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The Way to Wellness - Hitting the trail for better health

August 29, 2014
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville News

Editor's note: The following is a monthly column from a member of the Emmet County Wellness Coalition.

Every once in a while (not nearly often enough) I like to go hiking on one of our area trails. Since I live just across the street from the South 14th Street trail in Spurgin Park, that's pretty handy. One of my favorite things to do is to go hike under a full moon that lights the trail - no matter how late it is.

Over the past few years, the Friends of Fort Defiance, assisted by Emmet County Community Foundation grants, have topped a number of trails at Fort Defiance State Park. After digging down a few inches to remove undergrowth, they laid down landscape fabric then covered the trails with crushed limestone.

The first trail completed last year was the Whitetail Ridge Interpretive Trail. Conceived by Iowa Lakes Community College environmental studies professor Gary Phillips and his students, the half-mile trail crosses from the east edge of the park's west parking lot and extends to just west of the former ranger's house. The trail features 21 natural features, including both native and nonnative species, deer rubbings and other points of interest. While Fort Defiance State Park is a gem, the trail is the gleam of the gem - and something to be treasured. The trail has seen a lot of use since it was completed late last summer.

This year the Friends group did a similar surfacing of the Spring Creek trailhead by the native prairie area. This trail, like Whitetail Ridge, is a low-gradient trail built under guidance and approval of the DNR. It's an easy way to access the original 1930s trail system along School Section Creek (i.e., no huffing and puffing up the old toboggan run).

Most recently, Friends members have surfaced the trailheads leading to the multi-use prairie trail area on the south side of the park. This trail is longer than the others and is equestrian-friendly.

Trails are an excellent public investment. They offer quality outdoor recreation for everyone. They're also a great place for people to meet and share their love of hiking and the outdoors.

Trails are also important to public safety. They give pedestrians a way to get from one point to another without having to negotiate through heavy traffic. It would really be nice to see trails developed in areas of Estherville that don't have sidewalks currently.

If you haven't used one of our public trails lately, try it. It's just starting to cool off outside, so the weather is perfect for hiking outdoors. Hiking can be either low-impact or high-performance, depending on how hard a person wants to work at it.

If nothing else, it's a great way to get out and alone with your thoughts for a while.



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