Go Outside and Take Your Medicine
By Ned Barrett, Trails Coordinator for Partners for Active Living
I had the great fortune of getting to spend three weeks backpacking in Colorado this summer. I hiked several sections of the Colorado Trail through some of the most remarkable mountain landscapes in the world. Nine days alone in high mountains allowed me to gather some perspective and fed my soul. The simplicity of living on a backpacking trip reduces the definition of needs to a minimum and multiple days out allows for the comfort of routine to set in.
I won’t say that my trip was a once in a lifetime adventure, but I won’t get to do anything like it again for some time for sure. I am grateful to have had the opportunity afforded me by my colleagues and especially my wife, and I tried to make the most of it by having more fun than I should be allowed to have. I’ve already bored my friends and colleagues with photos and stories.
I have always had a need for outdoor adventure, and I feed it on a regular basis. I run at Croft State Park two or three times a week, and with the Pisgah National Forest, Jones Gap State Park, Table Rock, the Linville Gorge and other amazing places within a couple hours drive, there’s no shortage around here of places to get away for a morning or a day or two.
Here in Spartanburg we have many places nearby to make even daily adventures possible. Besides Croft State Park, we have the Cottonwood Trail, owned by the Spartanburg Area Conservancy (SPACE); several sections of the Palmetto Trail, our mountains-to-the-sea trail being developed by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation; the Wadsworth Trail on the westside; trails at Duncan Park, Glendale Shoals, along the Chinquapin Creek, and at the Milliken Research Center; many of the County parks have trails that allow for doses of nature. Even my two-mile bike commute to work gives me a microdose.
In some ways my sense of adventure is a matter of attitude as much as location. No matter how well you know an area, if you pay attention, you notice the little changes, like the rise and fall of the creek after a storm and the effects of the setting sun on the tree canopy.
Evidence is piling up—from the education, mental and physical health folks among others—of the value of being outside. Spending time in nature makes us healthier, happier and smarter. There is growing demand in Spartanburg and around the country for places for us to fill our prescriptions.
Partners for Active Living is proud to run at the front end of the field: we facilitated a shared use agreement between District 6 and District 7 Schools and the City of Spartanburg to open up schoolyards to their communities on weekends and in the summer. We coordinate new trail implementation to connect existing trails across the county. We work with schools to develop comprehensive wellness plans to effect health improvements in students, staff and families. We encourage getting outside through our bike-sharing and bike-lending programs, and promote healthy outdoor activity through events large and small.
Now go outside and take your medicine.
Ned Barrett is the Trails Coordinator at Partners for Active Living and works as a consultant to help other communities achieve their goals. To read more from Ted and to learn more about PAL, visit their site at www.active-living.org