Archived Story

It’s a great time for a hike

Published 6:49pm Friday, February 21, 2014

This morning I will pull on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, lace up a pair of running shoes and head to Russell Crossroads for the Russell Forest Run.
Running outdoors – actually running or walking or hiking – is one of my favorite things to do. According to the weatherman, today will be nearly perfect for a run down a red dirt road in the woods around Lake Martin. It will be cool and sunny – mid 40’s when the cannon fires off to start the race – but climbing into the 50s quickly. By mid-afternoon, the thermometer will be flirting with 70 degrees.
After warming up in the first 10 minutes or so, running in shorts and a T-shirt will be absolutely comfortable, much better than on an 80 degree summer morning when I can never get comfortable.
And that’s what I want to write about: the weather. Now.
I often hear people up north speaking about how awful the winter is. Loads of snow. Folks stuck inside for months on end.
We here in Alabama are blessed with great weather for outdoor adventures pretty much year around, if you don’t count the aberrant blizzard or two.
Right now – late winter and early spring – is one of the best times of year to be outside running or hiking. In fact, I think March through mid-May and mid-September through November are my favorite months for running or hiking outdoors around the lake.
But February is not bad at all.
Last weekend, Mary Lyman and I and some friends hiked up Smith Mountain and climbed the fire tower. It was certainly cold up at the top of the tower with a strong wind whipping through the metal cabin. But the walk up and down the mountain was comfortable, and breathing in the cool air as we hiked around the mountain was exhilarating.
Try doing the same thing in June, July or August. It’s a completely different experience. “Comfortable” and “exhilarating” are not two words you’ll hear often from August hikers. “Sweat” and “mosquitos” are more likely.
And that’s my point: now is the time to be enjoying the beautiful, amazing trails around Lake Martin.
Give yourself a treat and visit the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association’s hiking trails around Smith Mountain and down close to the dam. The Deadening Trail, among the most spectacular trails in our area, is a physical challenge and a joy, especially when the mountain laurel starts blooming in late April and early May. Last week, CRATA founder Jimmy Lanier told me about seeing huge icicles – 6 feet long – and frozen waterfalls on the trail. He also told me that ice on the rocks required extra careful hiking. But the idea that you can see a frozen waterfall and a wall of mountain laurel blossoms on the same trail within a few months is intriguing to me.
Ask the folks in Minnesota what they’re doing in late February.
Here in Alabama, now is a perfect time to break out a mountain bike or your hiking boots and hit the Russell Forest trails, or head out to Wind Creek State Park or Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. All three  provide very different experiences in the beautiful rolling hills that make up the tail of the Appalachian Mountains, which by the way begin right here in Tallapoosa County.
Boone is publisher of The Outlook.