Trekking the Trails
Fort Wayne’s glorious natural spaces are some of the best in the Midwest. This is the year to get out there and experience all that the region has to offer.
If you’re like me, you have dreamt of escaping to a natural paradise to explore. Towering mountains, backpacks, worn dirt footpaths, and being the first person to be kissed by the morning sunrise–the whole shebang. Despite this dream, there is no need to travel to some far away land to connect with nature. Right under our very noses, northeast Indiana is the home to some beautiful natural wonders.
John Muir, one of the most influential naturalists in American history, has said a lot about connecting with the wilderness and embracing a part of life that is a little uncivilized. My favorite quote of his, “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul,” has been mounted on my wall for years and continues to serve as a reminder to embrace the simple things. The ground is not only meant to be passed over; it gives life to a whole other world that is sustainable without us, and it is important to appreciate that.
Allen County is a hotspot for outdoor adventure. Sure, it’s nothing like a trek up Cadillac Mountain, but the sights are striking in their own rights. One of my favorite things about Fort Wayne is that the growing city can still provide solitary retreats from the traffic and noise.
Allen County alone has over ten nature preserves and a seemingly endless number of parks with natural, open spaces and walking trails. This doesn’t include the dozens more that are only short drives to neighboring counties.
Hiking is a great way to move your body, but it has several other benefits as well. It has been known to relax and heal. To restore and rejuvenate. It is a way for you to gain perspective, be humbled and realize just how small you are compared to your surroundings.
Hiking can be a time to reflect, which is often done alone, but do not try to tackle terrain that you do not have experience on. If you are just starting out, check out some beginner trails that are in areas familiar to you. Work your way up to more difficult hikes. Please ask an experienced hiker to join you or for advice if you are unsure about anything.
If you prefer to hike in a group, there are plenty of options. Some local hiking groups include the privately organized groups Hike It Baby Fort Wayne and Outdoor Adventurers of Northeast Indiana. community.hikeitbaby.com/branches/fort-wayne-in; meetup.com/OutdoorAdventurersNortheastIndiana
ACRES Land Trust offers guided hikes via organized events throughout the year, such as the widespread National Take a Hike Day in November, or via a request for an ACRES volunteer to lead your private group. acreslandtrust.org
Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation also organizes public hikes year-round. Wild Walkers, an adult drop-in hiking group, meets on the second and fourth Fridays of each month. They explore nature preserves, parks, and other trailed areas in Allen County and the surrounding communities.
Wild Walkers, established in 2004, was created because there was a need for a regularly scheduled time for community members to get outside and experience nature in a group setting. “We are all busy humans living in a world of technology and these programs are important to our mental health and wellbeing,” said Eden Lamb, manager of outdoor recreation.
Lamb said that making time to be in green spaces can offer peace and slow us down. In a fast-paced world, taking an hour or two to be outdoors could benefit everyone. Most of the hikes the Wild Walkers trek are 2 hours or less and within a 50-minute drive from Fort Wayne. Carpooling is offered for several of their trips.
The snow and rain do not stop the Wild Walkers, and they shouldn’t deter you either! Lamb believes that the cold makes people hesitate, but that can be remedied with intentional layering, or hand and foot warmers. Once you get over the thought of the cold and get on the trail, the picture of the blanketed ground will make it all worthwhile. “A forest trail in the winter, when there’s snow covering the ground and outlining the trees, can bring its own peace and calming to your soul,” said Lamb. email@example.com
Whether you venture out in the cold, wait until the warmer months, are experienced or just beginning, hiking the trails will prove fruitful to you, your physical health and your psyche. Take the first step and check out one of the trail sites listed, check for their rules and regulations and pack the essentials!