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Perspectives on Outings — Take a Hike! — In Your State Parks
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by Russ Flowers,Outings Chair | 2013

See you outside and in our West Virginia State Parks!

Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities. I feel so connected and up close with nature while meandering down a remote trail. I feel fortunate to be living in a state that offers some of the best hiking in the country (in my opinion). Our state and national park and forest systems, as well as many nature preserves, contain thousands of miles of hiking trails. Trails exist at all skill levels, going through forests and fields, and along rivers and streams.
Recently, my wife Sue and I discovered that the WV State Parks offer a goal-oriented program, called Hiking West Virginia, to get more people visiting the state parks and out on their trail systems. Once enrolled, participants are issued a hiking log for recording the parks and trails visited and miles hiked, along with a packet of park and forest trail maps.
The program is quite affordable at $10 per person. To provide added incentive, there are accomplishment plateaus and rewards along the way. After hiking the first 25 park miles, participants receive a really nice, sturdy, wooden hiking staff. At the 50-mile plateau, the program provides a 50-mile hiking-staff shield. Shields are also awarded at 100 miles and then at 100-mile intervals up to 2,000 miles. In addition, there are special hikes sponsored by the parks. Those who participate receive a cane shield for that event. An example of one of their special hikes is the “8-Mile Hike Between the Parks” (Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley State Parks).
Sue and I completed one of these hikes last October and had a wonderful time; so much so that we plan on participating in other special hikes. It is a great way to meet fellow hikers, experience different trails, and get to know our state parks and beautiful state better.
So far, we have both surpassed the 50-mile mark and have received our hiking sticks and 50-mile cane shields. During our travels we noticed most gift shops at state and national parks have hiking-cane shields for sale. So we decided to start collecting shields from our travels throughout the state and country and putting them onto our hiking sticks. It’s so much fun collecting them, and they make really nice mementos of our travels, too.
In addition to the hiking program, the State Parks offer a Very Important Park Person (VIPP) program. This program is free and, once enrolled, you will receive a card to check off the state parks and forests you visit and brochures for all the parks. To complete the program you must visit and get stamps from 15 specified parks/forests and 5 elective parks/forests. Once you visit the required 20 parks/forests throughout the state you receive a VIPP jacket.
Both programs are a great opportunity to visit and explore West Virginia’s State Parks and Forests. In turn, if you find a favorite trail that you want to share, we would love to have you lead an outing to it.
If you are interested in participating in either program you can find more information on the state parks website: Or contact me with questions on these programs or if you are interested in becoming an outings leader.
Take to the Outdoors!

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