Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meet Abby Austin, A Peak Fitness Challenge Volunteer!

--This post also appears at a blog for newbies to fitness, as part of the Peak Fitness Challenge, at www.onefoottostart.blogspot.com--

This is the first of several interviews we'll post with Abby Austin, creator of the wonderful hiking blog, 1,000 Miles on My Own Two Feet.  Originally from Maine, Abby lives in El Paso while her husband is stationed with the military at Fort Bliss.  We LOVED her blog, and were excited to meet her recently...and get her support as a volunteer with the Peak Fitness Challenge!  (We'll announce the challenge on Thursday!)   Abby will be leading a "Couch Potato Hike" in Franklin Mountains State Park on Saturday, June 23.  Make your reservation by calling the park at  915-566-6441.
Lazy Cow Trail, Franklin Mountains.  Abby will lead a "Couch Potato Hike"
on June 23rd for anyone wanting to get out in the Franklins, regardless of experience!
One Foot in Front of the Other:  Last year, you started a quest...well, why don't you tell the story?

Abby Austin: My husband will be retiring at the end of 2012 after twenty years of service in the military. That means we’re in control of our future, and we have backpacking dreams. Fitness was absent in my life—I was a couch potato!—and I was fearful of the trails because I wasn’t in shape. I challenged myself to hike 1,000 miles that year to get conditioned for our future backpacking. What better of a place than the Sun City with three hundred days of clear skies every year?

Hiking in the Franklin Mountains State Park is a great opportunity for me to hike 1,000 miles. There are trailheads just miles from my home. It’s such a gift to be so near to outdoor recreation, despite being in the middle of a city of half a million people. The park is ideal for my needs because it’s easy to find a variety of trails, including trails that would take my day’s mileage into double digits. The Franklins are ideal, too, for providing challenging terrain. I am the least surefooted person you’ll meet, but I love mountain tops, and to see them, I have to trust my feet. I still don’t hike fast, but I feel comfortable hiking on loose rock now, which stumped me when we arrived.

One Foot in Front of the Other:  Why do you enjoy hiking?

Abby Austin: I love to see Mother Nature at her wildest, truest self.  There’s only so much of America I can see from a highway. By hiking and getting into the backcountry, I’ve had the opportunity to see loads of wildlife just here in the Borderland, including Oryx, Barbary Sheep, and Javelina. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as alive as standing on the summit of North Franklin—except for my few snake encounters!

Prickly Pear, Franklin Mountains
One Foot in Front of the Other:  What's your favorite hike? 
Abby Austin:  Do I have to pick only one? This region has so many fabulous hiking opportunities. I love hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend the Davis Mountains, but I’ll pick a favorite from the Franklins because I know this park the best. My favorite trail is Scenic Trail—and don’t let the subtle name fool you because “scenic” isn’t a good enough name. I’ve hiked this trail in the Franklin Mountains many times, and each time I come down feeling as though I’ve been at the spa. I feel refreshed, cleansed and inspired. My favorite time of day there is morning. I’ve seen the sunrise from up there, and a mountain view sunrise is better than the strongest java.  The morning light makes the mountain colors look more brilliant than any other time of day.

Scenic Trail, Franklin Mountains
One Foot in Front of the Other:  What's your favorite fitness tip?

Abby Austin: 
Enjoy the sport you choose. I love hiking. Even on days where it feels like a chore to get out the door, as soon as I see North Franklin Mountain towering over the North Hills, I fall into pace and wonder, why did I want to sleep late?

One Foot in Front of the Other:  What advice do you have for folks who are just thinking about getting started with hiking or fitness in general?

Abby Austin:  Enjoy the trail. There is only so much of America that we can see from the highway.

McKittrick Canyon Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Have confidence in yourself when you begin finding fitness. Self-doubt and self-consciousness are going to hold you back more so than the rattle snake blocking the trail. You might not look pretty doing it, you might be slower than someone else, but the bottom line is that you’re moving, and that is going to promote good health.

One Foot in Front of the Other: You’re going to be leading a “Couch Potato Hike” in Franklin Mountains State Park as part of the launch weekend for the Peak Fitness Challenge.  Can you tell us about that hike, the trail, and what participants can expect?

Abby Austin:  The Lazy Cow Hike and Bike Trail will be the trail we hike for the Couch Potato Hike. It’s located in the northeast section of the park, and it’s a favorite among mountain bikers, so the trail is well worn and comfortable to walk. The hardest part of the hike is at the very beginning as we will hike to the trailhead which has a slight uphill grade. The rest of the trail is flat, meandering through yucca, prickly pear, ocotillo agave and barrel cacti. The entire loop will be a six mile hike, but for those hikers who wish to hike less, there are loop backs to shorten their hikes.

The hiker I anticipate joining me will be someone new to the outdoors, perhaps someone who likes to walk around their neighborhood, but who would like to step it up a notch. This is a beginner hike, but at least a small level of fitness will be required. Hikers must bring one-two quarts of water and sturdy shoes/boots, sunscreen and/or thin, loose, breathable clothing to cover their skin.  Well behaved pets on leash are welcome (and remember their water!). This is one of the first trails I hiked by myself in the Franklins, and it was here that I gained the confidence to become a daily hiker.
One Foot in Front of the Other:  Join Abby on Saturday for the Peak Fitness Challenge "Couch Potato Hike" at Franklin Mountains State Park.  More information is here!  

**Make your reservation by calling Franklin Mountains State Park:  (915) 566-6441.**
Bring:  Water, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, binoculars, and dogs are welcome on leashes!

 Saturday, June 23
Peak Fitness Challenge Hike  -   
“Couch Potato Hike” J  on the Lazy Cow Trail   
Start Time: 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Length: 6.3 miles/ 2 – 3 hours
Trailhead:  Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park/East side of the mountains (call for directions)
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  This single track trail is often used for mountain biking, but is a nice leisurely stroll as a hiking trail as well.  It is not difficult terrain to traverse, however, it is a longer distance and may be challenging for new hikers.  The plant and animal life in this area is readily seen and with the Franklins as a backdrop, this hike is beautiful.

All photos courtesy, Abby Austin!

1 comment:

Abigail Austin said...

Thank you, Texas Mountain Trail! I'm very excited to lead the Couch Potato Hike and to participate in the Peak Fitness Challenge!