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Stay off my Finger Lakes Trail!

The Finger Lakes Trail is "real outdoors for real outdoor people."


If it's emptiness you're after, try Swift Hill or Palmer's Pond in Allegany County.

by David Edney

You say you'd really like to get away for once? Tired of sharing the lean-to, (and the loo) with every Dick and Jane? I know whatcha mean, pal. That's why I hesitate to tell you much about the Finger Lakes Trail System. So far, it's a nicely kept secret. This'll probably blow it, but I'm getting paid to write this stuff.

The Finger Lakes Trail runs 544 miles from Allegany State Park west of Salamanca in Cattaraugus County to the Catskill Forest Preserve near Walton in Delaware County. There are another 257 miles of branch trails taking you to interesting places like the east side of Letchworth Gorge, and along 17 old canal locks near Nunda. The Queen Catherine Scenic Trail between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls (Schuyler County) is another spot with lots of Indian and Revolutionary War history, plus an old canal.

There's a branch that goes all the way to Canada, too. The Conservation Trail begins at Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, goes through Niagara University Campus, and meets the main trail 75 miles away near Ellicottville.

The places I've mentioned so far actually get some traffic, though not nearly as much as you'd think. If it's emptiness you're after, try Swift Hill or Palmer's Pond in Allegany County. Guaranteed, your only companions up there will be deer, turkeys, raccoons, and an occasional lonesome bear.

My favorite spot is Rock City State Forest near Ellicottville where apartment-sized boulders are splitting away from an ancient Appalachian mountaintop, making a half square-mile labyrinth of nooks and crannies. Only a couple of miles below Rock City is an abandoned CCC camp that makes for enjoyable exploring. The Finger Lakes Trail hits many such places as it meanders across New York's Southern Tier.

The trail system is maintained voluntarily by families and hiking clubs, which usually means the trail is cleared and marked, but that's all. You won't get lost, and there are lean-tos along the way, but if you're looking for picnic tables every mile, forget it. This is real outdoors for real outdoor people. Now, stay off my trail!

If you go: The Finger Lakes Trail System is open for hiking year-round. A complete and comprehensive set of trail maps is available by contacting: Finger Lakes Trail Conference, PO Box 18048, Rochester, N.Y. 14618-0048. 585-658-9320.
·Trail access points may be found at major highway crossings, and in parks or other public locations. Look for the foot-square yellow signs with green FLT logo. The main trail is marked with white blazes at frequent intervals. Branch trails, such as those around Letchworth Park are marked with yellow blazes. All this and much more is detailed on the trail maps. www.fingerlakestrail.org

Dave Edney lives in Belfast and owns Great Circle Adventures. He describes himself as an explorer of ideas and places.

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