Mary Perez leads the way followed by Gillian Harris, Sharin Martin, Devera Jennings and Greg Jennings.
Take a Walk in
by Barney Quick
Recreation is a large part of Brown County life. The simplest form of recreation that allows for the most enjoyment of the area’s visual treasures is hiking. The county and surrounding area abound with trails that affirm for hikers that Indiana in unrivalled in natural beauty.
People of like interest have a way of finding each other, as did some Brown County hikers. Mary Perez has organized two hiking groups, one for women, and one for both genders and all ages.
She founded Brown County Walking Women in 1999. She’d been walking with friends in Chicago before moving to Brown County in 1986 and sought out hiking companions once she moved here. “My car stops on its own wherever there’s a trail,” she says of her enthusiasm for the pastime.
The group had four people on its first walk and has grown to 70 members. It takes three walks a month. Perez plans the routes. She also publishes a monthly newsletter that features write-ups of recent walks. That’s the extent of the group’s formal organization. In addition to local events, Brown County Walking Women has traveled to Kentucky and Tennessee for four-day walks.
“We go at the pace of the slowest walker, “says Perez. “Our main purpose is to enjoy our surroundings.” Their routes range from two to ten miles in length.
One of the members’ favorite places to hike is the Hoosier National Forest. “You can walk six miles and not cross a road,” Perez notes.
Perez also recently organized the Walking Club of Brown County. Its membership is open to men and young people as well as women. Its once-a-month hikes have been entirely in the county so far. The group has a goal of hiking all of the Tecumseh Trail, which runs from the Morgan-Monroe State Forest to Elkinsville, and is slated to eventually join the Knobstone Trail, which extends to the Indiana side of the greater Louisville area.
Some hikers prefer solitude. Such is the case with Kara Barnard, proprietor of Weed Patch Music, a Nashville instrument store. She grew up in Greene County, which, while scenic, remains generally undiscovered by tourists. In her youth, she came to associate hiking with peacefulness.
Barnard has learned a lot about taking care of her feet over the years. “When I go out, I have about $700 worth of gear on my feet alone,” she says. With liner socks, she says she’s “never had a blister.”
She also swears by her trekking poles. “People joke when they see me with them, but they take a ton of weight off your knees,” she asserts. Trekking poles are generally made of graphite and are principally used when coming down a hillside. She also has learned to use the rest step, in which a hiker places all her weight on one leg and locks that knee so as to give the other leg a complete rest.
Barnard also generally packs emergency supplies and a map and compass, since she likes to hike off-trail. She’s never been lost.
She’s highly supportive of the efforts of the Hoosier Hikers Council, which builds and maintains trails and also engages in public outreach on issues pertaining to safety and trail enjoyment. The Council feels strongly, for instance, that single-use trails have been proven to benefit hikers over the paths that also accommodate cyclists and skaters.
Regarding trail-building, Barnard says that the primary consideration is the slope of the land. The aim is to avoid water standing on the trail for any length of time. “Back in the day, they didn’t consider that and it led to some significant erosion,” she says. Trail builders incorporate lots of switchbacks into hillsides as well.
Perez and Barnard share a favorite time of year for hiking: the dead of winter, with a blanket of snow. “It’s so quiet,” says Barnard.
For information on Brown County Walking Women and the Walking Club of Brown County, contact Mary Perez at (812) 988-7087. The Hoosier Hikers Council can be contacted at (765) 349-0204 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The Council’s website address is <www.hoosierhikerscouncil.org>.