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Old 08-05-2021, 06:25 AM   #21
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That is a really awesome view! When I go there next, I'll probably make separate drives to each location over the course of a day or two, and spend time exploring the gullies in depth. Penciling in early 2022 for that since you mentioned water levels usually being low in the fall.

Backpacking the entire BHT is also something I'd like to do a year or two from now -- likely during the workweek in the autumn. The info you've provided, CNY Hiking's guides, and the FLT interactive map will all greatly help me plan for that trip.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:27 AM   #22
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.
Backpacking the entire BHT is also something I'd like to do a year or two from now -- likely during the workweek in the autumn. The info you've provided, CNY Hiking's guides, and the FLT interactive map will all greatly help me plan for that trip.
Yeah, not to divert you too much from waterfalls but it's not bad. A lot of road walking if you do the whole branch (which I've actually never done in one shot and kind of just want to do to say I did it).

I tend to section hike the parts I like and do overnights. Sorry if my thru hike was misleading, that was a Clarks, Conklin, OBI trip and Clarks isn't on the BHT.

It's a bit of a pain that camping isn't allowed in Hi Tor because it's one of the larger public lands in the area. 20+ years ago before the lean tos were built in Hi Tor, we used to camp there all the time, and in Clarks (which is part of Hi Tor). I'm actually not sure if it was legal. Either it was illegal and no one cared because those areas got so little use or it was legal and the regulations changed due to higher use. Those areas became way more popular in recent years - especially the falls, Grimes has become insane on hot summer days, Conklin is usually overflowing at the lower lot, and I'm sure even Clarks (which used to be almost unknown) is busy. The Outback Inn used to be open most weekends in summer, but in recent years, I always see someone there when I go up (hence the tenting on my part - there's about 5 decent tent sites within a half mile of the Lean To).

The nicest lean to is actually the one at the south end of Ontario County park. The so-called Beaver Pond Lean To. Great spot, beautiful log lean to. But it's like a mile from a road so it's always taken.

The Evangeline Lean To south of Prattsburg on the BHT is lesser used. Not a particularly handsome lean to though. I remember when they built the original which was actually starting to look like the Beaver Pond build but that one burned down shortly after and before I ever got see it fully finished. That one is like a 1/4 mile from the road, albeit a back road.

The last site they show on the map the map that isn't a campground is "Grandma's Bivouac". That's a pretty nice tent site. Again, it's a short walk from a road but I don't think it gets overly used.
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Old 08-05-2021, 12:04 PM   #23
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It's a bit of a pain that camping isn't allowed in Hi Tor because it's one of the larger public lands in the area. 20+ years ago before the lean tos were built in Hi Tor, we used to camp there all the time, and in Clarks (which is part of Hi Tor). I'm actually not sure if it was legal. Either it was illegal and no one cared because those areas got so little use or it was legal and the regulations changed due to higher use.
I think camping being prohibited in Hi-Tor has to do with its designation as a WMA instead of a state forest. Going down this list of WMAs in my region, camping looks to be prohibited across the board in wildlife areas. I know from first-hand experience that camping used to be allowed in Carlton Hill when it was a state forest (I used to tent camp there ~10 years ago), but that changed when it became a MUA -- so now I just hike and snowshoe there.

The western Finger Lakes does get a good deal of traffic, even in the dead of winter. Not quite Adirondack High Peaks levels, but more than parks/forests in the southwest corner of the state generally do. Trail registers in the state forests out this way usually have very few entries, and it's not uncommon to hike through entire state forests on weekends without seeing anybody else on the trail.
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Old 08-05-2021, 12:17 PM   #24
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I think camping being prohibited in Hi-Tor has to do with its designation as a WMA instead of a state forest. Going down this list of WMAs in my region, camping looks to be prohibited across the board in wildlife areas. I know from first-hand experience that camping used to be allowed in Carlton Hill when it was a state forest (I used to tent camp there ~10 years ago), but that changed when it became a MUA -- so now I just hike and snowshoe there.
Yup - I'm pretty sure that's the case and Hi Tor always was a WMA as far back as I can recall. I'm pretty sure it's been illegal to camp there, but I think the thing was is that the use was like 1/10 of what it is now. When I lived in Naples being out in those areas on a bike, or by foot was something I did throughout the year and we never used to see anyone else. Once in a while during peak summer you'd see a few people at Conklin.

Anyway, that's why I brought up the East Hill (Fraley) Lean To. It's pretty much the only place to camp along that whole stretch. There are spots for tents nearby if the lean to isn't to your liking.

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The western Finger Lakes does get a good deal of traffic, even in the dead of winter. Not quite Adirondack High Peaks levels, but more than parks/forests in the southwest corner of the state generally do. Trail registers in the state forests out this way usually have very few entries, and it's not uncommon to hike through entire state forests on weekends without seeing anybody else on the trail.
Yeah I wouldn't call it crowded except for a few key areas, and like I say, those are the waterfalls. That really attracts a lot of people.

Places like Treman, Watkins Glen, Stony Brook, etc have been built to kind of facilitate high amounts of users, whereas a place like Conklin, Clarks, Grimes Glen are au natural. That makes for some sketchy stuff and a lot of erosion, unfortunately, when you get a lot of users. Those gorges formed for a reason - that rock easily broken and eroded, and sometimes downright dangerous to walk on.

I really wish there was more public land out here - but I can't necessarily complain because the small areas we have each are managed a different way and have different recreational opportunities, such as biking and skiing. I feel the backpacking is a little lacking though, especially compared to the Adirondacks.
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Old 08-05-2021, 12:58 PM   #25
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I think the thing was is that the use was like 1/10 of what it is now. When I lived in Naples being out in those areas on a bike, or by foot was something I did throughout the year and we never used to see anyone else. Once in a while during peak summer you'd see a few people at Conklin.
I believe it. A lot of places that saw hardly any traffic pre-smartphones and pre-social media have seen a noticeable uptick in recent years. I'm probably dating myself when I say that I remember when you could explore Eternal Flame Falls south of Buffalo without having to deal with queues at the waterfall. That was pre-pandemic so it's even worse now. Wish I had a time machine! And yeah, there are places that are more susceptible to erosion and other damage, that suffer more than "touristy" attractions like Watkins Glen or the western side of Letchworth.


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I really wish there was more public land out here - but I can't necessarily complain because the small areas we have each are managed a different way and have different recreational opportunities, such as biking and skiing. I feel the backpacking is a little lacking though, especially compared to the Adirondacks.
As far as eastern states go, New York does comparatively well when it comes to percentage of public land. When you include Pennsylvania across the state line, there's an ample amount of public land to explore. It could be worse. We could be living in the Great Plains where it's almost all private land. If I lived out there, I'd have to take up other hobbies like road biking and storm chasing.

Speaking of Pennsylvania, there are a lot of excellent backpacking options south of the 42nd parallel. I won't even try to name all of them because there are so many, but I will name a few: Black Forest Trail, Standing Stone Trail, Mid-State Trail, West Rim Trail, Quehanna Trail, Susquehannock Trail, Loyalsock Trail, Laurel Highlands Trail, Tuscarora Trail, and of course part of the AT and NCT.
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Old 08-05-2021, 01:09 PM   #26
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Some of that is who manages too. Places like Watkins Glen and Letchworth are managed by NYS Parks and Rec and other places like Hi Tor are DEC. It's almost like they don't even know each other.

And then there are smaller areas that are nature preserves, or other local public lands - for instance the Outback Inn is on County land. Grimes Glen was some kind of private preserve and now it's owned by Ontario County.


I've been tempted by Northern PA for a while, but I just can't make it. I've said it on another thread here but being in Rochester, if I'm going to drive more than a couple hours I'm going to the Adirondacks. If I was in Buffalo it'd be skewed a little different and NW PA would be looking a lot more similar in terms of bang for the drive.
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Old 08-05-2021, 01:38 PM   #27
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I can see the ADKs being your top choice coming from Rochester, though an occasional trip to the PA Wilds wouldn't be terribly far from there. It's roughly 140 miles or 2:20 from Rochester to Wellsboro, PA (northern gateway to Pine Creek Gorge) according to Rand McNally's driving distance calculator. Plus it's mostly interstate driving: 390 to 86 to 99 to the state line. A few of the aforementioned long-distance trails pass through Pine Creek Gorge and there are some really nice overlooks on those trails (like Gillespie Point on MST, Barbour Rock on WRT, and Hemlock Mountain on the BFT at one of the best hammocking spots you will find anywhere). I'm the type of person who likes to mix things up and go to different locations every road trip, so alternating the Adirondacks, Catskills, Finger Lakes, Pennsylvania Wilds, High Alleghenies, and other places has worked for me coming from WNY.
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Old 08-05-2021, 06:07 PM   #28
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I can see the ADKs being your top choice coming from Rochester, though an occasional trip to the PA Wilds wouldn't be terribly far from there. It's roughly 140 miles or 2:20 from Rochester to Wellsboro, PA (northern gateway to Pine Creek Gorge) according to Rand McNally's driving distance calculator. Plus it's mostly interstate driving: 390 to 86 to 99 to the state line. A few of the aforementioned long-distance trails pass through Pine Creek Gorge and there are some really nice overlooks on those trails (like Gillespie Point on MST, Barbour Rock on WRT, and Hemlock Mountain on the BFT at one of the best hammocking spots you will find anywhere). I'm the type of person who likes to mix things up and go to different locations every road trip, so alternating the Adirondacks, Catskills, Finger Lakes, Pennsylvania Wilds, High Alleghenies, and other places has worked for me coming from WNY.
That's cool. I just haven't found my stride with that.

I can be at Black River Wild Forest from my doorstep in 2hr 45min. Granted that's a little further than Northern PA, but for me it's such a different environment and there is a lot of good, relatively easy backpacking opportunities in the western reaches of the park.

Typically I'm more interested in other places, like the northern parts which are farther away, but when I go there I'm less into backpacking. Usually paddling, canoe tripping or day hikes.

But if comes to skiing in the winter or backpacking in the spring or summer, I typically use the western Adirondacks. I also love to go to the Lake George region in winter or early spring before it gets crowded.

I probably should visit Letchworth more because I've only really been to the "developed" parts where you basically fall out of your car and look over. There is a ton of hiking and even a long mountain bike that I've never done that's less than an hour from me.

Part of it might be proximity or that I've lived in Naples and Ithaca, but I tend toward those areas in the southern Finger Lakes. I've been around a little to other places but sometimes I have a less-than-great experience and I just don't go back.

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Old 08-05-2021, 07:47 PM   #29
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That's cool. I just haven't found my stride with that.

I can be at Black River Wild Forest from my doorstep in 2hr 45min. Granted that's a little further than Northern PA, but for me it's such a different environment and there is a lot of good, relatively easy backpacking opportunities in the western reaches of the park.

Typically I'm more interested in other places, like the northern parts which are farther away, but when I go there I'm less into backpacking. Usually paddling, canoe tripping or day hikes.

But if comes to skiing in the winter or backpacking in the spring or summer, I typically use the western Adirondacks. I also love to go to the Lake George region in winter or early spring before it gets crowded.

I probably should visit Letchworth more because I've only really been to the "developed" parts where you basically fall out of your car and look over. There is a ton of hiking and even a long mountain bike that I've never done that's less than an hour from me.

Part of it might be proximity or that I've lived in Naples and Ithaca, but I tend toward those areas in the southern Finger Lakes. I've been around a little to other places but sometimes I have a less-than-great experience and I just don't go back.
Getting inside the blue line under three hours isn't bad at all. For me, it's a good four hours to Forestport (which I consider the gateway to the Adirondacks) and 6.5 hours to Lake Placid. The one time I tried getting there in under four hours, I was pulled over on the Thruway a little east of Syracuse, which set me back nearly $300 when all was said and done.

The Western Adirondacks are great for paddling, or so I've heard -- and read on this forum. I've only gone kayaking in WNY (Allegany State Park, Buffalo River, Erie Canal, the lake on UB's campus, and a campground pond) and once on the PA/OH border earlier this year. Sometime I'd like to experience kayaking in the Adirondacks.

I wrote off Lake George after having less-than-stellar experiences in 2016 and 2020. I much preferred other ADK towns like Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Inlet, and even Old Forge despite that also being a zoo during the peak tourist season. Maybe my experience in LG would be improved if I didn't go in the summertime or during peak fall foliage.

The eastern side of Letchworth is definitely worth checking out. There's around 20 miles of hiking on the FLT plus a bunch of shorter trails, including ones you can take down to the Genesee River for further exploration. Best of all, there's no charge on that side of the park. Just make sure not to go during the winter months because that side of the park is closed then. I found that out the hard way back in February. Also, the parking areas off River Road (along the eastern park boundary) are unplowed.

Here are some photos from different parts of the park, from the last three years:
2018 (West Side) | 2019 (East Side - FLT) | 2020 (East Side - Other Trails & Gorge)
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Old 08-05-2021, 08:13 PM   #30
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The Western Adirondacks are great for paddling, or so I've heard -- and read on this forum. I've only gone kayaking in WNY (Allegany State Park, Buffalo River, Erie Canal, the lake on UB's campus, and a campground pond) and once on the PA/OH border earlier this year. Sometime I'd like to experience kayaking in the Adirondacks.
Everyone has their different favorites, but for me, more north and central are my preferred paddling places. Too many motor boat lakes in Fulton Chain area for my preferences.

After a few years of honing in on what I like, I found western Adirondacks best for backpacking and XC skiing. Not that I don't paddle or hike there, I just prefer it for those other things.


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I wrote off Lake George after having less-than-stellar experiences in 2016 and 2020. I much preferred other ADK towns like Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Inlet, and even Old Forge despite that also being a zoo during the peak tourist season. Maybe my experience in LG would be improved if I didn't go in the summertime or during peak fall foliage.
Lake George the town... not so great, in fact probably my least favorite Adirondack town. I'm much more a Saranac Lake sorta guy.

But the mountain ranges and the lake itself are fantastic. The hiking is easy, but satisfying and the lake is gorgeous. It probably should be protected a lot more than it is, it's a real gem.

In the off season it's really quiet and no less spectacular.

Things are starting to change, but I've always had great experiences in the NW Adirondacks i.e. Cranberry Lake/5 Ponds Wilderness in the fall. Foliage up there is spectacular and I've found it to be very sparse compared to places like Old Forge or LP areas where most people tend to gravitate.


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The eastern side of Letchworth is definitely worth checking out. There's around 20 miles of hiking on the FLT plus a bunch of shorter trails, including ones you can take down to the Genesee River for further exploration. Best of all, there's no charge on that side of the park. Just make sure not to go during the winter months because that side of the park is closed then. I found that out the hard way back in February. Also, the parking areas off River Road (along the eastern park boundary) are unplowed.

Here are some photos from different parts of the park, from the last three years:
2018 (West Side) | 2019 (East Side - FLT) | 2020 (East Side - Other Trails & Gorge)
Looks great, I really need to motivate myself to get over there. There's some invisible Buffalo/Rochester divide there and I rarely find myself further west than Conesus lake.
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Old 08-05-2021, 08:40 PM   #31
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The natural environment in and around Lake George is indeed scenic. I was just a bit turned off by the "Jersey Shore" environment on the main strip. That would have been more my scene 15-20 years ago lol.

One of my most epic snowshoe journeys was in the Western Adirondacks a few winters ago. By epic, I mean simultaneously epic and miserable! I did a loop on the Moss Lake trail, ventured onto the frozen lake, and then went up the mountainside off-trail in some fairly deep snow. That is where I learned that wearing gaiters on those types of adventures wouldn't be the worst idea in the world!

Looking at Google Maps, Letchworth and Naples look to be nearly equidistant from Rochester. Lots of good options between, too, including the Hemlock-Candice area. Harriet Hollister Spencer has some multi-use trails and one of the finest overlook spots in the region imo...
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:05 PM   #32
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Yeah I enjoying skiing Moss and Cascade (across the street) in the winter. Been going there since I can remember...

Hollister is probably my favorite local place to XC ski, and fairly high up on my list for MTB, although Ontario County Park is perhaps a little better.

I used to go put a canoe in Canadice or Hemlock a few times a year, but I don't get much time for that these days and I'd rather do that in the Adirondacks. Just doesn't do much for me out here...
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:20 PM   #33
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Have you ever gone mountain biking around the Ganondagan / Fort Hill area near Victor? The terrain there looked good for riding. Same with Pinnacle Hill north of there. Couldn't believe there was something that steep around the Rochester city limits. Buffalo, on the other hand, is flat as a pancake aside from some mounds just south of downtown and a ridge along its eastern border. Good for road biking, not so great for MTB adventures unless you drive a ways south into the Allegheny foothills.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:26 PM   #34
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https://www.mygroc.com/trails/dryer-road-park/

Oh yeah.

Some of Fort Hill is off limits. The Eagle Trail is the only legal bike trail I know of that connects with Dryer Rd park. But either way it's an easy flow trail with a decent amount of vert for that area.

Dryer Rd park itself is super small (like 130 acres) but they have a really nice pump track now (which I take my kids to weekly), a very nice jump line and good set of trails that most anyone can ride meaning skill level from kids on balance bikes to some fairly difficult black diamonds.

I'd definitely recommend having at least a real entry level mountain bike (not a bike that looks like a mountain bike and is meant for bike paths) to ride them though.

Hollister and OCP are way more serious. You need a good bike, some bike handling skills and some good lungs.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:41 PM   #35
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Yep, that's the area alright. Last time I was at Fort Hill, I wanted to check out the other side of the hill and unknowingly found myself on those cris-crossing MTB trails. While no one said anything to me, I couldn't imagine them being too wild about me hiking in that area. Realizing that I didn't have the right-of-way, I made sure to avoid the bikers as much as possible as I made my way back to the hilltop.

Last time I was at OCP, there was a mountain biker going up and down Gannett Hill's steep southern slope. That had to have been a real test!
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:45 PM   #36
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https://www.mygroc.com/trails/ironde...bay-park-west/

This place is probably one of the most fun trail systems in NY.

https://www.mygroc.com/trails/tryon-park/

Tryon is a little different. Maybe a little harder - some people say a lot, ehhh, not much. There definitely are some short sections which are more technical than anything else around, but easily avoided if beyond your pay grade.

Neither are good for beginners or young kids. Too much exposure and very narrow trails.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:48 PM   #37
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Yep, that's the area alright. Last time I was at Fort Hill, I wanted to check out the other side of the hill and unknowingly found myself on those cris-crossing MTB trails. While no one said anything to me, I couldn't imagine them being too wild about me hiking in that area. Realizing that I didn't have the right-of-way, I made sure to avoid the bikers as much as possible as I made my way back to the hilltop.

Last time I was at OCP, there was a mountain biker going up and down Gannett Hill's steep southern slope. That had to have been a real test! Even hiking that stretch wasn't a walk in the park (a figurative walk in the park anyway).
You can hike at Dryer, no issue. It is super busy with bikes so be aware, but other bikers are aware because there's lots of two way traffic and such and I've never had an incident with another biker or hiker, I can always see/hear them.

These days I tend to hike where bikes won't be, and the bike trails just tend to go in loops and not really go anywhere. Basically tracks.

The steep south and west side trail is the "Black" trail at OCP. It's a fantastic trail. Not technically that difficult but physically the most challenging in the area.
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Old 08-05-2021, 09:56 PM   #38
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https://www.mygroc.com/trails/ironde...bay-park-west/

This place is probably one of the most fun trail systems in NY.

https://www.mygroc.com/trails/tryon-park/

Tryon is a little different. Maybe a little harder - some people say a lot, ehhh, not much. There definitely are some short sections which are more technical than anything else around, but easily avoided if beyond your pay grade.

Neither are good for beginners or young kids. Too much exposure and very narrow trails.
The pics from those two parks instantly reminded me of the relatively new MTB trails at Darien Lakes State Park. That's another place not terribly far from Rochester that you could check out if you haven't already. Moderately challenging, but no black-level trails according to this site: https://www.trailforks.com/region/da...-22624/trails/
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:03 PM   #39
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The pics from those two parks instantly reminded me of the relatively new MTB trails at Darien Lakes State Park. That's another place not terribly far from Rochester that you could check out if you haven't already. Moderately challenging, but no black-level trails according to this site: https://www.trailforks.com/region/da...-22624/trails/
Talking to people who come over from that region they say Dryer and West Bay/Tryon are a lot better. But I've never ridden.

West Bay is like a big, skinny, 5 mile long BMX track.

https://youtu.be/lA2-w3qMe7s

https://youtu.be/I6QO_zQURpM

https://youtu.be/zK9M8MmzenY

https://youtu.be/SrzyuQ8KB4Y



Tryon is more like old school XC trail.

https://youtu.be/tEtVnFVQb40

https://youtu.be/W853Kap2laI
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Old 08-05-2021, 10:08 PM   #40
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Judging by those videos, those trails do look more interesting than the ones at Darien. I may send a few of those links to a friend who's really into riding.
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