After the winter we have just had it seems silly to say this, but spring is finally here. It seemed as if autumn and spring just ran together this year and what passes for winter around here never bothered to show up. But who's complaining?
With the official start of spring (which comes 3 weeks ahead of the rest of the country down here), there is no excuse for not getting out and enjoying the fresh air. As we are constantly reminded, too many of us are overweight and out of shape, and the same goes for our pets. Now is a good time too dust off those New Year's resolutions and do something about it.
Walking is good exercise for both dogs and people, and it is a good way to burn calories and improve the overall health of both you and your dog. A stroll around the neighborhood is fine for socializing, but to really benefit from the experience it is better to get out where you can walk for longer distances, preferably in pleasant surroundings. Fortunately, the metro area has quite a few of these places, and more are on the way.
THE PATH FOUNDATION
The Path Foundation—www.pathfoundation.org—is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating paths and trails throughout the area for walking, biking and roller skating. In the city, the Atlanta-Dekalb Trail will, when completed, extend from the Fort McPherson area on the southwest side all the way to Stone Mountain. Only segments of the trail have been completed so far, but they provide miles of walking for people who live in the areas in which they are located. The Path Foundation website has maps showing the completed sections.
Piedmont Park has miles of paths winding through it, and after you have had enough walking you can stop at the dog park and let Fido stretch it out playing with the other dogs.
In Buckhead, Chastain Park is one of the most popular trails, with a steady parade of people walking or running the 3-mile loop, many pushing a baby carriage or accompanied by a dog.
THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Chattahoochee River NRA on a search engine pops it right up) has miles of trails at numerous locations on either side of the river from Hwy 41 in Cobb County up into north Fulton and Gwinnett Counties. The web site has maps to all of the locations, many of which have picnic areas for a pre- or post-hike lunch. The Cochran Shoals area on the north side of 285 is the most popular and heavily used part of the NRA and the parking area is often full.
SILVER COMET TRAIL
The popularity of the Silver Comet Trail really gave the trail movement the momentum it needed. When completed, it will be a continuous 60 mile paved path that will extend from Smyrna to the Alabama border. It really appealed to bikers, who can ride for miles on a smooth paved path with nice scenery and no cars. It is so popular that homes are being built along the route of the trail with a major selling point being access to the Silver Comet Trail. This is another Path Foundation trail and information about it, including maps can be found at www.pathfoundation.org.
KENNESAW MOUNTAIN NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield in Cobb County is a great place to go for a hike. With 17 miles of trails winding through and around the park, there is something for every level of fitness. An added plus is the educational value of walking through history in the site of a major Civil War battle that spanned two weeks and resulted in 67,000 dead, wounded and missing. There are historical markers and monuments throughout the park offering an insight into an important event that took place here.
RED TOP MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
About 20 miles north of the perimeter on I-75 is Red Top Mountain State Park, with its 12 miles of trails that wind around the park, through the woods and along the shore of Lake Allatoona. The trails are all easy to walk, with no real climbing, because in the name Red Top Mountain, top is the key word, since that is the only part of the mountain that remains above water. The rest was covered when the lake was built.
DOG HIKERS OF GEORGIA
If you enjoy doing things with your dog and socializing with other dog lovers, you may want to check out Dog Hikers of Georgia, an informal group of people who like to go hiking with their dogs in the company of others. Red Top Mountain is a favorite destination. There are no membership requirements or dues; if you would like to join in, you are welcome to come. The information number is 770-992- 2362, and you can call it to find out where they are meeting that weekend (usually a Sunday) and at what time.
THE YELLOW RIVER TRAIL
The Yellow River Trail in Gwinnett has 12 miles of paved trails within a 565- acre park. There are 2 six-mile loops in the system; the River Loop and the Creek Loop, with the River Loop the easier of the two. Until recently the trails were natural and the park was a favorite of dirt bikers, but the trails were getting torn up and erosion was a problem. The county decided to pave the trails to stop the erosion and make them accessible to more people. Take Hwy 78 to West Park Place; go right on Park Place, which becomes Annistown Road, to the river. Before the bridge, turn right on Juhan Road for
about a mile to the parking area.
A few exits outside the perimeter just south of I-20 is Arabia Mountain. Relatively unknown until recently, Arabia Mountain is part of an expanding park system that is being created with Greenspace funds, and when complete will expand west to connect with Panola Mountain State Park in Henry County. A 20 mile trail is being built with the help of the Path Foundation, and when completed, will go from Panola Mountain SP to Stonecrest Mall. About 8 miles of the trail are finished, and it offers a pleasant and easy walk through forested areas, past old farms, and through residential neighborhoods. It is a fairly level trail, with only slight inclines, and people of all ages use it. One problem is the unpaved parking area. It is too small and on weekends it is common to have to wait for someone to leave.
Across Klondike Road from the paved trail is Arabia Mountain itself, and it offers a different kind of experience. A large granite outcropping, similar to Stone Mountain but smaller, it provides an opportunity to get a more strenuous bit of exercise. Arabia Mountain is especially interesting in the spring, when every crevice or pocket on the mountain that dirt or sand can settle in has something growing in it. While it is only 150 feet in elevation from the base, a few times up and down the sides of this rock will have your heart beating a little faster. A map and information can be found at www.pathfoundation.org.
REYNOLDS NATURE CENTER
On the southside in Morrow, Reynolds Nature Center offers a lot in a small package. This 146 acre natural watershed offers an opportunity to disappear into a forest within a few miles of the airport. There are only 4 miles of trails in the park, but it is laid out with
many short, interconnecting trails that make it seem like more. The trails are natural and well maintained. Directions and a map can be found at http://web.co.clayton.ga.us/reynolds/ about.htm.
SWEETWATER CREEK STATE PARKThis is a pretty good selection of the trails in the metro area, and more are on the way. If you know of a good place to walk that we didn’t mention, let us know and we’ll pass it along.
Sweetwater Creek State Park is another gem of a park located less than 10 miles outside I-285 on the west side. There are 3 trails in the park totaling 6 miles with a 3 mile loop trail being the longest. Two trails follow Sweetwater Creek to and past the ruins of an old textile mill that was burned during the Civil War. As soon as you leave the parking area, you will think you are in the mountains as you slip into the quiet of the forest. The clear water in the creek cascades over the shoals and down to a small waterfall. You will almost certainly want to spend some time here enjoying this spot. From the falls, the 3 mile white trail climbs a hill through the trees to a level area at the top and soon leaves the trees and continues across a field back to the parking area. A bridge was washed out during recent heavy rains making the main road to the park unusable. A map and directions for a simple alternate route are available at www.friendsofsweetwatercreek.org.