Brooke Leone

Brooke Leone has 4 articles published.

Top 10 Leisure Hikes in the Finger Lakes Region (Upstate New York)

in Trails by

We all have those days where a short hike to clear your mind or to just get ouside is necessary. The time to climb mountains isn’t available, but the itch to hike somewhere is prominent. These are my personal favorite hikes in the Finger Lakes and also popular to those visiting the region.

1. Watkins Glen 

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Watkins Glen, NY

This two-mile trail descends 400 feet with 200-foot cliffs creating 19 amazing waterfalls along the trail. The pathway winds around the waterfalls with an additional trail above the gorge creating an amazing view. While the trail is set out, there are numerous stairs to get from place to place if walking the trail is not for you. This is a NYS park, so camping or picnicking for the day is definitely available. My favorite food choice in the area is going back down into Watkins and getting some amazing pizza at Jerlando’s.

2.Taughannock Falls 

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Ulysses, NY

Taughannock Falls is located between Ithaca and Trumansburg where hiking and scenery come naturally. There are two different trails you can take to the falls; the Rim Trail, which is atop the waterfall and gives you overlooking views of the gorge, and the main Gorge Trail on lower ground. The Rim Trail is seasonal and is closed during the wintertime due to the dangerous nature of the rim. However, the Gorge Trail is a nice ¾ mile trail near the base of the waterfalls and open all year round. The trail is flat and mapped out, which is great for family time or a quick hike through new territory. Because of the flat surface, many still hike and snowshoe during the winter.

3. Letchworth State Park

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Letchworth, NY

Letchworth State Park consists of 28 different trails throughout the park. These range from a half-mile to 21 miles with different difficulty levels. With 14,350 acres, the state park gives visitors great views of the Genesee River, 600-foot cliffs, three major waterfalls and much more.  All trails are mapped out on the PDF map on the website.

4. Green Lakes

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Fayetteville, NY

The beautiful park has two lakes: Green Lake and Round Lake, which are surrounded by hiking trails, a beach, and wildlife. The park has a total of 10 miles worth of trails on the property with the most popular being the 2.4-mile trail around the lakes. Several people run and bring their pets here for a nice leisure walk especially in the spring and fall weather.

5. Grimes Glen

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Naples, NY

Grimes Glen is located at the end of Vine Street off of Main St. in the heart of Naples, NY. There is a sign for Grimes Glen at the corner of the street and a parking lot at the end of the road where the trail begins. Unfortunately this trail is on the edge of the creek and with certain seasons, the water is flowing. At some point on the trail you’ll have to jump rock to rock or walk up the creek bed to the waterfalls. Two waterfalls are visible and a third is above with access to it with extremely dangerous climbing. I don’t recommend climbing to the third unless you’re a skilled climber.

6. Hi Tor


Naples, NY

Hi Tor is known for its popular trail located by its blue markings. To get to this 4.6-mile trail you can either park off of Parish Hill Road near the DEC entrance or at the bottom of Conklin Gully in the parking area off of NY State Rt. 245. Either way you’ll see the gully and work your way up to a 600-foot elevation.

7. Mendon Ponds

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Victor, NY

The Mendon Ponds park office is located at 95 Douglas Road, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472. Mendon Ponds Park is 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created landforms. Many people rent out the pavilions for parties, but among the trees are numerous hiking trails and a few ponds scattered within. You could honestly go several times and be able to hike a different trail every time. My favorite parts of the hiking trails are the wetlands. At certain points in the trails, you are right at the waterline looking out at the ponds. I’m quite positive that these pieces of the trails are flooded out during certain seasons or if we get a lot of rain, but to be that close to the water is amazing.

8. Keuka Lake Outlet Trail

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Dresden to Penn Yan, NY

In the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of New York State, between the villages of Penn Yan on Keuka Lake and Dresden on Seneca Lake, lies the Keuka Outlet Trail. The trail actually follows the old Fall Brook Railroad, which also is the path of the historic Crooked Lake Canal that used to connect Keuka and Senca Lake. Currently, the trail is seven miles long with gradual inclines along the way. This path is great for a leisure walk or a long distance trek.

9. Buttermilk Falls State Park

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Ithaca, NY

Buttermilk Falls State Park is named after the foaming cascade created by Buttermilk Creek that flows down the park to Cayuga Lake. This park has a few hiking trails through the woods and around the creek bed. It also holds accommodations for camping, picnicking, sporting events, and swimming.

10. Carpenter’s Falls

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New Hope, NY

Carpenter Falls in within a group of four waterfalls in this area near Bear Swamp Creek. Carpenter Falls drops 90 feet and Angel Falls drops 62 feet. The two other falls are around 11-30 feet, and are not directly accessible from the trails. The trails can be very dangerous due to the ravine, so please be careful when hiking. There are small hiking trails for short hikes or a general loop with the street to get a longer hike in at about 2.3 miles.

Ultra Adventure Racing with Simon Donato

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Ultra. A word tacked on to events or items to create a new category to challenge us. Ultra marathon is one of the terms we’ve seen in outdoor adventuring circles. It suggests that we’ve raised the bar and pushed the limits of our bodies to see what we can endure. Maybe we all should strive to this potential, or maybe only a select few are prepared to mentally tackle these events we’ve created.

Simon in Egypt

I interviewed one such man. Simon Donato pushes his physical and mental strengths to reach goals and to find the answers to his dire questions about the earth. He’s a man of many titles: ultra marathoner, adventure science seeker, and now TV personality on Boundless, he strives to educate and push limits at every turn. He uses mind, body, and faith (science) to complete his extreme excursions in places yet to be explored.

Since moving from Ontario to the Canadian Rockies, Simon has been exposed to all sorts of ultra-athlete exploration. With the Canadian Death Race near by, he was eager to test his limits and join the sport. He was invited to run the Caballo Blanco 50 Miler in Copper Canyon in Urique, Chihuahua, Mexico, so he did. Simon explains, “I thought it was a great idea and joined them, got destroyed, but fell in love with the sport at the same time.” He didn’t just sign up to run around the world. Simon discovered the ultras within: cycling, paddling, running and beyond.

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Simon climbing in Utah.

Boundless, his new show on Esquire Newtwork (USA) and Travel + Escape (Canada), documents Turbo, his friend, and himself racing around the world in these ultra events. Pushing themselves to their limits and still finishing with a smile. Even with this interview completed, information in hand, and a basic understanding of what Simon and Turbo do for Boundless, I couldn’t sit down and write this piece. I needed more. I personally needed to feel the torture of these races.

By watching a few episodes of Boundless, I got the experience I needed. Pushing your body to complete the battle no matter how long it takes shows your physical and mental capabilities. I am truly in awe of these experiences and congratulate them both on their past and future accomplishments.

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For Simon, his toughest races to date are the Tor des Geants (TDG)  in Italy and the Charlie Ramsay Round in Scotland. While all races are difficult, these two stuck out to him for several reasons. Simon explains, “As a whole, the TDG is an insane 333 km (206 mi) race through tough mountain terrain in the Aosta Valley near Mount Blanc. Unfortunately, I had to cut this race short due to an injury. With such serious conditions your health needs to be in tiptop shape and your body needs to be ready.” Like other athletes, he understands that you can’t hide an injury from the mountain.

The Charlie Ramsay Round is a 24-hour running race around Ben Nevis. It is a 56-mile race with 28,500 feet of climbing involved. In the 35 years it has existed, there have only been 74 successful attempts as of September 2, 2013 to run it in under 24 hours. To put it in perspective, Simon says more people make it up Everest in a season. What made it difficult this time around was the weather. The conditions were close to a tropical storm with winds over 40 knots and torrential rain. With intense terrain, conditions and preparation, Simon learned a lot about himself that day.

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These types of races benefit from endurance and preparation and yet while several people prepare for the events, many don’t complete or even make it to the start line. As an athlete you need intense motivation to keep your body going. Simon reaches deep with a desire to explore and push his limits while also devoting his strength to Adventure Science. With great athletic ability, his team can endure terrain that most can’t, which furthers their research and assisting with gathering data for research, government projects, and several other issues going on in these remote regions. Simon says, “It’s pretty awesome to be able to go into an area and know that you are one of very few humans to have been there. In addition, when we are involved in Search and Rescue operations, there is a huge sense of pride in working for a greater cause, which is very motivating.”

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Simon climbing in Thailand

Recently Simon has been filming for the second season of Boundless traveling to Austria, Mongolia, Scotland, Holland, and Peru. Still to come are four races before the start of 2014. As for Adventure Science he’s wrapping up the reporting from the 100 Miles of Wild Project in North Dakota, and trying to narrow down next year’s projects.

Keep up to date with Simon and his team by watching Boundless every Wednesday on Esquire Network or Travel + Escape.

Adirondack Mountains — Mount Marcy

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As a native Upstater, hiking and exploring the state comes naturally. But, in my opinion, you haven’t truly explored New York until you’ve done some Adirondack Mountains hiking. The Adirondacks are home to 46 high peaks and tons of trails that crisscross the landscape. The best part of hiking in the Adirondacks is the views. Even if you don’t go to the tippy top of the mountains, you can see amazing scenery from almost anywhere. Plus, the mountains offer pristine places to; hike, snowshoe, snowmobile, mountain bike or whatever else you do. If you want to do it, you can! So, I did, and I will again!


In the Fall, a friend and I decided to take on Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in the Adirondacks at 5344 feet with an ascent of 3166 feet. There are four different trails ( that gain the peak, ranging from 14 to 23 miles to the top. We chose to hike the primary trailhead that takes off from the Adirondack Loj campground a few miles outside of downtown Lake Placid. This is a popular trail and is marked perfectly for hikers unfamiliar with the area. Plus, we camped out for the weekend at the campground, so this was our best choice.

We woke up pretty early to get a head start up the mountain since this was our first experience on a mountain and knew it was going to be a long day. It looked like our game plan was everyone else’s plan too since about the whole campground started at the same time. The congestion could have been an issue, but this was a positive for us. We didn’t know the trail nor did we want to be alone on such a long hike and because everyone was so nice, the company was great.


For the majority of the hike, we were walking through a dried up creek bed. Yet, with the cold temperatures and the rain showers throughout the day, we were skipping rock to slippery rock, which didn’t help the already uncomfortable trail. I’d say this was the point of the trail that slowed us down the most. But we continued on and eventually hit dry steep land that continued on to Indian Falls about four miles from the top. Once we hit the falls, we checked out our map and location and knew that we wouldn’t make it to the top before sunset and weren’t ready to hike back down the mountain in the dark.


We made the obvious decision to turn around and start back down the trail to the campgrounds. This was upsetting, but not a huge surprise since we’ve never done a hike that long before and weren’t sure what we were up against. Alongside daylight, blisters, aches and pains started to set in and by the time we were back to the campground we were exhausted. Mount Marcy won this round, but I’ll be headed back early July to have another go at her!


Editor’s Note: Brooke recently returned from her second trip to the Adirondack Mountains and Mount Marcy and we’re looking forward to hearing about her successful summit! 


SBM Editor On Top Of The World

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For the past few weeks SBM Editor Erika Klimecky has been on an exciting journey in Nepal atop the Everest Highway. This is her second trip to Nepal and, as a staff, we’re happy to share some of her reports from the trail with SBM readers.

It’s obvious when you hear Erika talk about her first experience in Nepal that the landscape, culture and people there have commandeered a very special corner of her heart and it’s no wonder that she jumped on the opportunity to return. This time around, she has been engaged in volunteer work in remote village schools, setting up infrastructure and technology, like laptops and kindles. She’s also taken part in sanitation efforts. Small areas like Tapting don’t have public trash cans on the street and no public employees to remove the trash. This is an obvious problem and would be even worse if volunteers didn’t pitch in to help.

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Overlooking a creek from a bridge in Salleri

The next leg of her trip was trekking from this remote area up to the beginning of the Everest Highway. Her team accomplished this successfully and even encountered some familiar faces along the way.

A few days ago Erika was trekking along the highway between Phakding and Lukla when a familiar face caught her eye, which surprised her and left her with an unbelievable happiness.

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Erika writes on her blog periodically and fills her readers in on this moment. She writes, “I pause and look into his sun-drenched, beaming face as he removes his sunglasses. “I am Lakpa,” he continues, to fill me in. I immediately recognize him as one of the climbers I met at Seattle’s Losar (Sherpa New Year’s Celebration) in February. He lives in Seattle and is the sponsored athlete for Seattle-based Sherpa Adventure Gear. I greeted him warmly and spent several moments in shock that he remembered me and recognized me way over here on the Everest Highway.”

This chance encounter in a distant place is remarkable. Still, we all tend to run into hometown connections where we least expect it, don’t we? Erika, now with a celebrity status feeling, continues on with her journey.

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Mount Everest

Erika and her fellow travelers enjoyed Namche Bazaar at 11,300 feet and did an acclimation hike to Khumjung where they got their first view of Mount Everest. On April 5, Erika explained that her team’s trek in Solu so far consisted of about 18 miles in two days. “Four mountain passes, up 4000 ft., down, cross a bridge, 4000 ft. up, over a pass, 4000 down again, then… Mary Beth, my cartography expert has estimated we did 18,000 vertical feet in 2 days.” Kudos to you Erika!

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Moonset and sunrise over Kongde Ri from Namche

Her high point, literally and figuratively, at the Tengboche monastery was a great opportunity to reflect on the journey so far and immerse herself in the Buddhist culture. Erika wrote, “I was completely still, listening to the chant. The lamas stopped and sipped tea in unison, took a breath, then the lead lama began chanting again. The swishing of hiking fabrics was drowned out for a moment by the low rumbling words in Tibetan.” This was exactly what they needed before continuing on along the highway.

To check in with Erika and her experiences on the trail, visit her blog.

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