Sometimes “Get(ting) Out” means finding scenic solace from hectic workdays and harried schedules.
As an annual pass holder with Maricopa County Parks, I log a decent amount of miles doing just that at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa and San Tan Mountain Regional Park in Queen Creek. The desert trails there — and at nine other hilly parks fringing the Valley — never fail to provide a little mood-altering change of scenery and exercise.
If you’re in need of either, you may want to check out 100 Miles of Hiking, a new program launched this week by Maricopa County Parks and Recreation. While its chief purpose is to celebrate Arizona’s centennial (the state turns 100 on Feb. 14, 2012), it’s also a goal-oriented way to tap into a little of that mountain-trail mojo — that feel-good thing that happens when you’re tooling down a trail at your own pace.
“Participating in the program is simple. Hikers can either get creative and chart out their own course of action or use the blueprint outlined by the department. However, hikers must visit at least three parks in the County’s park system to be eligible for the chance to win the grand prize, an annual mountain park pass (worth $75) and $25 Nature Center retail voucher,” says R.J. Cardin, director of Maricopa County Parks and Recreation.
To get involved, download an entry form or pick one up at your nearest park. Get a park official to initial your hikes as you complete them, and send in your completed form by the Jan. 30, 2012, deadline. Everyone who completes 100 Miles of Hiking will be honored in celebrations scheduled for February at seven regional parks. Everyone who completes the program will also get a limited-edition T-shirt.
Doubtful you can rack up 100 miles in the next three months? Give it a try. There’s no cost to participate, except for paying the usual $6-per-vehicle entry fee each time you visit a park.
Plus, it’s an easy way to keep holiday stress (and weight gain) at bay. Whether you’re hitting the trails for fitness or simply strolling with a camera or binoculars, everyday annoyances fade fast when you watch a sunrise or sunset on a mountaintop or encounter king snakes, cottontails, coyotes, hawks, chuckwallas or chipmunks crossing your path.
For information on 100 Miles of Hiking or to download an entry form, visit www.maricopa.gov/parks
You can also obtain information from the Parks and Recreation office at (602) 506-2930.
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