CRESTVIEW — Two key reasons should make joining the Florida Trail Association's Choctawhatchee chapter an easy decision, Wallis Mayo said.
"It's cheaper than a gym membership (and) it's good for your health and your mind when you are out there," Mayo, the group's publicity chairperson, said.
Hiking and maintaining Okaloosa and Walton counties' trails is the chapter's main objective, she said.
But those footpaths aren't well known.
"A lot of people are unaware that Florida has a scenic trail, from the Florida Everglades to Fort Pickens," she said.
The chapter's 175 members maintain nearly 80 miles of footpaths in both counties — with trails on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation and the Nokuse Plantation in Walton County — and they plan kayaking and overnight backpacking trips.
Mayo, 62, and her husband, Paul, became active in the group in 2007 after she retired from the Okaloosa County School District.
Retiree Tim Crews said being part of the group keeps him occupied. Each week, he and other members clear debris, mow the trails, and perform maintenance on small bridges over waterways.
"I enjoy hiking, camping and working with the (other group members)," he said. "Being out in nature is therapeutic."
With winter ending, now is the best time to be outdoors, he said.
"The Florida hiking season runs from fall through spring," Crews said.
WANT TO JOIN?
Learn more about the Choctawhatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association at www.floridatrail.org/about-us/chapters/choctawhatchee/
Annual fees for individuals members start at $35 a year; family memberships are also available.