Off the beaten path: Trail walking is a scenic fitness opportunity

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Tom Judd often set out on foot to explore his neighborhood. But it wasn’t until he joined a local trail walking group that his enthusiasm for walking really took hold.

Judd, 77, joined the group after seeing a Nextdoor announcement. The East Cobb resident retired from a career in software engineering, and he now fits regular trail expeditions into a schedule that’s filled with numerous volunteer activities. He’s particularly taken to the social aspect of the outings and the meals that follow.

Tom Judd, an East Cobb resident, participates frequently in a trail walking group that began through the Tim D. Lee Senior Center in Marietta. Even during recent radiation treatments, he continued hiking regularly.

Credit: contributed by Tom Judd

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Credit: contributed by Tom Judd

“It was something I enjoyed — being outdoors and meeting new people, and usually anywhere from five to 15 people would show up each time we hiked, depending on their personal schedule,” Judd told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Judd recently underwent six weeks of daily radiation treatment for prostate cancer, but he never stopped trail walking. When his doctors asked him about his level of fatigue, he’d tell them he’d hiked five miles the day before. Being able to continue seeing his walking companions helped.

“Of course, I missed a few with the treatments and other appointments that I had,” he said. “But they were very supportive. They’d ask, ‘How are you doing? Are you here again?’ I’d say, ‘Sure. As long as I’m able to, I will.’”

Hikes with options

David Bohanon, 64, began his trail walking through the Tim D. Lee Senior Center in Marietta. Now, he offers walking opportunities twice a week. Most Wednesdays and Fridays, the group gathers to explore scenic destinations in town, throughout the metro area and sometimes beyond.

“The average hike is between four and six miles,” Bohanon said. How hard they are really varies a lot by hike.

“I have some that I purposely bring in that are relatively flat. And I just kind of grade them by easy, moderate or hard and there’s a certain elevation change that can be expected … We’ve got several hikes that end up having a combination of about 1,300 feet of elevation change.”

Bohanon keeps in mind that his hikers — most of them seniors — have varying fitness levels.

“I try to make it so there are options for those who can’t do as much,” he said. “Even if the main hike is a four- to six-mile, if it is possible to make the hike have options or a shorter version, I will do that as well.”

This is an all-season activity, so Bohanon tries to plan the walks in accordance with the weather and temperatures. He notifies participants of any changes or cancelations via email.

Members of a recent trail walking expedition, one of many which David Bohanon, fourth from left, has led in and around Atlanta.

Credit: contributed by the Atlanta Regional Commission

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Credit: contributed by the Atlanta Regional Commission

“We are year-round,” he said. “This time of year, the Wednesday afternoon hike is nicer, temperature-wise … But then, when you get into the summer, the afternoon hikes get to be a little on the hot side, and the morning ones might be cooler, but they might be more humid, so everyone has to make their own call. There are certain hikes I try to plan around the seasons a little bit more.”

The group convenes for lunch after most of its Friday morning hikes. Around 15 participants are typical for the easier walks that take place close to the city. The group averages more like 10 people for destinations that lie farther out, Bohanon said.

David Bohanon’s hiking picks

One of Bohanon’s top picks is the East Palisades Trail. “It’s right on the Chattahoochee, just inside the Perimeter,” he explained. “There’s kind of a cool bamboo forest … and it has a nice overlook of the river looking north that they built, so you can kind of step out beyond the trees a little bit and have a nice view.”

Other favorites of Bohanon’s group include:

  • Sweetwater State Park, Lithia Springs
  • Boling Park, Canton
  • Sawnee Mountain Park, Cumming
  • Red Top Mountain State Park, Cartersville
  • Allatoona Dam area, Cartersville
  • Kennesaw Mountain area, between Marietta and Kennesaw
  • Kolb’s Farm Loop, near Marietta

Those interested in participating in future trail walking events may contact the Tim D. Lee Senior Center in Marietta at 770-509-4900 for more information.

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