Hard to find a reason not to hike

Published 6:15 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

As one would expect of a sports editor, I’ve enjoyed competing in my share of sports through the years. In fact, I’d much rather play sports than watch them, though I’m not averse to that, either (it’s also part of the job description).

Basketball has always been a favorite. I played in a YMCA basketball league for many years and even while in middle school. Always a streaky shooter, I once drained eight 3-pointers in a game and posted 32 overall points. I can’t imagine a basketball goal not being easily accessible at my place of residence because I can spend hours with no competition other than that in my head. I think most clearly when I’m shooting a basketball.

As a high school senior, I was a member of Thompson High School’s first tennis team. I was the No. 2 player, and we ended up being one doubles match away from making the state tournament.

I always enjoyed fishing, I played intramural flag football in college and there have been flirtations with golf. Prolific with short irons and around the green, I just can’t seem to hit a driver. I can’t even tell you the last time I pulled one out of my bag on a course, opting instead for a 3- or 4-iron off the tee.

But a few months ago, I decided I needed a new sport. Something to do even when its cold and rainy, something that would provide some exercise, something relatively inexpensive and something my 1-year-old Labrador retriever, Molly, could participate in.

Molly was the catch with all the familiar possibilities, though: Dogs aren’t allowed on golf courses or in gyms, Molly enjoys swimming too much to sit there patiently while I fish, and she’s also good at snagging tennis balls out of the air (guess the sport that eliminates).

So, I came up with hiking. All one really needs is a good pair of shoes or boots, and Molly loves walking around the woods.

I’m no expert, but I’ve hiked a few trails and think this activity would be fulfilling for a lot of people. It’s a way to get some exercise without walking down bland sidewalks, and you always set the pace yourself. National and state parks-which there are a wealth of in easy driving distance of Clanton—usually only charge three or four dollars for admission, and that money helps conservation efforts.

So, this space in the coming weeks will sometimes be used to describe some of my outdoors adventures. There is no set schedule for when these hiking columns will appear or what location will be discussed at what time, but I would like to provide information about how to get to different trails, trail difficulty, what plants and wildlife to expect to see, and maybe even reviews of hiking equipment.

Maybe I can help someone (or some dog) find some satisfaction in a new activity.