Hikers will find a couple of key features at the Tanglewood Nature Center that are often missing along other trails in the Finger Lakes region, namely varied terrain and a destination with a sweeping vista. The trail network sprawls across the Gleason Meadows tract on the Tanglewood property as well as on the adjoining Frenchman’s Bluff tract, owned by The Nature Conservancy. The trails weave up and down the steep northern banks of the Chemung River which are dominated by oaks, typical in a shale cliff and talus slope niche.
Multiple loops of varying difficulty and length allow for leisurely strolls in the meadows or more vigorous excursions through the woodland. The trails are peppered with placards that have quotes from Mark Twain whose wit and thoughts help frame our views of nature in new and amusing ways. Mark Twain had a summer home in nearby Elmira where it is believed he wrote his best-known works.
And that just covers the trail network that is available next to the museum and the center’s main building along Coleman Avenue. An additional 50 acres and more trails are available at Personius Woods located on West Hill Road. The two are very close by and visitors will likely pass Personius Woods on their way to the nature center. And while these trails don’t feature scenic vistas of the Chemung River, they do allow hikers to bring dogs on a leash (dogs are prohibited on the main nature center trails) and explore a deep woodland, meadows, and a babbling brook.
The main preserve is a known and protected habitat for timber rattlesnakes. At first glance, this might startle visitors, but adverse encounters are rare and easily avoidable. First, note that rattlesnakes are not aggressive, i.e., they don’t attack people. In fact, timber rattlesnakes want to avoid contact with you. This is the case for the vast majority of snakes. Snakes will attack in defense or when “cornered” and most bad encounters occur when people try to interact with or provoke the snake; for example, trying to catch it, getting very close to take a picture, or prodding the snake with a stick. (Note that the timber rattlesnake is a threatened species so doing any of the above is a criminal offense.)
In snake territory never put a hand or foot in a place you cannot see…should you encounter a snake, simply leave it alone and give it a wide berth.
The one exception where a snake might strike in self-defense would be if you inadvertently startled a snake, for example, accidentally stepping on it or coming too close. Accordingly, in snake territory never put a hand or foot in a place you cannot see. You should never step over large logs/rocks rather, step on them first and then see what is on the other side. Should you encounter a snake, simply leave it alone and give it a wide berth. If you should be bit, remain calm, stay put, call 911 or send someone to do so, and relax. Emergency responders will assist you and hospitals will have anti-venom ready. Snake bites are exceedingly rare so don’t let them deter you from enjoying these excellent trails!
The museum and nature center features a variety of wildlife exhibits including dozens of live animals and yes, they have timber rattlesnakes. They have numerous programs that cater primarily to youth education, but also can be tailor-built for other groups. And, like many nature centers, there are summer youth camps and regular educational programs to help foster a love of nature.