“I can’t wait until next year.” 

I have heard a number of people express that statement about the annual Cumberland County Hiking Marathon, both in person and on Facebook comments, after saying how much they look forward to the marathon every year.

Well, you don’t have to wait until next year.

The reason the Hiking Marathon was started was to introduce folks to all of the outstanding hiking trails that we have nearby. That is why we rotate the hikes in the marathon, and why we always try to include trails in Fairfield Glade, Crossville, Cumberland Mountain State Park and on the Cumberland Trail. 

The Friends of the Trails marathon organizers want you to experience all of the trails in the county, especially ones that you might not know about.

For 2021, we added the Ozone trail, the trail at the Head of the Sequatchie, the Kirkstone trail, the paved Storybook trail at the State Park, the Obed extension off of the Woodland Loop, and the newly expanded Fairfield Glade Library trail. 

Each year, new trails are included, or trails that haven’t been in the marathon for several years are rotated back in.

Believe it or not, that trail that you didn’t like was someone else’s favorite. 

Some people hated the Sequatchie trail or the Ozone trail, but for others, they loved them. 

But, without the marathon, you might not have found a new favorite or one that, for you, once was enough.

Many of you only hike the trails during the marathon. But why? You now know the trailheads and the routes, so why not continue hiking the rest of the year? 

Here are some tips.

It is always best to not hike alone, even though many folks do it. Take a friend and always tell someone where you are going. 

Take water and a power bar or two. Even during the marathon a few people made a wrong turn and ended up hiking 5 miles instead of 3, but you are not going to wander for weeks like after missing a turn in the Grand Canyon.

Some of you avoid trails because you are afraid of ticks, chiggers or snakes. If you stay in the middle of the trail and avoid brushing against vegetation, you won’t get ticks or chiggers, and you will see any snakes long before you step on them. 

Spraying Permethrin on your pants, and letting it dry before heading out will repel ticks and chiggers. 

If you hike in cold weather, you won’t have to worry about any of those critters.

A friend of mine, in his 80s, hikes a different trail almost every day. He averages nearly 20 miles a week in 3-mile chunks. Three miles a day gets you a marathon every eight or nine days.

I see lots of residents and visitors hiking the many miles of Fairfield Glade sidewalks. I see some of the same people on the same sidewalks every day. 

Everyone is different, but I would get bored. Why not take a trail instead?

Hiking trails are listed as a major reason that many people choose a retirement destination, and Cumberland County trails are as numerous, well maintained and as beautiful as anywhere in the country.

So, get out there. Don’t wait until next September. 

Set a goal of miles per week. Start conservative and expand as you feel like it. You don’t have to wait until next year; you have hiking trails calling your name, right here, every day of the year.

Take advantage of our great trails all year long. 

I’ll see you out there.

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Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com

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