Don’t let the cold or snow keep you away from Bays Mountain Park. It certainly doesn’t dispel the animals.
“It is just one of those places that is interesting during every season for a different reason,” park ranger and naturalist Bob Culler said.
Bays Mountain Park, a 3,550-acre nature preserve that is owned by the city, offers an array of activities even during the winter months. You can also get a little alone time in the desolate hiking and mountain biking trails, which are still open and might give folks a chance to see more of the wild animals.
“One of the nice things that I really like about this time of year is that it is usually not very crowded. So it is a good time to get up and go on a hike, and hiking around the lake you may not see anyone for the rest of the day,” Culler said.
Each season is unique and there are different things that you are able to see and experience, according to Culler. During the winter months, it is a good time to bird watch.
“This time of year is a good time to look for water fowl on the lake before it freezes over,” Culler said. “Also, because the leaves are off the trees, you can see more wildlife.”
If you don’t want to traverse the trails, that’s fine because the native animals that are on exhibit throughout the park are still available to see during the winter months.
For people that aren’t too fond of the cold, the nature center remains open and holds exhibits in the warmth of a building.
Inside the nature center, you will find nature classes that are offered Monday through Friday at 3 p.m. One of the seasonal classes is “Trees in Winter,” which gives you the background on the different trees in the park and how they adapt to the winter weather.
The nature program’s subject varies. Most of them focus on the different animals that you can find there. One class, “Native Animals,” introduces animals like bobcats, deer and otters that are native to the Appalachian Mountains.
There is also a “Raptor Tour,” which tells about the resident birds of prey that can be found at the nature park.
Another indoor feature is the planetarium, which offers different shows at 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays.
One that is season-specific right now is the “Appalachian Skies - Winter,” which is a live program about the current condition of the night sky.
For people that are interested in checking out the nature preserve but don’t have the time during the week, no worries, there are plenty of opportunities on the weekends.
The Planetarium has shows at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Also on the weekends, nature classes are offered at 1 and 3 p.m., each day. Those activities will continue until the end of February.
One of the most heralded nature classes, “Dining with Wolves,” is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 p.m. The class is free and allows people to view the pack enjoy a meal.
As you prepare for your trip, keep in mind that anyone interested in mountain biking must have a mountain bike and must also pay a nominal $2 fee to register the bike at the nature center. Most trails are open to mountain bikes, but there are some that are strictly hiking trails.
For more information about the classes that are offered, required fees or additional park questions, please visit the website at www.baysmountain.com.