Hit the trails

By Elaine Munn

Couple walking in rural woodsAutumn is the perfect time for hiking

If you are craving a little outdoor adventure, autumn is a terrific time to visit Minnesota state parks or trails to do some hiking.
Minnesota has one of the finest systems of state parks and trails in the country, and most Minnesotans live within 30 miles of a state park or recreation area.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, www.dnr.state.mn.us, has complete information for 78 state parks and 24 state trails. A one-day permit is $5, but a $25 year-round permit provides unlimited visits to all of them for one year from the month of purchase.
The sights, sounds and smells of the Minnesota woods in the fall are good reasons to head outdoors. Hiking not only builds leg muscles, but also burns from 400 to 900 calories per hour, depending on the terrain. It’s also a chance to unwind and reflect on the beauty of the season.
Fall days can begin cool and crisp and heat up on a sunny afternoon, so it’s a good idea to dress in layers. A good athletic shoe will do for a short hike on a paved trail, but hiking shoes offer better support and traction on dirt or rocky terrain. Soft, moisture-absorbing socks help keep feet comfortable and prevent blisters.
What you bring with you will depend on where and how long you plan to hike. If you are hiking in an unfamiliar area, pick up a trail map at park headquarters or view maps provided along the trails.
For shorter hikes, you may only need to prepare with insect repellant and sunscreen, but be sure to carry a filled water bottle. You will tire sooner carrying a backpack filled with supplies for a longer hike, so prepare by hiking shorter distances with a lighter backpack and gradually increase distance and backpack weight over time.
Hiking with friends is more fun, and since there is always some safety risk, never hike alone. Stay on designated trails and let someone know where you will be and when you plan on returning.
Study the weather forecast and time of sunset. Since daylight hours are decreasing at this time of year, especially in wooded areas, start early to finish before dark.
Remember that cell phones don’t always get reception and are not a substitute for carrying the essentials.

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