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Short days call for short getaways

Snowshoes can be borrowed free of charge for the outing. To register, call 475-0291 by Thursday, Jan. 27, and visit www.dec.ny.gov/education/1835.html for more on Fiver Rivers' programming.

Though much of Thacher Park's facilities are infamously shuttered, the hiking trails at the park remain open and are a great winter resource. There are also trails in the adjacent Thompsons Lake Park, where shoes can be rented from the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center. The center can be contacted at 872-0800.

Like at Fiver Rivers, there are plenty of guided walks through the Voorheesville park's trail system. The next journey is on Sunday, Jan. 30, at 10 a.m.

The 3,100-acre Albany Pine Brush Preserve has miles of hiking trails that are well suited to a winter snowshoeing or cross-country skiing expedition. The preserve does not rent shoes but occasionally holds outings where equipment is provided for a modest cost. Visit www.albanypinebush.org for a calendar of events and directions to trailheads.

For a flatter, rolling hills type of snowshoeing experience, one might give the Saratoga Spa State Park a try. There are plenty of trails accessible by several trailheads throughout the park, and those wishing to stray from the established routes will find many of opportunities to do so through the golf course. Maps are available at the park office or www.saratogaspastatepark.org.

Unlike many local parks and preserves, the Plotter Kill Preserve in Schenectady County doesn't have a welcome center or educational outreach building, so you'll have to pack your own gear.

What this over 600-acre preserve does have is mile after mile of varied terrain that will keep any winter sojourner interested. Trails generally follow the river gorge to three waterfalls that provide interesting winter sights. Visitors should exercise caution when hiking on some trails, as they can pass near cliffs and falloffs.

It's also worth mentioning snowshoeing can really be accomplished anywhere there's a good settling of snow. Plenty of area golf courses offer good opportunity for virgin snowshoeing ground without necessitating a long trip.

Where's your favorite spot for outdoor winter fun? Comment below. ""

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