evenings when the carriage is lit up with a string of Christmas lights wrapped around garland. The park is lit by rows of torches, which adds to the romance, Purdy said, and riders curl up under thick blankets.

However, carriage rides were not too popular Sunday afternoon in the cold weather. Only two people went for a ride in the 14-person carriage. Purdy said she had a lot of cancellations.

Purdy books appointments and bases her operations out of the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Conference Center.

Her daughter, Kara Moak, who helps run the business, said the rides are popular with couples, but also with families. A carriage ride costs $25 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under and children under 3 years old ride free.

Those who revel in outdoor winter activities will feel a bit more comfortable outside this week as temperatures begin to climb into the 20s and 30s. According to Johnson, temperatures will be in the mid-20s today and Tuesday with less wind. Temperatures should reach the 30s by Wednesday and Thursday before taking another dive into the teens for the weekend.


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