New business in Williamstown an opportunity for local couple to share remote outdoors
By Tim Nekritz
‘Starting in spring, the company will welcome visitors of all ages and skill levels for paddling excursions (from a couple hours to a half-day), kayak lessons, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more on 140 acres of wildlands bisected by the west branch of Fish Creek. ‘
On a crisp December day as we walk through the woods in Williamstown, Emily Hart says her father cleared this trail and points out trees planted by her mother and her grandparents. It’s clear that Tug Hill Outfitters, a business she and her husband Chris Legard are launching this year, is a labor of love.
Starting in spring, the company will welcome visitors of all ages and skill levels for paddling excursions (from a couple hours to a half-day), kayak lessons, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more on 140 acres of wildlands bisected by the west branch of Fish Creek. The land includes the large plot Emily got from her family — where she and Chris are raising their son Leo — and the homestead next door where her mother still lives.
That family connection to this beautiful land along Finnerty Road and their passion for the outdoors are among the reasons for starting the business, Hart says.
“This is in part about taking care of the land, being stewards of the land, and exposing people to a beautiful part of Central New York that is pretty remote and that people don’t get to see,” she explains.
They both have rewarding day jobs — Hart is a science librarian for Syracuse University, Legard a fisheries biologist — so this part-time enterprise is about following their passions and sharing them with other outdoor enthusiasts.
A main offering, once spring allows, will be a half day trip that starts with a short woodland hike to a boat launch on the west branch of Fish Creek, where they will put in canoes or kayaks, then one of them will lead groups on a guided paddling excursion. This half-day adventure starts on their property and ends at a fishing access point to the east in Westdale. A shorter excursion (a couple of hours) would take visitors to Gifford Lake.
They currently plan to concentrate on small excursions of no more than six people, although people can inquire about larger group events. Outdoors provides opportunities for distancing, which gets around some restrictions and concerns that impact other businesses during COVID-19.
The pandemic has brought a small silver lining, as working remotely equates only rare commutes, spare time they can put into preparing for the business, exploring the outdoors and spending time with Leo.
Classes will include introductory beginning kayaking techniques, for those looking to get comfortable with kayaking and canoeing in an easy atmosphere; intermediate kayaking techniques for those looking to fine-tune and take on more challenging trips; and introduction to fitness paddling and performance gear using surf skis, for those who aspire to do more with the sport, such as the races Chris and Emily have participated in for several years.
“Kayaking is a fabulous sport, providing full-body movement and an intense cardio workout,” Emily explains. For people like her with knee issues, this provides a very healthy outlet.
For their guided paddling excursions, the business will provide all equipment, including boats, paddles and life vests. Chris says that the high-performance and lightweight gear will help customers get more out of the experience.
“High-quality and lightweight equipment is easier to use, so people can feel comfortable and travel more efficiently,” Chirs notes. “It’s just a better experience when you’re using a performance-oriented boat, and a carbon-fiber-based paddle is easier to hold for a couple of hours.”
This includes canoes as well, where the 35-pound models Tug Hill Outfitters will use are much lighter than the 70 to 80 pound models people might be accustomed to, while being even more durable.
If there’s a snow base, they expect to accommodate those looking to cross-country ski or snowshoe with groomed trails starting next winter.
During paddling season, the business will operate most weekends, and classes and shorter excursions will be offered on some weeknights with the longer daylight hours of summer.
The whole family, including Leo, looks forward to the opportunities this can present.
“Leo told Chris he was excited for us to start the business because he would like to meet more kids he can canoe with,” Emily said.
For more information or to book a reservation, visit tughilladventures.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Nekritz is director of news and media for SUNY Oswego, where he spearheads telling the stories of the campus community.