Get outside: savoring simplicity

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MANCHESTER — In the midst of mud season a simple stroll along the sidewalk can not only provide a great way to get outside, but also protect our state's meticulously maintained trail systems.

Though my initial instinct is often to hit the trails as soon as spring sunshine seeps in, it is often safer to stick with paved trails, dirt roads, or a walk through the neighborhood. Slippery mud can easily lead to a twisted ankle, a bruised bum, or worse. Beyond the personal potential for an accident, mud season hiking can cause unintentional environmental harm as well.

The Green Mountain Club and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation urge hikers to avoid muddy trails from late March until Memorial Day weekend to protect surrounding vegetation and prevent erosion that can widen trails and inhibit natural drainage.

Vermont trails, especially those at higher elevations, are particularly prone to damage due to fluctuating spring temperatures, excessive snowmelt, and heavy rain collection.

While it is no secret that I am often eager for the mental challenge inherent in a tricky trail, it can be nice to let the mind wander on a more pastoral path.

A stroll through one's own neighborhood can instill a deeper connection to your community, and open your eye's to the breathtaking beauty available around every corner.

While walking with friends and loved ones is always enjoyable, I particularly relish long walks with no company beyond my headphones.

On these slow saunters I can let my mind wander, or lose myself in a carefully chosen selection of songs. I am relieved of the burdensome ritual of layering on gear and lacing up my sneakers. Instead, I slip on my shoes, plug in my headphones, and meander on my way.

There is no need to carefully plan every foot strike, or track my pace strategically. The only demands on my brain entail putting one foot in front of the other, and taking the time to appreciate my surroundings.

Upon returning, I still feel that rewarding tiredness though not to the same degree.

With my muscles utilized and my vitamin-D quota fulfilled, I have the energy to tackle the many non-athletic endeavors in my life. It is often after a long walk that I remember how lucky I am to have the time and energy to exercise, away from the demands of work and home.

Though early morning runs or long weekend hikes are not a luxury afforded to all, a walk around the neighborhood is manageable for many and can provide a great context for family time.

For those residing in areas not suitable for long walks, or looking for a change of pace, there are still many options for spring hiking in the southern portion of the state.

Near Bennington, the Woodford State Park trails can make for a great spring stroll. In Manchester check out Prospect Rock, the paved trails at Emerald Lake State Park (in East Dorset), or the West River Trail further north.

Though there's a distinct satisfaction to wandering off of the pavement where the wifi is weak, a spring stroll can provide surprising satisfaction while protecting Vermont's trails.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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