Otsego Outdoors is again offering a winter octet challenge highlighting publicly accessible trails to hike, cross country ski and snowshoe. The group, which includes Otsego 2000, the Otsego Land Trust and the Otsego County Conservation Association, offered its first challenge last year.

The latest challenge, which will run Dec. 21 to March 19, is the group's fourth. In less than a year, more than 250 people have completed Otsego Octet challenges, which translates to more than 2,000 treks on Otsego County trails, waterways and bike routes, according to a media release from the group. In addition to the Otsego Octet challenges, the website otsegooutdoors.org lists parks, forests and waterways, and a growing list of outdoors organizations and local businesses.

"The challenge is great because there is a variety of ways for people to get outdoors and explore our beautiful landscape," Marcie Foster, director of stewardship at the Otsego Land Trust, said in the release

For the Winter Octet, participants can choose eight of the 13 featured trails at State Parks (Glimmerglass, Gilbert Lake, Betty and Wilbur Davis and Robert V. Riddell), State Forests (Goodyear Lake Waterway Access and Texas Schoolhouse), Otsego Land Trust properties (Parslow Road Conservation Area and Lordsland Preserve), a Town Park (Fortin Park) and private property open to the public (Pathfinder Village Walk, Valley View Walking Trails, and Clark Tower Trail). There also is a “Choose Your Own” option that includes any outdoors activity in Otsego County, including ice skating, winter biking, sledding, tubing, and ice fishing, as well as hiking, snowshoeing or skiing on other trails, the release said..

“We’ve had a great response so far to the Otsego Octet challenges, and we look forward to connecting more people with all Otsego County has to offer,” Otsego 2000 Executive Director Ellen Pope said in the release. “The Winter Octet features some great trails in our State Parks, as well as lesser known local places and some new to Otsego Outdoors, like the Clark Tower Trail.” She noted that to encourage people to visit new places, at least one activity must be completed in each of four areas of the county.

After completing eight of the activities (the Octet), participants receive an embroidered Winter Octet patch, or if completing the Winter Octet for a second time, an add-on patch known as a rocker.

“The Otsego Octet Challenges have been really effective at getting people outside. Outdoor exploration promotes physical and mental well-being, and OCCA is proud to be a part of this effort,” Jeff O’Handley, program director at Otsego County Conservation Association, said in the release.

Three of the Winter Octet trails will be featured as guided First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, at Glimmerglass State Park, Gilbert Lake State Park and Texas Schoolhouse State Forest. In addition, O’Handley will lead a hike at Robert V. Riddell State Park on Jan. 17. 

To participate in the Otsego Outdoors Winter Octet, go to www.otsegooutdoors.org for more information on the featured trails and a registration form. Those with questions about the program or suggestions for other trails to include in future challenges can call 607-547-8881 or email outdoors@otsego2000.org..

“The Winter Octet is a great opportunity for people of all ages to get outside at a time of year when we can see the ‘bones’ of the landscape," Otsego Land Trust Executive Director  Gregory Farmer said in the release. There is so much to discover and enjoy,” 

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