On a pretty fall day, nothing beats a walk in the woods.
Far from the sounds of traffic and television, the glare of computer screens, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life is the peaceful solitude of Mother Nature.
Hiking may not be an official sport, but it is an increasingly popular form of recreation, which is both enjoyable and economical.
Walking along one of the many public trails in the region, or through your own fields and forests, you can experience the crisp cool air and explore hidden haunts, all with the beautiful backdrop of the fall leaves.
A hike can be an easy amble along the even ground of rail trails, or a challenging chug up and down waterfall routes; a light relaxing stroll, or a heavy workout, depending on your physical ability and your state of mind. Hiking can be a solitary endeavor, a group outing or a family function.
According to John Quigley, Acting Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, trails not only take us to pretty places, but can also lead to community prosperity. He visited Altoona last week as part of the Pennsylvania Greenway and Trails Summit, and says the state is embracing trails not only from a recreational standpoint, but also from an economic perspective.
"First of all, we have such incredible amount of natural beauty and an incredible amount of public lands in Pennsylvania," Quigley said. "Secondly, communities are embracing the concept of trails as more than just outdoor recreation and more than just healthy outdoor experiences; it's really about community revitalization."
Pennsylvania boasts more miles of Rails to Trails than any other state in the country, which is a particular tribute to our region's railroad roots. Thousands more miles of trails, with a variety of terrain and technical challenges are available, not only in state and national parks and forests, but also in and around small communities.
"There are scores of towns around the state that are making trails the centerpiece of their economic revitalization," Quigley said."
Trails have become so popular in Pennsylvania, DCNR recently launched a new website called ExplorePAtrails.com, an interactive online resource that helps hikers, bikers, ATV enthusiasts and other outdoor lovers explore the state's trails. The website features maps and descriptions of hundreds of trails, and allows trail users to post stories from their trips and review sections of trail.
An autumn hike finds the aggravating noise of technology replaced by the rustling of drying leaves and the sounds of seasonal songbirds. The glare of the computer screen takes a back seat to the glow of the moon, and the hectic pace of work and responsibility slows to a brisk walk that improves your physical health and state of mind. Happy trails.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org