The city I live in has what they call a fall hiking spree. Each year they designate 12 particular trails from throughout the Metropark system. Anyone who hikes 8 of them can get a hiking stick, or if you already have a hiking stick, you get a small metal shield to attach to it. I love seeing the old-timers hiking along with a stick covered in shields from all the years they completed the spree. For the second year, a group from our Temple has been doing the hiking spree together. It really is more fun to exercise with a group, and it is harder to back out when there are other people expecting you to be there.
One nice thing about hiking in the fall is the colorful leaves everywhere. One problem with hiking in the fall is that trails are covered with leaves, which can be slippery. One nice thing about hiking in the fall is that it is cooler, so I don't get as sweaty as I do in the summer. One problem with hiking in the fall is that in this part of the world, it gets chilly, not yet winter, but down into the 40's (Fahrenheit). The trick of hiking in this weather is layered clothing, so you can add or subtract as needed. Overall, I think the nice things outweigh the problems.
The trails chosen each year are spread all around the area, so it requires you to go to parks you would not normally go to. I have discovered some very nice places doing these hikes. The Metroparks system does a good job of balancing the difficulty of the hikes, with lengths from 1 mile up to about 3, and difficulty ratings ranging from 1 to 3, with 1 being mostly flat, and 3 being the most rocky or hilly. People doing the spree can chose their hikes based on location, on difficulty, or on length.
I generally enjoy hiking. My left leg starts out painful, but calms down after 5-10 minutes. It starts to get achy again at about 30 minutes. I do best with hilly or rocky terrain, which allows my leg to stretch and use different muscles. I also like dirt/ leaves better than paved, because the impact is softer. My brother's girlfriend, by contrast, has had knee issues for many years, and does best on smooth, paved walks so her knee doesn't twist. Last week's trail was a bit of a problem for me, because it was along a hillside, so the trail was consistently sloped to one side. I did great on the way out, but the way back along the same trail put pressure on the side of my foot that hurts.
I have to admit that I am a bit worried about the trail we will be doing this week. It is along the Towpath, which way back in the days of the canals, was where the mules walked, pulling the barges along in the canal. The Towpath fascinates me, with remnants of the canal still visible here and there. I love seeing history. The problem is that this trail is flat, and hard surface. It is 2.4 miles, the longest we have done this year, and a level 1 difficulty. In years past, that would have presented no problem (well, less of a problem). On a flat, hard surface, my leg muscles tighten up, and hurt. In the past, once I stretched and sat for awhile, the achiness lifted. Now not only does the achiness last longer, but it also makes me more fatigued.
I plan to stop and stretch often, and if I feel like I need to, walk a shorter distance. On a loop trail that is hard to do, but on a trail like this where you hike back along the same trail, I can do that. Walking, or in this case, hiking, is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, and in every health magazine these days there are articles about how good it is for you. Get out of your house and walk. If there is a store nearby, and you only need a few things, walk. Breathe in the fresh air. Push yourself, but know your limits. Know your body and how it reacts to walking on different surfaces and in different conditions. Walk around the block, in a mall, in a gym, even up and down your hall. Hike in a park, look for trails that are the right length and difficulty for you. Wear layers, bring water, a friend, and, if you are like me, a snack. I like almonds.