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Within reach A lonely dirt road, winding, quiet, splashed with vibrant autumn colors lays itself out before us on a ride this afternoon. Trail heads are marked – the Gorge Trail, The Interloken Trail, Ravine trail, Potomac Group Campground – all lead into some special terrain that is exquisite.

This is the Finger Lakes National Forest, probably the most under-used piece of land in the finger lakes. In our hour of driving slowly and stopping frequently to take photos, we saw no cars and no people. It felt a little liberating to stop the pickup in the middle of the road, hop out and capture images that (while beautiful) don't begin to convey the peace and natural freshness the forest has to offer.
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The forest is 16,259 acres of Seneca and Schuyler counties, perched atop the ridge separating Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, and is open to the public for no charge. The roads are unpaved and only seasonally maintained, so in winter, you might want a snowmobile instead of mundane four wheeled contrivance.

Bordered by farms and fields, the forest is on land that used to be "over used" farmland back early in the 1900's, and has grown into the peaceful preserve it is now. In hiking through the forest, you occasionally find a stone foundation and other overgrown signs that humans once lived here. Wikipedia has a fairly involved history if you are interested.

Today is October 12, and the colors are beginning to show their vibrancy, but the real show will take place in about a week with the leaves showing their full riot of hues, from the deep reds of the maples, oranges of the nut trees and the yellows of the willows – countered by the stoic deep green of the hemlocks.

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The forest is truly a spectacular sight in the autumn, and is well within reach. The land is set aside for multi uses – hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and more – so plan accordingly, but don't put it off too long. After the colors comes the somber quiet of a leafless and dormant woods, waiting patiently for April when life begins to return with the first buds and wild flowers.

There are 3 easy accesses to the forest. Closest is Mark Smith Rd off of Rt 79; Burnt Hill Rd on the right just past Bennettsburg and past the ranger station located at 5218 Rt 414 in Hector.

The Park Service web site isn't very helpful, as most of the information tries to direct you to the Green Lakes forest sites, but if you search, you can find the maps that will help direct you. The phone number at the ranger station is (607) 546-4470.

Time is running out – make your trip this week. Enjoy the wild colors our Finger Lakes displays before it's gone.
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'Within Reach' highlights the food, wine and fun of places 'within Reach' of Lansing NY.  Of course, your reach extends exactly as far as you want it to. I am Monroe Payne, Uncle Monte to some. Come with me as I visit, taste and play in our own back yard, the beautiful Finger Lakes of Central New York.

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