Wayne County a hidden gem with Sodus Bay, Maxwell Creek and more
It’s not the first time I’ve had to explain myself when I was headed for Wayne County.
“Where you headed this weekend?” asks a friend.
“Wayne County,” is my quick retort. When I get that quizzical look, reflecting on the fact that they don’t have a clue where that is, I respond with “between Rochester and Oswego, where Sodus Bay is.” That usually helps, but it really doesn’t unless I have a map handy. It really should be on everyone’s radar if you are a fisherman, an apple aficionado, a nature lover or just about any kind of outdoors enthusiast. I personally stop in at least twice a year if not more. And one of my favorite times of year is October.
As the leaves slowly begin to transition into a blanket of autumn colors, the county becomes invaded by apple pickers, and apple buyers for those who prefer the more passive way of grabbing hold of the perfect fruit. From Oct. 1-31, the county offers up an apple tasting tour, complete with passport for locations to stop at. Pick one up at any of the locations listed in the online brochure. Collect a stamp at 12 or 13 locations to be eligible for a special drawing, a scavenger hunt of sorts taking you around the scenic countryside of this rural lakeside destination.
Yes, a lakeside destination. Wayne County (www.waynecountytourism.com) is situated along Lake Ontario, offering anglers and boaters more than 35 miles of shoreline. Embayments include Sodus Bay, Blind Sodus, East Bay and Port Bay, adding further to waterfront shoreline. In addition to being on this Great Lake, it’s also part of the Finger Lakes Region of New York, and the Erie Canal flows from the western boundary to the eastern border line as it continues across the state in both directions. There are a tremendous amount of water-related opportunities.
October is when brown trout begin a fall migration up Lake Ontario streams. One of the top brownie tributaries is Maxwell Creek, and steelhead are available, too. Even king salmon will make their way south when conditions are right. Maxwell Creek consistently ranks in the Top 10 streams of the lake when the Department of Environmental Conservation conducts a Lake Ontario stream creel survey.
Once Oct. 1 hits the calendar, Wayne County is also a perfect destination for hunting, with over 10,000 acres of public hunting land. Deer and turkey top the list but with the Montezuma Wetlands Complex nearby, waterfowl hunting is always an option. Birding opportunities also abound for those who prefer non-consumptive activities.
This all takes us back to the apples. Wayne County is the No. 1 producer of apples in New York, taking up over 20,000 acres of space. One of the stopping points along the Apple Trail is Burnap’s Farm Market and Garden Café (www.burnapsfarm.com). Because we couldn’t visit the entire trail in one day, we decided to stay overnight at Burnap’s Bed and Breakfast (www.burnapsbedbreakfastandbeyond.com). The Victorian brick home, sitting on 120 acres of orchards and vineyards, is owned and operated by Kendra Burnap. While it’s only been a B&B for a couple of years, the structure itself is over 140 years old. The majestic mansion was both comfortable and elegant and the resident chef produced an outstanding breakfast that was fit for royalty. After all, I did have my wife along with me and it’s important to treat her from time to time with something special.
October is a crazy time of year and Kendra was busy between the farm market and the B&B, which left us with one of the biggest highlights of the trip – Jan and Ed Burnap, Kendra’s parents. The dynamic duo started this farming operation nearly five decades ago and we were able to share some quality time with them, first with Ed in the fields as he gave us a grand tour of their operation, explaining what goes into their successful business. As the day started to wind down, we were able to share a glass of wine paired with cheese (Heluva Good Cheese started right in Sodus, N.Y.), fruit (of course) and crackers. It made for a most memorable trip as they shared a piece of their lives.
There are a wealth of special areas around this great state. Get to know the areas from top to bottom and share them with family and friends. While outdoor activities like hunting and fishing are important pastimes, there are plenty of other things to see and do, as well. It just might lead you to a new “secret spot.”