Outings offer dose of nature

Outings offer dose of nature

May 28th, 2009 by Stacey Wysong in Sports - Outdoors

With hundreds of miles of trails to explore, outdoor enthusiasts long have known the Chattanooga area is a place to go to commune with nature.

Mountain biking, hiking, trail running and other opportunities are within minutes of downtown. And as temperatures rise, the American Hiking Society is encouraging area residents to get outside on June 6 for National Trails Day.

Several area organizations are sponsoring outings to celebrate the 17th annual event.

Members of the Soddy-Daisy chapter of the Tennessee Trails Association will be organizing hikes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. along the Possum Creek segment of the Cumberland Trail. Each participant is encouraged to wear hiking boots and bring a bottle of water, but the three-mile hike is beginner-friendly.

"We will lead hikes to the bridge that we built last summer on Possum Creek and talk about volunteer opportunities that are available," chapter representative Brandy Selman said.

Built purely by volunteer effort, the Cumberland Trail is a work in progress.

"So far, 170 miles are open, with over 40 miles in Hamilton County," Selman said. "In addition to trail building, volunteers are needed to maintain and inspect sections of trail to ensure they stay hikable.

"We invite anybody to come out with us and see what the Chattanooga area has to offer. Literally, with a 30-minute drive in any direction, there are 300 miles of trails in our area."

The Chattanooga chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association invites the public to bring their mountain bikes for a ride along the trails in the Laurel Point area of Raccoon Mountain from 9:30 a.m. to noon on June 6. Afterward, the group will host a cookout.

"You can get away from all the hustle and bustle up to Raccoon Mountain and enjoy almost a wilderness-style feel to it just 20 minutes away," SORBA-Chattanooga president Jeffrey Schaarschmidt said.

Rides are tailored to individual skill level, and all bikers are required to wear helmets.

"We will have rides that go the full loop (about 17 miles)," Schaarschmidt said. "We then have rides that just go around the trail in the Laurel Point area. And that mini-loop can be anywhere from about three miles up to about five miles."

SORBA, an advocacy group and riding club, works with land managers and policymakers to help develop and maintain area trail systems.

"Some organizations go out and do trail work on National Trails Day," Schaarschmidt said. "We go out and have a celebration and a picnic and use the trails on National Trails Day because we do so much trail work during the normal year."

In addition to helping riders explore the Raccoon Mountain trails, SORBA members will offer tips to help build basic skills for those who are new to mountain biking. Bike control and simple trail-side repairs will be included.