If you’ve been reading these ramblings for very long, you’ve probably come to realize that I’m a big fan of the incredible hiking opportunities available within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA). Individual CRNRA “units” are strung along 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River, starting near Buford Dam, and each unit features hiking trails. It’s an incredible resource that’s the envy of municipalities all over the United States.
So here’s the question: How do you encourage folks to get out there and check out those trails for themselves?
One person who may have an answer to that one is Ray Steed, a member of the board of the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy (CNPC), the official “friends” group of CRNRA.
Ray is the driving force behind the brand-new HikeCRNRA Challenge, a program designed to get folks excited about discovering all those great CRNRA trails.
The HikeCRNRA Challenge is a program that offers special recognition for those who hike every single trail in the park.
Every single trail? That sounds like a lot of hiking, and it is. CRNRA has about 66 miles of official trails among its various individual units. Many units are crisscrossed by a network of trails, too, so to hike them all, you’ll inevitably have to do some backtracking and some rehiking. The total will certainly end up being more than 66 miles.
“If you’re serious about the challenge,” Ray says, “you’ll find that it’s more hiking than you might think.”
But hikers don’t mind that sort of thing. All hiking is good hiking, right?
To help you plan and keep track of your CRNRA hiking progress, the CNPC website (chattahoocheeparks.org) makes it easy to access trail maps and tracking forms. These are easy to use and are tied to the official CRNRA intersection designations. For example, if I hike from (say) intersection VC23 to intersection VC24 in the Vickery Creek Unit, I’d simply record the date that I did so right there on my Vickery Creek Unit tracking sheet.
As it turns out, I hiked that very segment (and several others too) just the other day. Returning home afterward, I dutifully recorded the details on my log sheet. It’s gratifying and encouraging to see the log slowly filling up with handwritten documentation of my progress.
I’m getting encouragement from another source too — the disgustingly objective bathroom scale. You can’t do this much hiking without burning up some calories, and that means that the number on the scale each morning is gradually getting lower. That’s another benefit to the HikeCRNRA challenge and (I admit it) it’s one that won’t hurt me a bit.
What happens once you’ve hiked all the trails? When that time comes, fill out the summary form (also available on the website) and submit it to CNPC. You can simply take a picture of your completed form and email it, or you can put it in an envelope and drop it in the mail. What could be easier?
Make no mistake about it. It takes a measure of determination to hike all the trails in CRNRA. But once you’ve finished, you’ll have earned bragging rights — and more.
“Once you’ve hike all the CRNRA trails,” Ray says, “you will receive an annual CNPC membership.” You’ll also be recognized at the CNPC annual meeting.
Other recognition-type goodies (including a patch and a sticker) are in the works too. There’s even talk of a special T-shirt that successful hikers may be able to purchase in the future. Now that would be a badge of honor, wouldn’t it?
Has anyone completed the challenge yet? Not so far. But Ray says he doesn’t think it’ll be too long before the first completed log shows up. Several folks are working on it pretty intently, he says.
I can say with a fair degree of certainty that Finisher Number One will not be me. But somewhere down the road, my name’s going to show up on that “completed” list too. Meanwhile, I’ll keep working on the challenge, hiking parts of the CRNRA trailscape whenever I can.
I’ve got all the time I need, too. As Ray points out, there’s no time limit on this challenge.
“You’ve got a lifetime do it,” he says. “Just get out there and start!”
For more information on the HikeCRNRA Challenge, visit the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy website at chattahoocheeparks.org.
Steve Hudson is the author of several books on hiking and the outdoors, including HIKING THE HOOCH, a comprehensive guide to the hiking trails of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Learn more about his books at www.ChattahoocheeMedia.com