Thursday, July 15, 2010

Walking around town with my feet on the ground

I've been walking more, generally speaking, since I started driving less. Currently I have a rental car that runs on E85 so I feel a little less horrified by driving it, even though I'm well aware that ethanol has its own issues. I decided to go looking for a guide book on walks and trails in Athens, or at least a definitive map. Surely, I thought, there must be one.

Apparently not. With all the hippies, good ole boys, ecology majors, and assorted outdoor enthusiasts in this town, you'd think there would be some kind of guide to the trails around here. You would be wrong.

Obviously there is a crying need for one, because I want one. Obviously, the thing to do is create one. I don't have a publisher but I do have this here blog. Onward!

Today's walk: Birchmore Trail, Phase II

Location: Memorial Park

Difficulty: A bit hilly and rugged in spots.

Distance: approximately 1.5 miles, according to my pedometer. I offer no guarantees for the accuracy of my pedometer, because I never calibrated the thing properly and it may prevaricate. But that's what it says. If you walk through the neighborhoods from Milledge Ave. or a bus stop, add another mile and a half or so.

How to find it: You can come in the main entrance to the park at Gran Ellen, or you might try going down Habersham to the cul-de-sac; there's an entrance there that leads more or less directly to the dog park. You can also get a map of the trail from the park office. There are some alternate entrances/unofficial trails from various neighborhoods that surround the park, but if you don't live there they will be exceedingly hard to find and if you do you probably already know where they are.

Map accuracy: Not too good. The map makes it look like the trail parallels the driveway to one side, but there isn't actually a marked trail there; the driveway IS the trail. Once you get down the hill, follow the sidewalk even though the map makes it look like the trail should go between the restrooms and the picnic shelter. It doesn't. At the SW end of the pond, there's a bit marked with rocks that looks like it's the beginning of a trail, but it currently ends in a pile of dirt.

Condition of the trail: Really easy around the pond, good for the portions close to the dog park, pretty rough elsewhere. The map says "cleared and flagged" but the upper loop hasn't been cleared in a while; there's a pretty big tree down that you have to get around. It can also sometimes be hard to tell the difference between the actual trail, the access road, and little spurs that people have made. However, if you like solitude on your walks, and wildlife, this is a good place. I didn't see a single other person while walking the upper loop, but I did see several species of birds. And ran into a few spider webs.

Critters: Squirrels, mockingbirds, cardinals, wrens, a brown thrasher...the usual suspects. When circling the pond I saw a female mallard strolling down the sidewalk, and you can usually see ducks, geese, and turtles (mostly cooters) in the pond. A great blue heron flew in a big circle above my head and off towards the west.

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