Hiking opportunities in Cedar Rapids
By Julia Freeman
Cedar Rapids, IA – Since Iowa winters seem to never end, there is a way to beat many cases of minor winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, and cabin fever, while also caring for a person’s physical health and stability as well. Although there are several options, the simple act of hiking is often overlooked. Whether it is with a group, as part of a formal program, or just “going rogue” solo on a well (or not so well) established path, the health benefits are worth the trek. Much of the time the solitude or companionship paired with the experience helps to boost mood and provide mental clarity to individuals.
Regardless of age, hiking with its traversing ways is characterized as aerobic exercise that uses the whole body. It can ward off early death and improve bone density, even slowing the imminent loss of density associated with the aging process of the human body. Hiking is also attributed with increased muscle strength paired with heart, lung, blood vessels, and overall cardiorespiratory fitness becoming healthier. In fact, more colds and flus are caught by remaining in poorly ventilated indoor areas with infected individuals than outdoors in open, fresh air so an increased immune response is also an advantage to hiking multiple paths throughout the immediate surroundings. Improved sleep quality and weight control are also excellent reasons to invest in this new, affordable (as most are free) healthy hobby.
Of course, dressing for the weather is an aspect that is emphasized at any outdoor Iowa event, as, at minimum, people have to brave the elements to travel to their destination from the warmth of their homes and/or transportation. This is especially crucial for hikers, however, as they are burning energy for a prolonged period of time depending on the length of the path. There are also the risks associated with being exposed to allergens, for those especially vulnerable to pollen that may interfere with the enjoyment of the activity. The majority of the animal encounters are dogs with their owners, similar to the interactions one would expect taking a stroll down a Cedar Rapids metro area city street, with the occasional horse rider being accounted for on some of the hiking trails as they are permitted. Much of the time crowds are avoided, however, many paths allow for snowmobiles, snow shoeing (another extra calorie burning endeavor), skiing (also weather pending and seasonal), biking, and runners. Due, in part to these reasons, many of the hiking trails are also co-listed as biking paths; there are reminders as to which party yields at intersections as they may arise along the trail. For people worried about getting lost, there are markers and posted maps along the trails, the majority of which are poorly lit once the sun sets or before the sun rises, to help in navigation endeavors.
Most hiking trails throughout Linn County are maintained by a conservation department year round. There are also other acres of facilities throughout the county to view the greatest aspects of nature in every season in venues such as Prairiewoods (complete with a labyrinth) or Indian Creek Nature Center. Many special activities are held at parks and centers throughout the year to introduce all demographics to nature and active lifestyles in their own backyards of the “great outdoors”.