Are you goal-oriented? Do you like to mark progress as you work toward a goal, and then be given a something-you-can-actually-hold-in-your-hands reward once achieved? If so, enroll in two programs offered by West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources. They involve something you already like doing—hiking—and as you work on one goal you can be accumulating credits toward the other.

A $10 registration fee is required to join the Hiking West Virginia program. After that, simply hike in any state park, forest, wildlife management area, or state park rail trail and keep track of mileage. Of course, this being West Virginia, there will be some great hikes, like a journey into Bluestone River Canyon in Pipestem State Park, easy walking along the Greenbrier River Trail, or some rugged ups and downs in Kanawha State Forest. Learn about Civil War sites in Carnifax Ferry and Droop Mountain State Parks. A hike in Canaan Valley State Park is akin to walking in New England with tannin-stained streams and spruce-covered ridgelines. After hiking in Cacapon Resort State Park, you can take a swim in the lake or chill out in a rented cabin.

You could easily get the first major award in one weekend. All it takes is 25 miles to receive a nicely turned wood walking stick. Another 25 miles brings you a 50-mile shield to attach to the stick, and additional miles reward you with different shields.

At the same time, you can participate in the Very Important Parks Person program. Enrollment is free and you have a program card stamped each time you go to a state park or forest. After visiting fifteen mandatory places and five of twenty-one electives, you’re awarded an embroidered windbreaker and invited to special Very Important Parks Person events.

There is no time limit, so get everything done in a few months or use vacation time over the next several years to complete the requirements. Sign up at here.

AN INVITATION TO AN APPALACHIAN TRAIL WEEKEND

I will be directing two Appalachian Trail Weekends at Mountain Lake in Virginia this year (June 18-20 & October 1-3). The program’s schedule includes two good day hikes and presentations about thru-hiking, lightening your pack, and wildflowers; participants get to stay at and enjoy meals served in the resort—where Dirty Dancing was filmed! More information at www.mtnlakeconservancy.org.