National Trails Day: Get moving

Yesterday was National Trails Day. Sorry not to give the heads up sooner, but I found this out while I was hiking on a trail and without WiFi access. If you can swing a hike today on a national trail, I’d take one. If not today, than soon.

Make a plan for next weekend if you must. It doesn’t have to be major hike, but give yourself enough time for your arms and legs to move in a rhythm with each other where you have time to find your stride. If there are trees around, a bit of nature, wildflowers, a bubbling brook–great.

On such a hike, keep an eye out for things you don’t normally notice. A spider web that’s stretched between two twigs, a large leaf clump high over head that marks a squirrel’s home, a bird’s nest, a butterfly that’s dipping down for a drink in a stream, the way water shimmers in the sun when it’s illuminated on a rock face. These are some of the reasons for taking a hike in Ohio where this picture was taken.

In New Mexico, it’s the smell of juniper berries and pinion trees and the steady progress as you make your way up the Sandia Mountains or the Jemez–or any other steep mountains in the state. There are switchback after switchback. Notice how the earth turns brilliant orange or deep red depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun.

However, even if you live in an urban area, make up your own trail in the spirit of National Trails Day. Head out on the streets on your own volition–much further than your parked car or the closest subway or bus stop or metro. See where you live from a more intimate angle. Say, “Hi,” to folks as you pass. See what’s going on and which people’s yards make you smile with their riot of flowers if you live in suburbs, or in a neighborhood like I do–not downtown, but not suburban either. If you live in true city terrain, see which people have planted flower boxes and have hung them on the windows of their brownstones. Notice the way your feet move along a sidewalk and the strength of your gait.

No matter where you live, a hike does good, which is one reason to celebrate National Trail Day one day late-plus it gives the exclamation “Why don’t you take a hike?” a positive spin.

When I was on my hike at Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills area of Ohio, thanks to the state park naturalist I was with, I saw treasures like spider webs that look like jewels clinging to the gorge’s walls and columbine, the tiny flowers that serve as a hummingbird’s drinking fountain. The flower he showed me had been used by a bee that had opened the petals further.

To help plan ahead, National Trails Day is always the first Saturday of June. Find a 2009 calendar and mark it.

For Fitness, Albuquerque, New Mexico is Number One.

Albuquerque, New Mexico has hit number one in Men’s Fitness magazine’s top 10 list for the city where the people are the fittest. I’m not surprised. I used to live there and it seemed every weekend there was some charity race, bicycle ride, swimming event or another enticement to get one’s body in motion. This Sunday is the Sweetheart Run to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters, for example.If you go to the Albuquerque Roadrunners website you’ll find a calendar that lists each month’s local, area and national runs.

One organized cycling race I found is the Lobo Classic, March 3-4. For other cycling events, check out New Mexico Cycling. There are also mountain-biking trails a-plenty.

With the Sandia Mountains to the east and the mesa to the west, in the winter it is often possible to go cross-country or downhill skiing and golfing on the same day. The east side of the mountains stays snowy at the top often well into March while down in the city, the temperatures are generally warm enough to comfortably run and bike ride year-round.

Hiking in the Sandias is as easy as grabbing a water bottle and a snack and driving to the edge of Albuquerque where some of the trail heads are. Try the Pino Trail. In minutes, after a couple of switchbacks, the rush of life is left behind. I seem to remember that this trail will link with another one that heads to the top, and once there—what a view! For a list of Sandias hikes try this link from the Great Outdoors.

One of my friends suggested one summer that we hike up the mountain before dark and hike down by the full moon. Neat idea but we didn’t take into account that the moon has to crest the mountain before it lights up the trail. We had to wait at the top until well after midnight before it was light enough to see to hike down. Luckily, the guy who managed the gift shop let us hang out there after we bought T-shirts since the ones we had on were soaked with perspiration. After dark the temperature does a nosedive-another small factor we forgot.

If you are in Albuquerque and want to get fit, be warned, the city is a mile high and the top of the Sandias is a mile more. Drink plenty of water and take time to get acclimated to the altitude.

Here’s a guide to more outdoor activities that Albuquerque has to offer.