Mendon Ponds has been an integral part of my life. The first date my wife and I had was a picnic in the park. When our first child began to walk we took her to feed the chickadees on Birdsong Trail. Now that I am retired, many of my days are spent walking the trails, occasionally with my grandchildren, and photographing the exquisite beauty of Mendon. I’d like to share some of this beauty with you through a few of the many pictures I’ve taken there.
Mendon Ponds Park is located approximately 10 miles southeast of Rochester, just south of the New York State Thruway, in the Towns of Pittsford and Mendon. The park can be accessed off Clover Street on the west and Pittsford-Mendon Center Road on the east.
This eden of infinite variety and beauty is the largest park in Monroe County, with over 2,500 acres of woodlands, trails, wetlands, ponds and glacially formed geology.
In 1969 the park was named to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks because of its variety of geologic features and history.
There is something for everyone at Mendon Ponds. In winter one can snowshoe, cross country ski, sled and toboggan the many trails and hills. For those a bit less active, the chickadees, nuthatches and titmice await a free meal directly from your hand. Red and grey squirrels scurry about scooping up sunflower seeds left by the birds. Curious white-tailed deer come within arms-reach to investigate.
In the spring the park renews itself with a palette of pastel colors and a grand choir of bird calls. The meadows explode with multi-hued carpets of wildflowers and grasses. If you look carefully you will see newborn fawns hidden amongst the spring foliage. Chipmunks are to be seen everywhere, frolicking in the new growth.
Soon honey bees will be busy gathering nectar and spring will give way to summer. Summer is the time to see colorful butterflies, and Mendon Ponds is known by butterfly enthusiasts as a mecca for spotting many if not most of the varieties found in our area. The Rochester Butterfly Club maintains a butterfly garden near the Nature Center on Pond Road, which attracts many species including monarchs, swallowtails, fritillaries and the ruby-throated hummingbird as well.
Summer is the season for bicyclists, runners, walkers, hikers and orienteers. The extensive network of trails and roads provides ample opportunities for all these activities.
Round Pond, 100 Acre Pond, Quaker Pond, Deep Pond and little Lost Pond give kayakers, canoeists and fishermen the chance to use their skills. There’s always the chance of catching that monster bass or seeing an elusive beaver.
For the less energetic, Mendon Ponds offers six lodges and seven shelters for rent. These are available for that long awaited family reunion or just a quiet family get-together. Of course the lovely hills and spacious meadows overlooking the ponds allow you to have that secluded summer picnic for two as well.
Autumn brings a kaleidoscope of color to the park. My primary interest is photography, and a few of my favorite spots in the autumn are Devil’s Bathtub, Round Pond, and the Birdsong and Quaker Pond trails. Devil’s Bathtub, a glacial kettle hole, is accessed by way of some steep steps, cut into the hillside, descending from a small parking lot off Pond road. The view from the bottom, although on occasion somewhat obscured by brush, is well worth the effort, as the colors are often spectacular.
You may get lucky in early autumn and spot a red fox or get that once in a lifetime photograph of a majestic 8- or 10-point buck illuminated by the setting sun. Of course many of summer’s activities are still available well into autumn, and an afternoon in October, spent fishing on Round Pond, has the added beauty of the autumn colors reflected in the water.
Don’t forget to visit Sharon’s Sensory Garden behind the nature center. It is a little known gem, made up of over 70 plant varieties of various fragrances and textures, many of which have Braille signs. On a hot September day you may get a shot of a chickadee showering in the garden’s little waterfall.
Wild Wings, a not-for-profit educational organization situated behind the nature center, cares for permanently injured birds of prey that are unable to survive on their own in the wild. It’s well worth a visit.
Mendon Ponds Park is crisscrossed with dozens of trails, so if you decide to hike alone, bring along a GPS unit, a map of the trails or at least a good compass, otherwise you may wind up spending a bit more time at the park than you intended. I look forward to seeing you one day on the trail at Mendon Ponds Park.
Directions and map available at www.monroecounty.gov/parks-mendonponds.php.
story and photos by Burton Segelin