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Rated: ASR · Other · Health · #1370374
hiking is a fun way to spend your free time.
Has been accepted for publication in the Recreation and Parks in Georgia Magazine
Head: Take A Hike
Deck: Looking for new ways to exercise, get fit or stay active? Why not hit the trails.
By: Robin Bateman

I was in my thirties before I considered hiking a form of exercise. Then, several years passed before I moved hiking from the 'Yeah, it's okay' list to the 'I love this' list.

Now, I'm a fanatic.

As it turns out, hiking is an excellent way to tone leg muscles; If done in 20-minute (or more) stretches, cardio benefits are sure to follow. Also, hiking gives you a wonderful one with nature peace of mind kind of feel that you can't get from the treadmill. Plus, hiking is an inexpensive activity. With 64 state parks in Georgia, and countless municipal parks equipped with trails, your opportunities are endless.

Hiking is what you make of it --fun, leisure/social, challenging, a way to relieve tension, or all of these. Use hiking as a way to bring your family closer together, teaching your youngsters to appreciate the natural world they live in through an exciting means. Or, go hiking with friends, a group, or someone special--taking a break from family stress. But, as a safety precaution, always hike with at least one other person.

How do I get started?
Begin easy. Choose flat scenic trails allowing your body to acclimate to the hiking experience. Municipal trails are a good place to start. Contact your local Parks and Recreation Department for a list of walkways and trailways in your area.

Then, when you are feeling a little more adventurous, why not become a member of the Canyon Climbers Club? Created by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' State Parks Division, the Canyon Climbers Club was formed to encourage outdoor hiking and trailing. A $10 membership fee is all you need. Applying is easy; stop by one of the four participating state parks to pick up your card. (Call; 770-389-7401, or email; Jeannene_Woodruff@dnr.state.ga.us for more information.) Next, you'll need to get hiking - visit all four parks, getting your card stamped by a ranger while there. Afterwards, you can redeem it for an "I did it' t-shirt. The four parks?

Amicalola Falls State Park
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Providence Canyon State Park

What do I need for day hikes?
Remember, you will be away from the comforts of home, ie your refrigerator. When hiking for more than 90 minutes, consider taking along the following:

*Bullet*Water and food or snacks. - Each hiker should carry his own. Getting separated from the group without food is no fun.
*Bullet*Walking stick - good for keeping balance
*Bullet*First-aid kit
*Bullet*Map & compass
*Bullet*Lightweight waterproof jacket
*Bullet*Flashlight with batteries
*Bullet*Insect repellant
*Bullet*Napkins/toilet paper/plastic Ziploc type bag - you figure it out.
*Bullet*Swiss Army type knife; multi tool knife which can be purchased at any sporting goods store.
*Bullet*Waterproof storage for cell phone, matches, lighter,
*Bullet* For the avid hiker who plans on entering remote areas, rent a satellite phone.

I wish I had discovered my passion for dirt trails winding through pine trees and kudzu earlier in my life. How fun would it have been to pull my children away from their Internet and Super Mario games, for a one-night trip to various trails nestled among the Georgia Mountains? So they too, could learn to love the wilderness as I now do.

Just like tennis and cycling, hiking transcends age and gender. The trails don't care what you look like or how much money you make. Trekking provides both physical and mental benefits while offering adventure, challenge, exhilaration, and a sense of accomplishment. What are you waiting for? Go take a hike!

About the Author: Robin Bateman works for the City of Macon's Parks and Recreation Department where she manages a public tennis facility. She is also a contributing editor to Racquet Sports Industry Magazine.
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