POSTED ON JANUARY 14, 2009:
Take a Hike
Holiday weight on the brain? Get fit while connecting with nature
Based on research conducted at Texas A&M International University, you likely spent your holiday season consuming an additional 619 calories per day. Collectively, from Thanksgiving until New Year's, we upgraded to the next belt loop and said, "Yeah, give me another slice of cheesecake, Bob. It's the holidays."
For me, hearing the research created two conflicting reactions. While I was hyper-aware of the potential for insatiability and wanted to do my part to bring down the average, I often found myself rationalizing: "Well, if I stay at an extra 500 a day I'm still doing better than the average glutton, right?"
As Americans, we have a reputation for voracity. I didn't want to be responsible for dashing that oft-accurate generalization. Safety in numbers, I thought while requesting a second helping of mashed potatoes.
Now that the ball has dropped and we've returned to work and school, many of us find ourselves confused: "Sweetheart, I could have sworn this belt used to fit me on the previous loop." 2009 is serving up reality checks, yo! Get yours.
Thus, variations in New Year's resolutions are common.
Maybe a co-worker has vowed to give up text messaging while driving. Alan, down in accounting, says he's done with cigarettes, again. But, what about you? What are you going to do?
Who isn't saying, "I guess I could afford to lose a pound or two." If you haven't, read the previous sentence aloud. Honestly, it's safe to say we've all said it. Now what?
There are many ways to erase unwanted holiday pounds. Now that the holidays are behind us and there are fewer meals with eight variations of meats and an even greater selection of pie, we can all return to a healthier, less-frenzied diet.
Reducing daily caloric intake is one way to restore your pre-holiday Hollywoodesque physique. To further accelerate your return to Brad or Angelina, some exercise may also prove beneficial.
Admittedly, I am no Hollywood trainer to the stars. But, few trainers would prescribe a steady diet of mini donuts and entire afternoons of couch-bound viewing of One Life to Live and Dr. Phil in order to obtain those six-pack abs you desire. So, listen up.
One way to get in some exercise is with a hike. It can also serve as a natural, outdoor educational opportunity and is always a good way to get some fresh air outside of the big city. One such place is the Redbud Valley Nature Preserve (www.oxleynaturecenter.org/redbud.htm), 16150 Redbud Dr. in Catoosa, about 3.5 miles north of I-44 on 161st East Avenue and roughly a 20-minute drive from downtown Tulsa.
The nature preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8am until 5pm and has trails of varying difficulty. The trails, especially the bluff trail, were described to me as rugged. I found the trails to be a little more on the moderate side of rugged, but that could be attributed to my comfort on such trails from my days in Tennessee. Hikers of all skill levels could enjoy the trails at Redbud Valley.
Also, the trail that runs parallel to the bluff trail, closer to Bird Creek, makes for a nice, leisurely stroll with little or no chance of a rolled ankle or bruised forehead. As a matter of fact, the majority of the lower trail (back half of the main trail) is a boardwalk.
Furthermore, for those merely seeking an ecology lesson without all the hiking, the Harriet Barclay's Visitor Center is a perfect location. The center, named after the TU Botany professor who "spearheaded the effort to have it acquired" more than 40 years ago with help from a fund drive by the Tulsa Tribune, is outfitted with educational models, checklists of plants located in the preserve, and a thorough catalog of Redbud Valley's history.
If you're fortunate enough to find the humble center undisturbed by other visitors, as I was, be sure to talk to the staff member on duty. Not only did I get a detailed explanation of the preserve itself, but Ms. Ramona Jackson, a seasonal naturalist who has more than 20 years experience at the center (first volunteering and now working), outlined the medicinal qualities of herbs located on the property. She did reiterate that I was not allowed to take any of the herbs with me as Redbud Valley is a nature preserve. Yeah, remember that bag I was carrying, Ramona? I filled it with herbs! No, I'm only kidding. I took only photos.
Thanks to Ramona I now have some ideas for teas and a poultice, although a prickly pear poultice does sound, well, a little prickly.
The center is managed as part of the Oxley Nature Center, located in Mohawk Park one-mile north of the Tulsa Zoo, another area ripe for hiking, which will reopen on January 22 after renovations to the Interpretive Building.
With two one-mile trail loops, one along the bluffs overlooking Bird Creek, and the other on the prairie, home of the nature preserve's Oklahoma Sugar Maples, a hike at Redbud Valley promises diversity.
The initial hike up the bluffs got my heart rate up and once I reached the top my heart rate remained high because of my own clumsiness. I very nearly knocked myself out on several of the bluff out-hangings, because of the hood on my jacket. Some are hard to see, so don't limit your peripheral vision with a hood if you can help it.
Really, choosing between near-knock-outs and the protection a hood offered from the arctic, winter breeze was a harder decision than it may sound to be.
In addition to seeing wildlife, getting in a hike, and learning of new tea recipes, the Redbud Valley Natural Area has frequent educational programs for children and family ranging from life in the forest for pre-schoolers to wildflower walks for adults. For children, there is always the second Saturday interactive classroom. The next is scheduled for February 13. Parents are encouraged to attend. For more information on programs, trails, and other curiosities you may have related to Redbud Valley or Oxley Nature Center, call 669-6644.
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