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CAMPING AT LETCHWORTH

Euww...P.U.! My mom and I looked at each other and smiled. Cow manure. We knew our vacation had begun.

Every summer since I can remember, my family has traveled to Letchworth State Park to camp for a week. We usually camp in the north end of the park. There you can hike on specially marked trails (there are 21 of them in the park, ranging from a quarter mile to 21 1/2 miles). Check out the vanished village of Gibsonville, the Mount Morris Dam or swim in one of two Highbanks swimming pools.

Fifteen miles away, in the other end of the park, are more cabin areas (some equipped with screened-in porches AND toilets!) and another pool.

There's horseback riding at the trailside lodge, a trout pond if you like to fish, white-water rafting for the adventurous types, and if you don't want to stay on the ground, there are hot-air balloon rides (weather permitting).

A main attraction is the Glen Iris Inn, a 19th century-style hotel and restaurant that was originally the home of William Pryor Letchworth, founder of the park. Nearby is a museum with archaeological and nature displays and informative videos. Outside the inn is the 107-foot Middle Falls, the biggest of the three falls in the Genesee River gorge, sometimes called "The Grand Canyon of the East."

One of the most interesting things about Letchworth is its history. There's a pioneer cemetery with graves more than a century old, "celebrity trees" planted by Letchworth and others, the grave of Mary Jemison (a settler kidnapped by the Senecas as a child who ended up making her life with them) and a Seneca Indian Council house.

The portage "High Bridge" towers 200 feet above the waters of the Genesee and still carries trains -- and the brave souls who dare to walk across it.

Andrea Sofia is a junior at McKinley High School.

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