Hiking Challenge Accepted!

Editor’s note: We are about to enter what I consider premiere hiking season in upstate New York.

While you might have more time in the summer to get outside, the drawbacks of hitting the trail June through August are, in my view, many. It’s hot, for one thing, which means you have to carry a lot of water. It’s also crowded. And then there are bugs – lots and lots of bugs. In the Adirondacks, that means black flies, which are basically little biting visitors from hell.

But fall, ah, fall. If we’re lucky, we’ll continue to see days like we did this past Saturday and Sunday, with cool mornings that ease slowly into warm and sun-filled afternoons, followed by cool and clear nights.

The leaves will turn and fall and crunch beneath your feet as you walk, sending their spicy scent into the crisp air. Unfortunately, you still have to be on the lookout for ticks, but since it’s not a million degrees, it’s easier to hike in the long pants and long sleeves necessary to keep them at bay.

You also don’t have to travel far in this area to reach some amazing and worthwhile hikes. It’s one of the things about this region that makes it so fantastic. To that end, CivMix contributor Kathleen Proper has a challenge for the outdoor enthusiasts among you. Read on to see what it entails.

Lovers of open space are probably already somewhat familiar with the Columbia Land Conservancy. The organization manages 10 conservation areas in Columbia County, with more than 30 miles of trails among them. When visiting these sites, you’ll take in some spectacular views, see some native plants and wildlife, and have a chance to really experience nature.

Although I grew up in Columbia County and am familiar with the CLC, I had a habit of going to the same conservation area over and over, rather than checking out any others. I must not have been the only one, because this year the CLC launched the “Hike Five Challenge” (clctrust.org/hike-five) to try to encourage people to broaden their hiking horizons.

The premise of the challenge is pretty simple: Visit five of the 10 conservation areas between now and the end of the year, submit your proof, and win a prize!

I decided to accept this challenge and visited three sites this summer.

Ooms in Chatham. On a sticky summer evening we ran about three miles, up and down the big hill, around the pond, and back up and down the hill again. Did I mention the hill? If yoga is your thing, check out “Om at Ooms.” (This Wednesday, Sept. 4, is the last night of the series, which has a suggested donation of $10. Contact SuperSoul Yoga with questions at (518) 600-1781 or yoga@supersoulcollective.com).

High Falls in Philmont. This site is home to Columbia County’s highest waterfall. We attended the “Sip and Stroll” event about invasive species. First, we were treated to light snacks and beverages, and then we went on a guided hike around the site. On our hike, we learned about several invasive plants threatening our landscape, and were provided with some suggestions on combating them. Now when I’m out for a run I scan for invasive species. I have yet to pull any out of the ground on a run, but sometimes I am tempted.

Greenport. This is my old standby. I’ve been going to Greenport for years and still manage to get lost in the woods anytime I go by myself. I recently purchased a GPS watch with a “navigate back to start” feature specifically with the 736-acre Greenport Conservation Area in mind.

Although it would have been more of a challenge to complete the Hike Five without going to Greenport, it didn’t feel right leaving out my favorite. On this particular visit, we did the easy hike on the “access for all” wheelchair-friendly and blue trails, to the gazebo that overlooks the Hudson River.

All told, there are seven miles of trails at the site, which are all easy to moderate in difficulty.

Although we technically have until the end of the year to complete the challenge, I’m hoping to finish soon. Only two more sites to go! And which ones will I choose? I haven’t even decided yet!

What do you say? Are you up for the Hike Five Challenge?

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