‘Away from Everything:’ Dalton State to Expand Hiking Trails
January 9, 2015
Dale Kelly loves having a “little bit of wilderness” within her reach.
The outdoor and hiking enthusiast often uses her lunch break as an opportunity to hike on the trails at Dalton State. She packs a small lunch and heads to sit near the stream where she meditates and escapes her busy life for just a few moments.
“They’re absolutely beautiful,” Kelly said. “We’re so fortunate to have them. I lived and worked in Yellowstone before, and I’ve done a lot of hiking. This is real hiking. You’re on real trails. You’re away from everything.”
Kelly, an academic advisor at the College, is glad to see another trail is about to be added to the 2.5 miles already working its way around the ridge behind campus. The trails are open to the public.
Plans are underway to expand the trails by about half a mile, which should create a better loop. The new trailhead will be just behind the Brown Center and will connect to the Cascade Trail.
Volunteers are asked to help expand the trails during four workdays this spring. The first workday is scheduled for Friday from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Other workdays are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 31; Saturday, Feb. 21; and Friday, March 20, all from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes and meet at the north end of the parking lot at the Brown Center. Tools for trail clearing will be provided, and volunteers will be shown how to use the tools.
Dr. John Lugthart, a professor of biology at Dalton State, has helped spearhead the construction of the trails. Construction on the first trail began in December of 2007.
“I think this new section is really pretty,” Lugthart said. “There are some of the largest trees we have on our campus on this trail. There’s also a chimney remaining from an old home place. I think it will make a good area for picnic tables. The area isn’t far from Brown so it will be easy for people to access for lunch breaks.”
The additional trail will allow hikers to loop back around to the main part of campus without having to retrace their steps or without having to cut through a private apartment complex.
Also, the newest section of the trail will not be as strenuous as the existing trails, Lugthart said, and it will be easier to clear.
Those heading the trail work are sure to keep the trails from disturbing as much vegetation and wildlife as possible, he said. Large trees are never cut down and small ones are rarely cut down. Some vegetation is transplanted, including ferns.
“These trails are used,” Lugthart said. “One thing that’s so great about it is it’s close. Spur of the moment, you can go for a hike. They’re so close to town that you don’t have to drive far to see a few streams, a cascade, wildflowers when they’re in bloom or flowering trees in the spring.”
A few areas have interpretive signs to let hikers know what fauna and flora they are seeing on the trails.
The trails wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers, including Eagle Scouts, who have put in hours to construct them.
Kelly plans to volunteer her time during the upcoming workdays. She’s glad to have the trails and wants to help whenever she can.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “I’m 62 years old. People my age and older can do this. I love hiking them because you get exercise and fresh air and you see something beautiful. I think the fact they’ve taken advantage of the ridge behind our campus is wonderful.”