Opinion: Fall Hiking Spree: a great way to enjoy the season

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer is a senior integrated life sciences major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

In neighboring Summit County, the annual Fall Hiking Spree is in full swing. In fourteen different locations within the Summit County Metro Park System, hikers can earn rewards by hiking at least eight of the trails designated at each of the parks. For those completing their first-year spree, a staff and shield is earned, and for those returning to the spree, additional shields are added to their staff.

Although Kent State is in Portage County, it lies right on the border to Summit County, and, thus, the parks are more than accessible to students. The closest trail is the Freedom Trail off Middlebury Road. The Freedom Trail picks up as the Portage Hike and Bike Trail ends. This makes the trail accessible by bike or a mere seven- to eight-minute drive from Kent State.

Such a program is a great motivation to get out and exercise. It is far too easy to stay at home or in a dorm room ruing the changing weather. It is better to enjoy the seasons rather than avoid them.

Something as simple as staff and shield stickers can take on a meaning of its own because you earned them and will keep you coming back to the trails.

We often forget the following weeks are the last bits of nice weather before we have nothing to look forward to but bitter cold and snow.

I can personally attest to the great joy the park system has brought to my life, and the spree is no exception. In high school, as part of cross country, I ran at Goodyear Metro Park in Akron almost every day and never was tired of it. In the spring, I would pick up what is now known as the Freedom Trail in Tallmadge and run the towpath along the railroad tracks.

The Munroe Falls Metro Park, which is also fewer than 15 minutes from Kent State, has trails that encircle a lake. A spring can be accessed by crossing a small creek. It is indescribably beautiful as water trickles out of a hill and falls off the rocks.

I would be foolish to not tell the rest of the story. Portage County has its own parks worth enjoying. I would personally recommend visiting the historical Towner’s Woods in Kent. The trails are numerous but relatively short, so the entire park can be explored in a single visit. There is also the Hopewell Burial Mound — which is thousands of years old — left behind by the area’s native people.

If you are not sure where to start, I would encourage you to pick up the Portage Hike and Bike Trail and walk or bike as far you can. It is actually part of the Esplanade and runs right through campus. This way you have no excuse for not going on hike this fall.