The story below is an excerpt from our March/April 2017 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
As cities and towns throughout the mountains build new greenways, trails and other walkways, there’s the potential for a new era of great walks. Our new column presents just one such customizable experience. We hope you’ll help us find and explore more.
I took a look back at the year—2004—that Gail and I began our practice of hiking every weekend. We put in 566 miles that year, and all on real trails in real woods. An average of more than 10 miles a week.
How things have changed. To the extent that our 2016 total was almost exactly half that—281 miles—and with a significant portion of that done on greenways and other urban routes.
Which brings us quickly to the topic at hand: After nearly 20 years of a department in this magazine called “The Hike,” columnist and hiker extraordinaire Leonard Adkins has agreed to continue to write the column in its new iteration.
Which is not to say he won’t be taking us into the woods now and again. And not to say there won’t be some good distances to cover with wildlife and scenery to take in.
But in deference to the wonderful printed and online resources for hikes in our seven-state region, and in recognition of the lack of resources for sort of non-standard hikes, the new column—”The Good Walk”—will seek out and present treks that are:
• Customizable in length.
• Include attractions and destinations aside from mountain peaks and vistas, wildflowers and wildlife.
• Are, or can be undertaken as an aspect of a visit to a town or region for purposes beyond walking as well.
• Attractive and relevant, we hope, to our readers.
For Gail and me at least, such walks have become increasingly common and compelling. In recent visits to Charlottesville, Virginia, for example—where our primary lure was live music—we have begun to explore the 20-mile, multiple-entry-point Rivanna Trail, which encircles the city.
The beauty is that you get your walking in, you experience some wooded areas, and at the same time you can get off and walk to the pedestrian mall for lunch, say. Or you can get off and walk the campus of Gail’s alma mater, say, as the University of Virginia has its own walking routes, connecting in several places to the Rivanna Trail.
And here in our home town of Roanoke, we continue to build new hikes using both trails and greenways, with one recent addition being to walk up the Star Trail on the east side of Mill Mountain, walk down the west side on the Loop Road, continue to Fork in the Alley for lunch, and then go back, although we’ve cheated a little by taking the Monument Trail around the side of the mountain back to the Star Trail.
Point being: Building walks you can make as long or as short as you want, with food and other lures built in, is a lot of fun, and a good now-and-again alternative to real hikes in real woods.
For his first Good Walk (see page 18), Leonard returns to his home town of Charleston, West Virginia, for a downtown exploration.
We hope you’ll enjoy our new take on taking a walk, and that you’ll send along your own ideas and discoveries in the realm. Because these kinds of walks are not, per se, in the guidebooks and on the websites; instead, they are invented by the people who go outside to take advantage of the ever-increasing number of greenways, trails and even sidewalks to create their own great days outside.
Send us your favorites of the realm: firstname.lastname@example.org.