With cold weather fast approaching and the days getting shorter, I felt the need to try for one more exercise hike before I gave into winter hibernation. I pondered several areas that have good hiking trails: Allegany State Park, The Fingerlakes Trail, Letchworth Park, all of which offer beautiful scenery and miles of groomed trails. It seemed logical to pick someplace I wouldn’t have to drive far to get to, and it would be nice to have a loop trail to avoid retracing my steps back to the truck. After searching through my maps for places that met this criterion, I happened upon an idea.
Letchworth Park has a trail that follows the gorge for more than 20 miles, meandering back and forth along the eastern rim, through mature woods, ravines, waterfalls and majestic overlooks. I noticed that there was a road intersecting several access points along the trail and I decided I would leave my truck at one of these parking areas, ride my bike a few miles down the road to another access point and hike back through the woods. What could be better exercise than hiking and cycling?
It’s hard to believe that the middle of November in New York can still be warm and sunny. Here I was riding my bicycle down the highway towards the Mt. Morris dam on a glorious Saturday morning. The temperature was in the 60’s – way out of normal for this time of year – and sunshine forecast for the whole weekend. I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to ride with traffic or facing traffic, so I would weave back and forth across the road depending on which way I felt less paranoid. Traffic was light, thank goodness, and I was soon entering the visitor center road near the start of the Letchworth trail. I hid the bike behind some bushes and picked up my backpack and hiking poles. For day hikes I still carry some warm clothes, rain jacket, headlamp and first-aid kit, along with snacks and water. Even though there is cell phone service along the entire trail, I like to be prepared.
It was good to be off the highway and back in the wood. Most of the trail was dry – below normal rainfall for the last few weeks – and I thought once of hiking in sneakers but opted for my hiking boots. The path was mostly level except where it went through ravines. Sometimes the ravine was so deep and steep that the trail had to detoured a long way around. There were areas of huge Red Oak trees, some still hanging on to their brightly colored leaves, refusing to let go until snow comes and pulls them to the ground. At times the trail would take me to the edge to the gorge for a panoramic view of the fertile valley along the Genesee river.
I only met three people on the hike. Two were on mountain bikes and they passed me in a flash. I have mixed feelings about allowing bikes on hiking trails. I guess I want some places you can only get to by walking and it made me feel good when I came to a place where I knew they would have to get off and push. I came upon one giant tree that had fallen across the path and I knew they must have really struggled maneuvering through the limbs.
When I parked my truck, I set a waypoint in my GPS so I would know exactly where to come out of the woods. As I hiked back, it seemed like I had gone too far and I almost didn’t trust what my GPS was telling me. Biking along the road was so easy that I couldn’t relate it to the distance of walking back. With all the winding of the trail through the woods, I probably walked twice as far as I rode. But it worked out good and combined for a great day of exercise. I’m thinking now that the possibilities could be endless with a small moped or scooter instead of a bike.