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CINQUE TERRE - Trails Closed Both Directions but the Alternatives Worked!

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Oct 9th, 2013, 10:49 AM
  #1
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CINQUE TERRE - Trails Closed Both Directions but the Alternatives Worked!

We spent a wonderful 3 days/4 nights in Cinque Terre last month and would like to thank the many people who posted CT information over the past years. I had wanted to go to CT for ages so every time I read info I thought might be helpful, I cut and pasted it onto my Cinque Terre page. By the time it was time to plan, most of the work was already done! You were all so helpful!

We left FCO on a comfy T.A.M. bus from the international arrivals terminal to Rome Termini (only 5 Euros each and minimal walking at the airport), then spent a couple hours in Rome, mostly at the Tudini Restaurant around the corner from the station. This place had the most delicious fettucini with procuitto, peas and cream sauce that I have ever eaten. DH had the pesto and it was actually better than the pesto we had elsewhere this trip. The downside? One that we choose to try to forget. Using the restrooms after the meal lead us way downstairs where there was a cockroach reunion going on. I think the kitchen was upstairs, but it was still rather disconcerting to see all those bugs. Ugh! The food was good though.....

We took the Frecciabianca train out of Rome, a straight shot to Cinque Terre except for changing at La Spezia Centrale. Since there was a Trenitalia promotion for Saturdays until Oct. 26 – buy one ticket on anything other than Regionale trains, get one free… lucky us by chance traveling on a Saturday! – we opted for First Class seats. That was a great decision for us. I checked out second class: it was busy, noisy (even without the screaming child) and there was a huge dog wandering around. Nope, we much preferred our wider seats in the quiet section. Luggage storage was a snap – push the suitcases between the seats next to us – and we reserved the seats with the table. It was also empty most of the way (although at times huge mobs of kids would get on, travel a couple of stops then get off. I’m wondering if they use the trains as a type of after-school transportation instead of school busses) making it easy to jump across the aisle to take pictures.

We enjoyed the ride along the coast and across the varying landscapes: the outskirts of Rome with various domes peeking up over the skyline, factories and industrial areas, then the beautiful blue Mediterranean with 4 cruise ships docked end to end. We passed miles of greenhouses, fields of giant watermelons, farming communities and freshly tilled land. Finally, the rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards and dying fields of sunflowers of Tuscany. We passed small villages, hill towns, palm trees and fish hatcheries. Finally, a beautiful sunset over the water and train tracks. Really, a perfect ride. Tip #1 - We passed Pisa, but since it was dark, missed the leaning Tower. We did see it on the way back, so if you are training it north along this route, as soon as you leave the Pisa S. Rossore station, be on the lookout for the site on the right. It will only be a brief sighting, but it’s possible to find it if you are ready.

We had already been traveling in Abruzzo for the past week and still had a week to go, so while our luggage wasn’t particularly large, it was pretty heavy. Tip #2 – If you have to change tracks at La Spezia Centrale, look for the elevators!
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Oct 9th, 2013, 04:48 PM
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Looking forward to more. Great start.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 09:10 PM
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I've been to the Cinque Terre twice and loved it both times - glad you enjoyed it and worked around trail closures! Looking forward to more of your report.
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Oct 9th, 2013, 09:41 PM
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Looking forward to reading about your experience there.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 12:06 AM
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Wanting to go back to CT. Haven't been since 2007, so looking forward to your report.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 03:57 AM
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Thanks for the comments everyone. I'm glad I can bring back some good memories to some of you.

I became interested in CT by reading trip reports over the years so hope I can pass that along if you've never been there. It was everything I had hoped for...and more.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 05:21 AM
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MANAROLA IN THE DARK

First stop after La Spezia, Riomaggiore. Next stop Manorola. The train gently came to a stop in the dark (the ride itself was so gentle that at first I hadn't even realized that it had stopped!) so we waited for it to move into our station. Except that all of a sudden, we saw people walking past the door! We had arrived at the station but hadn't realized it and almost missed the stop. There were barely any lights and even off the train, we could hardly read the Manarola sign. Welcome to Cinque Terre!

ARPAIU

I had read many reviews of places to stay in Manorola and the other CT towns, but had a very hard time finding a place to stay because I waited until ‘only’ 4 months before our trip to start researching. Most of the best places are very small – often only a few rooms – and book up way before that. My main criteria was a great view and that was the sticking point. That’s everyone’s main criteria! Websites and Tripadvisor reports included descriptions on how to reach many of the places: climb the hundreds of stairs… Ugh! No stairs? No view. It was because of the thought of the long trek with suitcases on all those stairs that made me do two things: Lose weight (if I had to carry excess weight up and down hills and stairs, it might as well have been in shopping bags, not on my hips!!!) and use a carry-on size suitcase. I succeeded on both counts! For the most part, plan on carrying your own luggage yourself, although I did find some places where someone would meet you at the station and help. Every one of those places was booked by the time I started my planning.

I found a wonderful place called Arpaiu. It was at the top of the cliff overlooking the sea just above (way above!) the small Manarola harbor and included the main building with 4 rooms with private bathrooms. There was also a second building around the corner and two doors away with a simple studio apartment, the Ondine. We stayed in the apartment and were given a key to access the main building with it’s upstairs common room, coffee and tea station, and terrace facing the sea and coastline. Absolutely breathtaking no matter which building we were in!

Booking this place was interesting. Never much other than an email saying OK it’s available. Now, this has happened before in Europe and it always makes me nervous not to have confirmation numbers and such, but it worked out fine. The owner wasn’t very friendly by email, but that may have just been a language issue. She was fine in person and there was no problem with the reservation. We had been told that since we were arriving late, no one would be there to meet us, but that the key would be above the door. Wow! We certainly weren't used to this, but there it was, just where we had been told it would be.

The apartment, one level up, had a new comfy bed, table and chairs, a beautiful red tiled bathroom with huge shower with great water pressure and lots of hot water, a small kitchenette with refrigerator, stovetop, and complete dishes and cooking equipment, and flat screen TV. It was perfect for us. Look at the main website page and you will see 3 small salmon colored buildings at the top of the cliff - the apartment was in the middle one - and the main building with the terrace on top was the pale yellow one to the left of the 3. If you look at the apartment pictures on the website, the apartment is now a bit different than pictured. It now has a permanent bed which sticks out from the left wall in the first picture instead of the futon-type bed picture along the side. Everything else looks the same. The best part was the two floor-to-ceiling windows which opened out over that spectacular view. I didn’t even have to get up for the view. Every morning I opened my eyes and there it was!

http://www.arpaiu.com/english.html

Bonus – no stairs to reach Arpaiu!!! Just smooth brick and stone pathways leading up to the top of the cliffs. It was about a 5-10 minute walk, depending on how much luggage you were rolling.

Tip #4 – the directions on the website to reach the apartment could be improved. Ask me if you go.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 06:01 AM
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Looking forward to more. Brings back wonderful memories of a weeklong stay in CT nine years ago. Loved it!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 06:28 AM
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I would have loved to stay for a week Irishface. There was so much more we could have done!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 10:24 AM
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THE TRAILS ARE CLOSED!

There are 2 main trails from Manarola and they were both affected by the landslides of 2011. I just ran across a youtube clip of the mudslide in Vernazza and it’s more devastating than I had realized. It’s one thing to read about it, another to see a video, especially having just been there:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=405trx-Hdc0

Horrible!

Well, many areas were affected, including the easiest trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore, the Via del Amore (1km, according to an Internet site). It has been repaired, but not certified by the government. The Manarola resident who told us this said it might take longer to get it certified as safe than it did to repair it.

The other trail which was closed was the trail the other way from Manarola to Corniglia (2 km). This has also been repaired and is waiting for certification. The good side? We avoided the 400 stairs at the end of that trail going up to Corniglia.

We were going to hike both these trails our first day so we felt stuck in the middle between the two. We went to the tourist bureau at the train station (Tip #5 – don’t go right before or after a train is due if you can help it – long lines form at those times) and bought the 12 Euro pass to hike the trails with unlimited trains and bus included. There is a Cinque Terre National Park fee to hike the trails from Corniglia north. We probably ended up about breaking even with the pass by riding a bus, hiking one main trail and taking one train. (Tip #6 – you need to validate your pass at the train station before using it!)

We caught the bus from Manarola (thank you Fodors for that tip!) to Volastra, a town higher up in the hills, so we could hike from there to Corniglia, the only village entirely up on a clifftop. (Find this little green bus up the hill to the right as you exit the tunnel from the Manarola train station. The tourist bureau can tell you the schedule.) Luckily, we got the last two seats. (Tip #7 – don’t cut it close to catch the bus – once every seat is taken that’s it, they don’t allow extras to squeeze on. There was quite a line of people all wanting to get on as we pulled away and I think it only runs about every 20 minutes or so) As we started off, we were met with hoards of tourists entering the town. The bus could barely move against this tide of hundreds of people, and had to also keep pulling onto a side driveway due to a run of little cars approaching. It was slow going through town. The never-ending flow of people must have been part of the myriad bus tours that descend upon Manarola about 10:30 am each day. We finally inched through the crowds and off we went zig-zagging up the hills around gorges until we reached the tiny town of Volastra. It was a much farther trip than we had thought, at least the way the bus went, and definitely worth the 2 Euros (if paying separately without the pass).

The trail to Corniglia was just across the street along the left side of a church and started out quite easily. We had a leisurely walk through the vineyard terraces overlooking the water and the views just got better and better. The trails also got narrower and narrower, sometimes bordered on one side by a wall or vineyard fence and the other side by a sheer drop down. We encountered washouts a couple of times, but those were nothing dangerous. From time to time we looked down upon Corniglia and back at Manarola and they were beautiful from above. We passed though a couple of tiny villages, and once through someone’s beautifully manicured backyard, always following the well marked red and white hash marks.

Soon the paths became less level and much rockier, and we started having to make our way over uneven steps of old hewn rocks. Some were a few inches tall and some up to a foot. The landscape changed and we walked down through woods…and then back up again. Finally, over the mountain and down what seemed like hundreds of uneven steps until we entered Corniglia through the back past the church. The Volastra to Corniglia walk took us 1 ½ hours at a leisurely pace, and it was never overly difficult, but we were ready for a drink!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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THE TRAILS ARE CLOSED!

There are 2 main trails from Manarola and they were both affected by the landslides of 2011. I just ran across a youtube clip of the mudslide in Vernazza and it’s more devastating than I had realized. It’s one thing to read about it, another to see a video, especially having just been there:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=405trx-Hdc0

Horrible!

Well, many areas were affected, including the easiest trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore, the Via del Amore (1km, according to an Internet site). It has been repaired, but not certified by the government. The Manarola resident who told us this said it might take longer to get it certified as safe than it did to repair it.

The other trail which was closed was the trail the other way from Manarola to Corniglia (2 km). This has also been repaired and is waiting for certification. The good side? We avoided the 400 stairs at the end of that trail going up to Corniglia.

We were going to hike both these trails our first day so we felt stuck in the middle between the two. We went to the tourist bureau at the train station (Tip #5 – don’t go right before or after a train is due if you can help it – long lines form at those times) and bought the 12 Euro pass to hike the trails with unlimited trains and bus included. There is a Cinque Terre National Park fee to hike the trails from Corniglia north. We probably ended up about breaking even with the pass by riding a bus, hiking one main trail and taking one train. (Tip #6 – you need to validate your pass at the train station before using it!)

We caught the bus from Manarola (thank you Fodors for that tip!) to Volastra, a town higher up in the hills, so we could hike from there to Corniglia, the only village entirely up on a clifftop. (Find this little green bus up the hill to the right as you exit the tunnel from the Manarola train station. The tourist bureau can tell you the schedule.) Luckily, we got the last two seats. (Tip #7 – don’t cut it close to catch the bus – once every seat is taken that’s it, they don’t allow extras to squeeze on. There was quite a line of people all wanting to get on as we pulled away and I think it only runs about every 20 minutes or so) As we started off, we were met with hoards of tourists entering the town. The bus could barely move against this tide of hundreds of people, and had to also keep pulling onto a side driveway due to a run of little cars approaching. It was slow going through town. The never-ending flow of people must have been part of the myriad bus tours that descend upon Manarola about 10:30 am each day. We finally inched through the crowds and off we went zig-zagging up the hills around gorges until we reached the tiny town of Volastra. It was a much farther trip than we had thought, at least the way the bus went, and definitely worth the 2 Euros (if paying separately without the pass).

The trail to Corniglia was just across the street along the left side of a church and started out quite easily. We had a leisurely walk through the vineyard terraces overlooking the water and the views just got better and better. The trails also got narrower and narrower, sometimes bordered on one side by a wall or vineyard fence and the other side by a sheer drop down. We encountered washouts a couple of times, but those were nothing dangerous. From time to time we looked down upon Corniglia and back at Manarola and they were beautiful from above. We passed though a couple of tiny villages, and once through someone’s beautifully manicured backyard, always following the well marked red and white hash marks.

Soon the paths became less level and much rockier, and we started having to make our way over uneven steps of old hewn rocks. Some were a few inches tall and some up to a foot. The landscape changed and we walked down through woods…and then back up again. Finally, over the mountain and down what seemed like hundreds of uneven steps until we entered Corniglia through the back past the church. The Volastra to Corniglia walk took us 1 ½ hours at a leisurely pace, and it was never overly difficult, but we were ready for a drink!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 12:04 PM
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kwren - In May of 2012, we did the exact same thing as you (took the little bus from Manarola to Volastra then walked the high trail (6d) to Corniglia). What a beautiful hike!
Nice report - your description is very close to the way we felt and it brings back a lot of good memories! Thanks for posting.
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Oct 10th, 2013, 12:41 PM
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Bookmarking to follow along. Sounds like a great follow-up to your time in Abruzzo!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 01:38 PM
  #14
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Hi LCI - shouldn't you be packing?

Have a great trip over tomorrow! Oh my gosh - I just got back and wish I was going over to Abruzzo again with you! Have fun! Drink some wine for me

I realized I should have actually done this report with my Abruzzo report since it was part of the title. Oops! I'll finish it here and maybe later, copy and paste the whole thing to the other just to be complete!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 01:39 PM
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john - I know exactly what you mean about the memories - I've only been back a week and writing this is bringing back good memories for me too!
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Oct 10th, 2013, 07:10 PM
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TRATTORIA DA BILLY

This restaurant was highly recommended on Tripadvisor so I had made reservations in the morning before our hike. It was a good thing – we got the last outside table, a must for this sunset lover! We didn’t know it at the time, but we were seated on a terrace which belonged to a private owner and which was “loaned” to the restaurant for busy nights when there was an overflow of guests. There was one other couple on this terrace and a larger table was set in anticipation for the arrival of the owner and his family.

We started with the recommended Antipasto Misto di Mare, a collection of 12 individual plates with two tiny seafood servings each. Sort of like an Italian tapas if you will. I can’t remember what each one was, but we decided that 4 were rather nondescript, 4 were very very good and 4 were out of this world. The best ones I remember were fresh anchovies in lemon (nothing like the type found in the US for pizza), a seafood salad, a barley and shrimp dish, and a fresh tuna with sweet onions. It was fun and different and I would get it again.

Next we ordered the lobster pasta, the special. It was beautiful with all the pieces of lobster still in the shell and was a very good serving size. Unfortunately, the pasta was extremely salty and we didn’t actually eat it. We did mention it to the server and he told us we could order something else, but it seemed like a sin to waste that lobster which had been presented to us live 20 minutes prior, so we just ate the lobster. Looking back, we should have at least asked for a different pasta. They would have been happy to do that for us. We ended with delicious chocolate and lemon tarts. At the end of the meal, we were offered bottles of grappa, limoncello and another bitter black liqueur we didn’t care for, with instructions to drink as much as we liked for free and “to make up for the meal”, but we already knew that everyone received those after every meal anyway. That didn’t stop us from sitting there another hour drinking and enjoying the company of the owner and his guests at the next table. Trust me when I say that we made up for the pasta that way! With the 2 cover charges, a carafe of wine, water, 2 desserts and a coffee, the bill was 101 Euros.
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Oct 11th, 2013, 03:42 AM
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HARVEST - HOW DO THEY DO THAT?

This morning we sat on the terrace of the main building and watched some men harvesting grapes on the terraced hillside. It was amazing. Each terrace must have been about 5 feet tall with 1-2 foot paths separating them and creating the terraces. The men would fill the crates and carry them on their shoulders down one level to the next. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when we walked down through the town to the main street, there were more men with more full crates on their shoulders walking up the steep long staircases up into the town. Backbreaking work!

While walking through town, we noticed the hoards of people, one large group after another, were starting to stream into our town. Yup – it was 10:30. Tour time! You could see them coming in droves all the way up the main road as far as you could see. It was actually rather comical. They walked down the main street, scattered, checked out the covered boats lining the lower streets of Manarola, and met a short time afterwards. We were glad to be leaving them, but we also thought they would be gone fairly quickly.

PORTO VENERE

Today we decided to see the towns from the water. The ferries were still running (the schedule said they would continue until Sept 29) so we went down to the harbor to buy tickets. The man there recommended that we buy the 25 Euro ticket for unlimited ferry use for the day. This also included a ride around the 3 islands off of Porto Venere. The path to the dock led through an opening between two enormous rocks. It’s nice how they left the natural landscaping in place and fit the dock (and buildings if you look at the towns) right in. That’s the charm of all these places – nature dictated how they should be built.

The ferry arrived, the gangplank was rolled off the front to the cement dock and we boarded. The ride was beautiful, water sparkling. Manarola and Riomaggiore from the water were spectacular! I definitely recommend seeing the towns from the water if you visit Cinque Terre. The stretch between Riomaggiore and Portovenere was mostly wild land with a house or castle dotted here and there. There was a huge rock with a small cross on top on the way as well.

We knew we were getting close to Porto Venere when we spotted a large grey and white striped stone church and an enormous fort on some cliffs. We rounded the promontory and there was a cute harborside town – colorful, pastel, tall, thin buildings one after the other along the water.

We disembarked and immediately got onto the ferry to the 3 islands. The ticket booth says Giro Delle Tre Isole, but all we needed to do was board the boat next to the booth and show our passes. Without passes, the price is 10 Euros. Unfortunately, the explanation was in Italian, but we enjoyed the views.

We first passed a “field” of buoys, then a tiny island just big enough to hold a small fort/ castle, Torre Scuola. As we passed the first large island (Isola Palmaria), we noticed some military-type installations and what appeared to be bunkers. We did think we understood that they were talking about a World War so it all made sense.

The next island (Isola del Tino) was smaller and was topped with a lighthouse. There was a pillar topped with a statue in the water near it. We understood that 'she' was there to offer protection to either the islands and/or Porto Venere. We circled the last tiny island (Isola del Tinetto), basically all rock. And started back along the opposite side of the islands. The rocks were striated at a fairly severe angle in different colors and so were interesting. We also noted caves throughout. All of a sudden the boat slowed and crept into one of the water level caves. They were obviously being careful, giving the people up front a view inside then backed out. This happened with another cave then finally there was a huge cave and the front half of the boat was inside it. The people up front were taking pictures straight up inside this cave, but the rest of us had to be content with watching the excitement.
Tip #9 – if you take this tour, either ride at the front on the boat’s main level, or start upstairs and when the boat starts back around the back side of the smallest island, leave your spot and get to the front. I don’t know what there was to look at in those caves, stalagtites?, but the people took a lot of pictures inside. I felt like I missed out on that third cave.

Finally, the boat took us around to the little cove between that initial church and fort where we could see beautiful archways, the cemetery and other details.

After this boat ride, we meandered along the waterfront and were drawn in to La Taverna di Venere Ristorante by a sign saying Oggi (today) Paella. I ordered that and DH ordered a whole fish with fries. My paella was amazing with more seafood than rice, especially mussels, and large crawfish. DH’s meal was excellent as well. Both these meals, wine and water came to 56 Euros.
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Oct 11th, 2013, 08:20 AM
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yay! I was wondering about this part of your trip. I can't wait to see the pictures.
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Oct 11th, 2013, 11:52 AM
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Hi Johnny! It's taking as long to write about it all as it did to do the whole trip. Yea! Seems like a month long vacation! (actually only 3 1\2 days to go!)

I keep wondering if I should put my pictures on something other than facebook

I'm on my way to MA right now for the Boston GTG! Never did that before but it sounds really fun...and busy! Then I'll go visit DS at BU
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Oct 14th, 2013, 07:42 AM
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Great report. We hiked from Riomaggiore to Vernazzo in 2008 ( includig the 400 steps) as a day trip from Lucca and plan to return to CT and stay there for 4days to explore more. Sad to hear the trails are still closed. Looking forward to more!
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