(Anna Homa)

By Anna Homa

The seasons are beginning their gradual change from spring to fall, albeit a little later than usual this year. The leaves on the trees are turning those stunning shades of red, yellow, orange and gold as they die and fall to the ground. A familiar bite is in the air, brining with it the smells of wood-burning stoves and cold.The temperature outside has begun to fall, but it’s still warm enough to enjoy a walk or jog through the park, or a hike on the many trails around Kentucky. Nov. 17 is Take a Hike Day, according to Self Magazine, and everyone should celebrate by heading to the hills and taking in the scenery.

For Eastern students interested in hiking and other outdoor activities, Campus Recreation has begun Adventure Trips. At least one time every semester, Campus Recreation plans a full-day hike, usually at The Pinnacles in Berea or Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest, as an introduction to the outdoors for beginners, said Brian Clark, assistant director of Campus Recreation-Adventure Programs.

While he has never heard of Take a Hike Day, Clark says it is a good idea to get people outdoors and away from the sedentary life a lot of people lead.

“Hiking is something anyone can do,” Clark said. “There is a place to hike for every person, no matter their physical condition.”

Take a Hike Day is something John Perry, Berea College Forester, has heard of in his years of hiking and taking care of trails. Hiking is one of the best ways to get exercise and see the world at the same time, he said.

Kentucky is full of places to hike, camp and experience the great outdoors. Some of the most popular trails are Courthouse Rock and Double Arch in Stanton, Bernheim Forest in Louisville and Mammoth Cave Park Long Loop in Bowling Green. Some trails are even closer than that; the Berea Forest, which the Pinnacles and Indian Fort Theater are a part of, is only 20 minutes or less from Richmond. Natural Bridge State Resort Park and Red River Gorge (one of the most popular sites in the world) are only around 45 minutes away.

Between the Clays Ferry and the Lexington 104 exits off Interstate 75 is Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Clark said. With 10 miles of hiking trails, 600 species of plants and more than 200 species of birds that can be found there throughout the year, the area is perfect for the beginner hiker wanting to experience the outdoors, but without the campers, bikers and hikers with dogs (all of these are prohibited), Clark said.

Perry is in charge of maintaining the trails at Indian Fort Theater. Those trails have been around and open to public use since the late 1800s, even though the trails have changed some since then due to erosion, he said. When visiting the trails, you will probably pick up another hiker along the way, a dog named Tillie. Tillie will wait at the bottom of the trails for you to come up, and will join you for your excursion to the top. He even has a sign on his collar that says hike with me, Perry said.

“It’s good to get out and hike and enjoy the natural environment,” Clark said. “We forget about our natural environment and it’s gone before we know it.”

Too many people sit cooped up inside with the television, the computer and their cell phones. The more people who will go outdoors, the more people who become educated and aware of the things we need to preserve, Clark said. Getting outdoors and being active can be like a release, a way to unwind after a stressful week and to connect with nature and feel refreshed, he said.

“It’s like a computer, I’m shutting down and rebooting,” Clark said.

Kara Countryman, a 2006 Eastern graduate in anthropology, goes hiking as many times as she can every year. She usually hikes with her family up to the Pinnacles, walks on the cross country trail at Berea College, travels to Anglin Falls in Rockcastle County, Natural Bridge or Red River Gorge.

“It’s so pretty and good exercise,” Countryman said. “I feel fabulous when I come down.”

Humans need to have contact with nature for our health. We need to breathe clean air and have natural light, Countryman said. On this Saturday, log on to AmericanHiking.org, or talk to Adventure Programs at campus recreation, and find a trail that’s just right for you, grab a few friends or go it solo and get outdoors.

“We’re so close to so many beautiful places it’s a crime not to take advantage of that,” Clark said.

(Anna Homa)