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Residents encouraged to get outside for National Trails Day

By Katie Demeria

According to officials at Shenandoah National Park, Saturday is the perfect time for National Trails Day.

Various groups throughout the area are offering special hiking programs in order to encourage local residents to take advantage of nearby trails.

Debbie Smith, interpretive supervisor with Byrd Visitor Center in Shenandoah National Park, said they hope hikers will visit the park to take advantage of the programs now that the weather is warm.

"With the range of hikes we have, we want to encourage people to get out regardless of their abilities," Smith said. "There are hikes out there for everybody and it's just a matter of finding one hat fits the individual."

Five guided hikes on various trails will be offered Friday, allowing hikers to learn about the area from an experienced hiker.

The park will also offer a "Beyond the Trailhead" program during which participants can learn about the natural environment in a safe and responsible way, according to a news release.

Interested participants can meet at the Byrd Visitor Center around 10 a.m. Saturday.

Shenandoah River State Park is also taking advantage of National Trails Day in order to encourage people to visit in the hope they will decide to give back to the environment as well.

Saturday is also Clean the Bay Day in Virginia. Jennifer Saik, education specialist/volunteer coordinator with Shenandoah River State Park, said they will have volunteer opportunities to clean up both the river and Bluebell Trail, which runs adjacent to the river.

"I think it makes a lot of people feel good because they're actually out there doing something to actively help the river," Saik said.

The Bluebell Trail especially needs to be cleaned due to the flooding that took place a few weeks ago, and Saik said she hopes a large number of volunteers will participate. The event will take place from 9 to 11 a.m. and is free of charge.

Those interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail can do so Saturday -- regardless of their age or skill level.

The Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community Committee will celebrate National Trails Day by meeting hikers at the trail parking lot on Route 725, shuttling them up the mountain, and hiking 4.5 miles of the trail, mostly downhill.

Alyson Browett, chairman of the committee, said it would be a great opportunity for kids to teach them more about the natural world and encourage them to get active.

For adults, she said, the benefits of hiking are both physical and mental -- it helps people "unplug."

"As a hike leader, I always encourage people to shut their phones off or put them on airplane mode so they only use the camera," she said.

The event is free of charge, as well, and those interested can meet at the parking lot at around 10 a.m. The hike should take around three to four hours, as hikers will likely want to stop to photograph the wildflowers currently blooming.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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