As we near the end of the second session of Hike NC, our statewide hiking initiative launched last fall, we’ve learned some interesting things about aspiring hikers. Among them:
Getting to the trail-head is the hardest part. Not every trail starts at a place with a convenient street address. When that happens, it can be a challenge for folks who’ve grown accustomed to plugging numbers into an electronic device and having it magically guide the way. Old-fashioned map-and-direction reading have become bonus skills for our Hike NC hikers.
Kids love the outdoors (once they’re unplugged). Hike after hike, we’ve had families come on our hikes with kids who couldn’t have been happier. “Yeah,” their bemused parents acknowledge, “once we were able to pry the iPhone out of their little hands.” It’s true, parents: most kids instantly take to being outside and letting their imaginations run wild once they are disconnected. Persevere: it may be painful at first, but well worth it once you’re all on the trail.
People will hike more if they know where to hike. Saturday, we did a hike at the Reedy Creek Nature Center in Charlotte. Because of the ball fields and picnic shelters that dominate the entrance road, nearly all of our 23 hikers were familiar with Reedy Creek Park; none knew that if you continued down the entrance road you’d enter the nature preserve with its 10 miles of trail. That’s why we’ve added an Explore on Your Own section to our website. There, you’ll find a multitude of hikes you can hike on your own.
Snakes aren’t that scary. We spend a bit of time allying fears about the outdoors, mainly about snakes. Personally, we love snakes (and have a healthy respect for those that, if provoked, could do us harm). We aim to share that love and respect with our new hikers. Keep your distance from any snake and you’ll both be fine. Who knows, take the time to watch it slowly meander away and you could become a fan, too.
I did it! We deal with a lot of first-timers, a lot of folks who boldly and bravely enter the forest, which even today battles an image of being dark and foreboding. For some, it’s not just the physical challenge of a 3-mile hike, it’s the mental challenge of being divorced from civilization for an hour or two. Facing down that concern is a big victory for some.
Trails with restrooms are the most popular. Great views? Waterfalls? Undulating meadows of wildflowers? All nice, but what many of you want is a trail with a restroom (with plumbing) at the trail-head. To some, that’s the most beautiful sight of all.
You can’t go too slow. You really can’t! We are particularly fond of slower hikers because they tend to take the time to appreciate their surroundings a little more, to savor the experience. And since our hike leaders are back there with them, they get to savor the experience more as well. So perish the thought, hikers: you can’t go slow enough for us.