OK, today’s nudge for spring is more of a tease: today, it’s in the 70s and sunny, tomorrow it will barely top 40 and it looks like rain. Sunday, though, the sun returns, the high temp reaches into the more seasonal upper 50s. So let yourself be inspired to go out Sunday in search of your first trout lily and be serenaded by spring peepers. We found them today at Ayr Mount, on the Poet’s Walk, Hillsborough, and at the recently opened Brumley Forest North in Chapel Hill.
News that the company that designs crash-test dummies has bulked up its replicas to better reflect a … growing America — creating a dummy that weighs 273 pounds compared to the previous 167-pounder — immediately made me think, of course, of hiking. If these crash-test dummies had been out hiking instead of parked behind the wheel, they no doubt could retain their svelte, under-35 BMI physiques of just 20 years ago.
The plight of the corpulent crash-test dummies was a reminder that we fail to appreciate that, in addition to clearing our minds, when we hit the trail it’s doing our bodies a world of good. First, as underscored by the dummies, hiking can play a key role in controlling weight. Consider: A 180-pound person burns about 500 calories an hour on a vigorous hike (throw on a 30-pound pack and that figure climbs over 650 calories per hour). Granted, we need to replace some of those calories to keep fueled, but still, that’s some serious calorie burning.
Other examples of how hiking can improve your health:
It’s about this time of year that I begin getting distracted on the trail. I stumble over tree roots and rocks more, my attention diverted from the trail itself to three, five, 10 feet into the neighboring terrain. Scanning, constantly. I grow quieter on group hikes; my responses to fellow hikers limited to a delayed “right” or “sure,” wondering later if I offered to bring a main course to a pot luck.
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video or slide show of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
I’ll remember my three hikes over the weekend as such: long stretches of brown interrupted by flashes of the wrong kind of green, the less frequent wrong patches of white and one inspiring — but again, wrong — flash of yellow.
My objective on the trail this past weekend? Find signs of spring.
Ambitious, considering snow, ice and cold had dominated late winter until early last week. Then one 75 degree day, another in the 60s and — consarn it! — where’s spring? According to Carrboro naturalist Dave Cook and his “The Piedmont Almanac,” as early as the third week of February, “the first trout lilies and spring beauties might adventurously bloom” on slopes with southern exposures. By this, the second week of March, Cook writes, we should expect to see trout lilies in their “full glory.” Cook offers a caveat: your results may vary depending upon the weather.
Since second grade, I’ve avidly watched for the first signs of spring, though the cues have changed over the years. Beginning in early February I would rush home after school to rip open the sports section of The Denver Post, then an afternoon paper, and look for the first box score of spring training. Just seeing the early at-bats of Harmon Killebrew and Moose Skowran made me feel 10