Autumn in the Finger Lakes has an essence all its own. Burnt amber, rustic bronze, and marigold yellow grace a stage accentuated in evergreen. Wildflower fields wisp seeds with abandon into a carefree breeze that is pungent with a deep, earthy scent characteristic only to this season. The sunlight glistens prism-like reflections courtesy of the sister lakes radiating moisture into the atmosphere. Cooling. Calming. Cleansing.
Voyagers from far and wide come to New York state to capture this glimpse of nature’s grand display. That’s exactly what Jackie Dodson, a recent traveler from Liverpool, England had a heart to do. She was visiting friends in the Southern Tier when enlightened of the many adventures NYS has to offer. Topping her wish list? Seeing the white deer beyond the fence at Deer Haven Park.
“It is wonderful to know there are people concerned enough about the white deer to do something about them,” Jackie shared. Retired from a career in management with a major cruise ship line, Jackie had visited many breathtaking, worldwide ports. Never, however, had she an opportunity to encounter an ecotourism park that not only hosted the only known herd of white, whitetail deer, but also boasted an impressive and intriguing military history.
The day was overcast with a light drizzle misting the air. Once the tour bus entered the perimeter fencing of the park, Seneca White Deer lead tour guide Marie DiBlasi began the journey’s tale with the military history of the land, bringing tourists back to an era of weakened economy, pantry shortages, and wartime drafts tearing families a world apart. “To go across the pond,” Jackie lamented in her strong Northern English accent, as she witnessed abandoned detonation fields pass.
Next, former property lines came into view, dotted with rows of wood groves. The families who had lost their homesteads to accommodate this vast military ammunition storage facility was a saga shared that raised shocking eyebrows on the empathetic traveler.
The gray of the day may have made the military history a bit more ominous, especially that of the “Q area," had it not been for the underlying spark of expectant enthusiasm emanating from the tourists. The deer did not disappoint, as soon a gasp was heard and all eyes turned to encounter two white doe peering out from among the foliage. Totally oblivious to their color differentiation, it appeared they felt properly concealed by the brush and wildflower stems. Dark, inquisitive eyes stared as ears twitched to and fro.
“Oh my,” Jackie whispered. “Aren’t they lovely ... just lovely. The most amazing thing I’ve ever laid eyes upon!” Marie continued to share about autumn rutting season, something of which Jackie had never heard, and found quite interesting. Fascinating, new discoveries were had not only about the deer that day, but also the resident eagles, Seneca and Cayuga, the turkey vultures, and the coyotes which had recently been spotted with pups in tow.
“What a wonderful experience,” Jackie concluded afterward. “Informative and interesting and the staff was so courteous and such a delight to meet. I would hope that people here are stepping up to support this cause financially,” she shared, “as it is such a gift. This is the kind of thing that I would even fancy leaving money toward in my will.”
Perspective. It’s a funny thing. Oftentimes it takes one to step back and survey their surroundings with a broader scope, take time out, breathe, and appreciate what their own community has to offer. Sometimes it takes a visitor all the way from Liverpool, England who is following her heart’s desire to remind us of such.