Here is your dilemma: you don't want to be an obese couch potato, and yet if you walk around your block one more time, the neighbors are going to have enough evidence to slap you in jail as a convicted stalker.
Here is the holiday that celebrates your solution: National Trails Day.
In 1987, the Year of the Jelly Bean, Reagan's "President's Commission on Americans Outdoors" was published. This study put forth a lofty goal that "all Americans be able to go out their front doors and within fifteen minutes be on trails that wind through their cities, towns or villages and bring them back without retracing steps". Undaunted by the low numbers of actual villages in the United States, a group called the American Hiking Society began a grassroots effort to make this dream into a reality. Together with the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and commercial partners like Backpack Magazine, Vasque Boots and others, the American Hiking Society launched the first National Trails Day in June 1993.
The AHS continues to promote National Trails Day, loosely organizing over 3000 events nationwide, but their goal is to encourage individuals, groups and businesses to celebrate the event in their own ways. Any activity that gets you out on a public trail is a good way to celebrate the day. In Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail is hosting an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, followed by a day of bike riding. Duck racing and canoeing is on the agenda for the Pigg River Ramble in Rocky Mount, VA. Many outdoors clubs also coordinate volunteer efforts to help grade paths, clean up litter, build footbridges or clear debris from trails.
In Caswell Memorial State Park, near Ripon, California, National Trails Day will be celebrated by promoting their newest trail, a quarter mile of ADA accessible path that leads over several bridges and ends at a scenic view of the river oxbow. Ranger Terri Jensen will lead a thirty minute, leisurely hike, pointing out information about the native plants and wildlife, and the history of the park.
The wide paths are lined with decomposed granite, which provides a firm, level surface without sacrificing a natural look, allowing people of all ranges of mobility to enjoy the park interior. Trails have ample width to allow groups of people or one gnat-brained toddler to move through areas of heavy growth without the risk of incurring ticks and there are plenty of strategically placed park benches to allow frequent rest stops.
If trail goers think that the thick undergrowth and towering oaks and cottonwoods have more than a passing resemblance to jungle, they're not the only ones. Jensen will relay anecdotes of the park's various cameos in Disney movies, where the park has played the part of Darkest Africa for several Tarzan knock-offs.
Also visible along the walk will be numerous projects and experiments from the academic world. Groups involved in re-introducing endangered species and studying native plants have assorted experiments set up along the trail. Tubex plant shields hold wild roses, cottonwoods, oaks, and figs until they are established. Tags mark fig tree roots to survey how many roots and stumps sprout die and how many resprout with new growth after the main tree has been removed. Behind the thick undergrowth, more projects continue unseen in this surprisingly hot conservation spot.
If hikers are lucky, they may catch a glimpse of the mated pair of river otters that den near this stretch of trail, or the two pups they're raising this year. Also spotted near this spot are minks, a rare species of rabbit that lives only in Caswell Park and a dizzying assortment of birds. The bass will be spawning, the catfish are sassy and the wild blackberries and golden figs will be ripening close enough to the trail for hikers to catch a quick nibble. Those who return in the fall will be treated to salmon running and wild grapes ripening, but even without that, there's still enough going on for a reasonably exciting National Trails Day.
For information about National Trails Day events in your own area, go to www.AmericanHiking.org. Your neighbors will thank you.