Enjoy nature, learn about Portage County and stay in shape -- hit the trails

by Anita Herington Published:

One of the many joys of retiring in your early 60s is being able to make exercise a priority instead of an "if I have time." Besides going to Curves (a 30-minute workout program for women) three to six times a week, I make walking with Linda Seeman, another recently retired friend, a priority two to three times a week.

Together we have explored the varied trails of the Portage Park District. Among the 11 existing trails, you will find some hilly, some along old railroad tracks and some around ponds or over lakes. And all are interesting. The change of seasons in Ohio provides different vistas from the same trails. You see flowers and foliage not noticed last time you were on that trail. It is not unusual to see deer just off the trail or bounding across the path into the forest.

The Portage Park District started a new program in 2008 to encourage residents to explore different trails instead of the ones closest to you. We have hiked parts of the county we've never before explored, such as the Swan Trail in Streetsboro and Dix Park in Shalersville. Wild Hikes (which is mirrored after a similar program offered by Summit Metro Parks) provides eight suggested trails, as well as one of your own choosing. The grid they provide on their website (www.portageparkdistrict.org) tells you the length and difficulty of each trail.

When you complete and turn in your signed grid with a donation of at least $15, you get a really cool walking stick and a tag to affix to your hiking staff. Every year after that you complete the hikes, turn in your grid, and donate at least $5, the park office will provide another beautifully minted tag for your hiking staff.

Linda and I could not start the program until after we retired so we have enjoyed it for the past two years and earned the hiking staff and two tags. The tag for 2011 reflected the International Year of the Forest; the 2012 tag reflected the Year of the Bat. I can't wait to see what the 2013 tag will be.

My physician, Dr. Karen Barton of the Brimfield Family Practice, told me about Fitbit at my annual check-up. My husband, Leigh, and I invested in the technologically advanced pedometer and have fun comparing how many steps we have walked each day. I remember how excited I was when I got my first 15,000 steps badge. According to Fitbit, the average American takes just over 5,000 steps a day.

Last year, Dr. Barton told me she walks the Kent Bog when she has a lunch break. I had Dr. Tom Cooperider autograph a copy of his book on the bog for her. She in turn gave me a copy of Diane Stresing's "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Cleveland." What a great book! For Christmas, I gave one to my walking partner Linda. We have already picked out our first hike for the summer.

The fun of exercising is contagious! The Ravenna Curves and many of my friends now know about the Portage Park District program and plan to participate this year. Walking or biking from Towner's Woods to Beckwith's Orchard for a treat on the trail is a favorite of my grandchildren Adan, Tristan, Danyeda and Veronica.

I hope to see you on the trails!

Anita Herington retired in August 2010 at the age of 61. She worked in the administration of Kent State University for 20 years, was President of the Printing Industry Association serving Northern Kentucky & Ohio for six years, and served as Director of the Portage County Department of Job & Family Services for nearly six years.

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