by ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
Area residents interested in hiking have two local groups—the Monroe County Trailblazers and Hiking for Health—to help lead the way.
The Monroe County Trailblazers, a free Monroe County Parks and Recreation Department program, began last year to increase awareness of area trails and to promote fitness and wellness.
To assemble a trail list, Monroe County Parks and Recreation partnered with the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, Hoosier National Forest, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and Sycamore Land Trust. “There are so many parks with trails, but this may be a way to find trails people don’t know about,” says program coordinator and naturalist Cathy Meyer. Last year, 30 participants ages 3 to 77 participated in the program.
As an incentive, hikers have from June until November to hike 10 trails—each 1/2 mile to 7 miles long. Once they complete the trails, participants receive a medallion that can be attached to a hiking stick. “People can make it as challenging as they want,” Meyer says. “It’s possible to complete 10 trails without going more than 1.75 miles each time out.”
Forms necessary for recording the 10 trails can be downloaded online or picked up at the Trailblazers kick-off event at Flatwoods Park on June 30 at 1 p.m.
The other area group, Hiking for Health, meets at 2 p.m. the first Sunday of each month for hikes ranging from 2 to 6 miles. Hiker Eric Hendrix says the group’s focus is on community health and offering people an opportunity to hike with others. “We liked the idea of fitness but wanted to get out of the gym and become familiar with the trails,” says Hendrix. And the group wanted to focus on shorter hikes, he adds.
The hikes tend to draw 10–15 participants from their mid-20s to mid-50s. “We cater to everybody,” says hiker Kevin Larson. “We break it up by pace so nobody gets off track or left behind.”
Visit mcparksandrec.org for more information on the Trailblazers. For information on Hiking for Health, visit them on Facebook.