Winter is always one of the toughest times of the year to get outside and exercise.
It can be done, however, with the right incentives.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy based in Asheville, North Carolina has what you need if you lack the motivation to get outside during the coldest time of year.
The SAHC is offering a virtual hiking challenge that aims to hike 60 miles in 60 days starting January 1 and running through March 1.
“We wanted to make it accessible and intended for everyone,” said SAHC communications director Angela Shepherd. “You can run, walk or hike one mile a day from January to March and complete 60 miles. It doesn’t have to be on the trails and it can be as simple as going a mile in your neighborhood.
WHERE TO GO
For most of us in the Appalachian Highlands, the Appalachian Trail is accessible by car and there is most likely a walking trail in your local town or town.
For example, the Tweetsie Trail is accessible in both Johnson City and Elizabethton. The greenbelt runs the full width of the town of Kingsport.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the region’s top destinations for outdoor recreation and is accessible from both Abingdon and Damascus.
The Mendota Trail is also becoming a popular destination and can be reached in both Bristol, Virginia, and rural Washington County.
In other words, the possibilities of getting out and enjoying nature for even 15 or 20 minutes a day are endless.
“On our website, even though we’re based in North Carolina, we have plenty of trail tips that can apply just about anywhere,” Shepherd said. “We encourage people to register early so they can take advantage of the full 60 days. Registration is open until February 1, but if you waited that long, you’d only have that month to rack up your miles.
“We started the virtual challenge as a way to get people to hang out last year and got great feedback,” Shepherd said. “We decided to bring it back this year because we’ve had such a good response and I think we’re going to make it an annual thing.
“Registration is only $25 and part of it goes to conservation. We actually serve 10 counties in western North Carolina and northeast Tennessee. We go up and down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains.
Once registered, participants will receive a series of informative emails with details of some favorite places to hike in the area.
The email series will include recommendations for SAHC Protected Areas and some of our other favorite trails and excursions. Some hiking spots are overused and suffer the effects of their popularity.
SAHC will share information on some of the lesser-known trails and areas for enjoying the great outdoors, so you can help alleviate stress on fragile trail ecosystems.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS GET
All participants will receive a Hiking Challenge crest, coupons and enter a raffle to win a certificate good for two to cave, climb or raft through USA Raft after March 1.
“The patches are mailed out once everything is done,” Shepherd said. “Part of the fee you pay is for the patch and certificates.”
Time spent outdoors and in nature can help with both mental and physical health.
The foundation dates back to the early 1950s, when the Appalachian Trail Conference decided to reroute 26 miles of walking route in Tennessee with 72 miles of new trails through the mountains.
The ambitious relocation of the trail was championed by the founding members, who also created a visionary plan to protect the multi-textured treasures of the Roan Highlands and Southern Appalachians.
Stan Murray formed the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee as a committee of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy with the goal of preserving the unique, natural environment along this section and maintaining a continuous right of way for the trail.
The first meeting of the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee was held in Johnson City, Tennessee on November 11, 1966.
Recognizing that focusing solely on protecting the Appalachian Trail corridor would not be enough to preserve the multi-textured treasures of Roan and the Southern Appalachian Highlands, members of the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee formed an independent 501 Land Trust( c)3 in 1974: Conservation of the Southern Appalachian Highlands.
“We’re actually registered in Tennessee because that’s where we were founded,” Shepherd said. “Many of our older members and some of our board members live in Kingsport.
“We have great reach in both states.”
Visit https://appalachian.org/2022-virtual-hiking-challenge/ for more information.