Obliterating the Finish Line

“Our hikes on Elachee’s beautiful trails have been, for us, the silver lining in this pandemic cloud,” writes Olivia Skey. She and her husband, Fred, completed Elachee’s Hiking for Health 150-mile Chicopee Challenge May 1, seven months ahead of their goal. Fred and Olivia Skey accepted and accomplished the Hiking for Health 150-mile Chicopee Challenge, presented by Elachee Nature Science Center 2020 Annual Platinum Sponsor Northside Hospital.

The program offers a simple incentive to get out in the woods to hike on a regular basis. Now past the mid-year mark, individuals participating in the Chicopee Challenge, like the Skeys, are crushing it!

This wellness initiative, presented by Elachee 2020 Annual Platinum Sponsor Northside Hospital, provides a framework to stretch your legs and track progress toward the goal of hiking 150 miles in the Chicopee Woods, within 12 months. Individuals may claim bragging rights upon reaching their goal with the award of a limited-edition t-shirt. Download the 2020 Hiking for Health 150-mile Chicopee Challenge HIKING LOG.

Last fall, Elachee’s trail crew and staff were giddy that the 18-month trail signage and mileage marker update project along the 8-mile hiking trail system was nearing completion. Elachee welcomed 2020 by rolling out this New Year’s resolution challenge. Little did we know the curveball called COVID-19 would so drastically impact our lives and what a gift these hiking trails have been to the north Georgia community!

Rising to the Challenge

Visitors hiking in the incomparable Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve have grown exponentially in volume this year as compared with the same time-period last year, particularly since mid-March. The Elachee organization has remained committed to providing the public uninterrupted daily access to these trails. As a result, tens of thousands of individuals have enjoyed this urban woodland refuge in 2020.

The Skeys accepted the Chicopee Challenge and have since obliterated their timeline by each reaching the 150-mile mark May 1, 2020. Accompanying their completed logs was this note Olivia wrote:

“When we read about this in the Gainesville Times near the first of the year, we printed out the log just hoping that we would be able to get in the 150 miles during 2020. It was going to be a busy travel year and we doubted we would manage it but knew we wouldn’t if we didn’t at least try. How could we have foreseen the pandemic and imagined that we would meet this goal by May 1?

Our hikes on Elachee’s beautiful trails have been, for us, the silver lining in this pandemic cloud. They have provided structure to our weeks, as our only schedule during this time has been to go hiking on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, weather permitting. Our hikes have allowed us the privilege of observing winter transition to spring at Elachee, to see the emergence of flora and fauna, to appreciate the maintenance work of the faithful Trail Crew, to enjoy the thrill of seeing our first Prothonotary Warbler and Copperhead snake (!), to see, hear and feel the falling of giant trees and to marvel at nature’s bounty.

We started out experimenting with different routes, but quickly found our preferred path. We finally settled on logging 6.8 miles per hike. Thank you for making available and keeping up these magnificent trails.”

Resource for Our Community

Elachee receives no local, state or federal funding to design, manage and maintain the 8-mile pedestrian hiking trail system in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, relying instead on private donations, grant awards, membership and volunteer efforts to perform these functions. 

Take the First Step

Whether you are a seasoned hiker well acquainted with this hiking trail system or you are ready to explore these trails for the first time, embrace the Hiking for Health 150-Mile Chicopee Challenge today. Here are two groups who have and will rise to the challenge the last half of 2020.

  • Train for the October 3, 2020 Trillium Trek Trail Run & Walk (a half-marathon and 5K run/walk) and log miles toward your 150-mile goal. Plus, submit your training times and see your fellow runners’ training results. Registration is open for this 10th annual competitive race along the hiking trails in Georgia’s only National Dedicated Old Growth Forest.
  • Students in the Elachee’s Nature Preschool and Nature Kindergarten-1st Grade classes spend three or more hours of their instructional day outdoors. Since these young adventurers hike at least a mile each school day, they and their teachers will accept the Chicopee Challenge when school starts in early August and plan to reach their 150-mile goal by year’s end!

Elachee is slowly resuming public programs, such as guided hikes in Chicopee Woods. Bookmark www.elachee.org/calendar for scheduled hikes and other Elachee happenings. In the meantime, put your best foot forward and take a hike!