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2 The Outdoors: WNY winter hiking challenge for a great cause

The WNY Winter Hiking Challenge donates all registration fees to a worthy environmental group. This year it's Beaver Meadow Audubon Center.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Winter can be long and arduous but there's always some creative way to endure and thrive. Sometimes the best way to do that is by simply taking a hike, and if so, why not do it with a goal in mind? 

The WNY Winter Hiking Challenge begins December 21st and runs until the first day of Spring, March 20th. Mike Radomski is Founder of "Outside Chronicles," which sponsors the event. 

"We have a total of sixteen trails, and to complete the challenge you need to do eight of those trails," Radomski said.

Credit: Terry Belke
Hiking in any season is beneficial to both mind and body

The hiking trails are located across the region and Radomski tells 2 The Outdoors that the trails vary in skill levels from beginner to expert. 

"Some of the trails are Chestnut Ridge, Franklin Gulf, Hunter's Creek. We have a couple new state forests, Chautauqua Gorge State Forest, we're doing Boutwell  Hill State Forest, Boyce Hill State Forest, we have some of the nature preserves, we do Reinstein, we have Beaver Meadow Audubon Center."

A hike any time is beneficial to both body and spirit. Especially these days, that's important.

 "Getting outside, breathing the fresh air, listening to the birds, seeing trees, really puts you in a mindset and brings down that stress level completely." Radomski said.

Credit: Terry Belke
The Challenge offers 16 trails across the region.

Those who complete the challenge will earn rewards. The real winners, however, are the conservation groups that are the beneficiaries of the hikers registration fees. Radomski explains that all of the money raised goes to groups that give back to the environment. 

"All of our challenges we've donated to various conservation groups, through all of the challenges, this is going to be our third Winter Challenge, this particular one we're giving to the Buffalo Audubon Society in support of Beaver Meadow Audubon Center. To date we've given about 140,000 dollars to the various groups." 

Credit: Terry Belke
To date the Challenge has raised almost 150,000 dollars for various groups.

And then there's the benefit to Mother Nature herself. Getting closer to the Earth can foster a more caring attitude toward the planet , and we can also heal ourselves in the process. 

"Being outside, you get that appreciation for the natural resources of the world too," Radomski said. "You get out there and you say "Oh my God, this is so beautiful, and then you want to start protecting it and be advocates for the environment."

Registration for the Challenge begins December 15th, you can access that here.