Sunday, March 11, 2012

Urban Hiking

Me with the Columbus Outdoor Adventurers on an Urban Hike in Columbus

By the time many people come home from work at the end of the day, or finish the dozens of necessary errands on their dreaded to-do list, little time is left for taking a hike, going on a bike ride, or participating in any other OHventure. Our hectic lives easily discourage us from being active and enjoying the outdoors. However, doing so does not require traveling hours in the car to a state or metro park! Taking a hike along the paved roads of your hometown can be just as rewarding.

This ingenious concept is known as "urban hiking" and is becoming more and more popular in our fast-paced, always-connected, twenty-first century society. I learned about urban hiking by joining the "Columbus Outdoor Adventurers" one evening. This particular urban hike took place on a portion of the Olentangy Greenway Trail, which took us through the most gorgeous scenes of the Columbus skyline plastered against an amazingly azul sky and along the striking Scioto River. Our pathway spanned for approximately 3 miles (starting and ending at Confluence Park) and lasted just over an hour.

The concept of the urban hike is pure genius, as one gets to experience the great outdoors and the wonder of nature juxtaposed by the majestic skyscrapers and concrete jungle of one of the many major cities in Ohio. The hike plucks you out of the hustle and bustle of work and allows you to step back, clear your mind, and reprogram yourself to come back down to reality.

Taking an urban hike can offer things that traditional hikes can not. For instance, if nature calls, you won't be limited to using nature itself to get the job done (pardon my manners). Run out of food or water? Stop in a convenience store in the city, or even a fun diner. You also get to see some of the city scenery and architecture that you might overlook when you are usually driving by in your car. It's a great way to get to know your city on a more intimate level, or discover an entirely different city altogether.

Urban hiking can also introduce fun physical fitness you don't experience in everyday city life. Try mapping out a path that will incorporate staircases and steps within the city, or "hike" up a hill rather than down.

Of course, one must exercise great caution in planning any urban hike. There are obviously parts of every city or town that are undesirable and unsafe due to crime. Make sure to map out your path and do research as to what areas are friendliest to recreationally walk. Also, stick to roadways that have sidewalks or walking paths, and be extra cautious crossing streets and intersections. Wear bright clothing, and avoid embarking on an urban hike after nightfall. Hiking in a group is also a good idea.

Heading out on an urban hike in your hometown might not be exciting if you're already familiar with it. So, if you do have the extra travel time, you can take the ultimate urban hikes in the largest cities Ohio has to offer. Here are the 10 largest cities in Ohio by metro population that you can consider for an urban hike:
  1. Columbus (787,033)
  2. Cleveland (396,815)
  3. Cincinnati (296,943)
  4. Toledo (287,208)
  5. Akron (199,110)
  6. Dayton (141,527)
  7. Parma (81,601)
  8. Canton (73,007)
  9. Youngstown (66,982)
  10. Lorain (64,097)
Or, perhaps try visting one of Ohio Magazine's "Best Hometowns of 2011," for your urban hike. These cities include Worthington (Franklin County), Urbana (Champaign County), Zanesville (Muskingum County), Medina (Medina County), and Wapakoneta (Auglaize County).

We live in a society where we move too quickly. The urban hike slows things down a bit so you can "stop and smell the roses." Not enough people appreciate the simpler things in life. Something as basic and simplistic as a walk through the downtown of an Ohio city or suburb can be extremely rewarding. I encourage others to get outside and exercise your body (and mind) with an urban hike.

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