How many times have you walked around your same city block and viewed the same objects on your daily walking route? How many times have you said to yourself, I should get up and get moving? How many times have you not been inspired to get up and go due to either the same boring route or lack of energy? Spring has sprung! For many this is just what the doctor ordered. The fresh smell of spring rain, the snow melting off roof tops, the sounds and sights of spring bird migration back to the North Woods, all of this and more, motivates people to get up and get moving. If you look out your window there are more and more people walking this time of year - people want to get outside after a long winter.
Voyageurs National Park staff is here to encourage people of all ages to get out and get moving. In 2013, park staff embarked upon a year-long project – Hike to Health – that will be available this July. The program encourages a healthy lifestyle while exploring our 36th national park.
The hallmark of the program is the Hike to Health Trails Passport. The park offers 19 designated trails that range in length from one-quarter mile to 28 miles and vary in difficulty levels from easy to strenuous. The route will not be the same until you have walked, skied, or snowshoed all 19 trails and even then visitors will never see the same thing twice. Life abounds within the park and is waiting for you to come and experience nature, the past, and present. From microscope fungi to large ungulates such as moose, to the howl of the timber wolf, the park offers more than 240 neotropical bird species each spring that migrate through or live in the park boundaries. Sights and sounds vary with each trek into the park and there is plenty for all ages.
When hiking a park trail visitors should will bring along their Trails Passport, a pencil or crayon. Somewhere along the trail, attached to a post, hikers will find a rubbing plate with a design etched into it. These plates are approximately three inches square and made of a hard plastic. Those who are more tech savvy can also pick up a list of GPS points for the plates from a visitor center.
Once the participating hikers find a trail’s plate, they simply hold the corresponding page in their Trails Passport booklet against the plate and carefully rub over the paper with your pencil or crayon. With the etchings in the plate, a design will appear on the page. Upon completing 5, 10, and all of the trail rubbings, participants will present their Trails Passport booklet at a park visitor center to receive a stamp and recognition. But, of course, the real reward will be the sense of accomplishment and improved health.
Sponsorship for Hike to Health is provided by the Active Trails Program, which in its fifth successful year promotes healthy living by getting people outside and active on trails. The sponsors of the Active Trails Program deserve special thanks for facilitating this program. Funding is provided by Coca-Cola™ and is managed by the National Park Foundation.
Voyageurs National Park staff is proud to partner with Voyageurs National Park Association. VNPA has been a supporter of the program by helping to promote the Hike to Health Trails Passport program.
Voyageurs is also proud to partner with the Rainy Lake Medical Center. Medical center staff will assist with Hike to Health promotion in the cardiac care unit, in patient discharge, and in the facilities Wellness Center.
To complement and celebrate the program, upon completion of the Rainy Lake Recreation Trail, the park and Voyageurs National Park Association will host a 5K run/walk in the fall. All proceeds of the 5K run/walk will go back into the Rainy Lake Medical Center’s Wellness Center. Remember to watch for the promotion of this 5K in August.
It’s amazing what a little walk in the park will do – doctor’s orders!