For families in search of outdoor fun in the Chattanooga area, Chatt Trekkers has your hike. For three years, the group has been gathering families to hike the numerous trails that sculpt the Chattanooga-area landscape.
“I found that while many people love to hike, they either don’t want to go by themselves or they don’t know the trails,” said Dr. Valerie Radu, who founded the meet-up with a friend in 2010. “Chatt Trekkers is a really nice way for families to enjoy the outdoors together and with other families.”
Radu spent her free time hiking and rock climbing during college at Southern Adventist University; however, marriage and the birth of twins put her outdoor adventures on hold for a few years.
“When my children got to be around age 9, I started hiking again and taking them with me,” she said.
Today, Radu organizes the Chatt Trekkers hikes and posts outings, information and photos on the meet-up website. Families can sign up to receive updates and watch for news on the Chatt Trekkers Facebook page.
Hikes are scheduled once a month on easy to moderate trails within an hour’s distance of Chattanooga, and the typical hike is four to five miles, round-trip. There is no age limit to participate, said Radu, whose twins are now 14-year-olds, so families with young children can join in and set their own pace.
“We all live such busy lives, but it’s important to create the space and time to do these types of activities with our families and friends,” said Radu, who is a member of the social work faculty at UTC. “This is such a beautiful area, and there is so much history here as well. I don’t think there are enough days in the year to enjoy the outdoors.”
Radu said one of her favorite Chatt Trekkers outings in 2011 was to hike Jack’s River in the Ocoee River area.
“We had eight teenagers with us,” she said. “We hiked and swam in the river—the kids had a blast.” Other favorites include Buggy Top Trail and the Sewanee Natural Bridge in Monteagle, Tenn., and Cloudland Canyon on Lookout Mountain, Ga.
For Radu, the work she puts into organizing Chatt Trekkers benefits her own family as well.
“Chatt Trekkers is a great way to ensure that my kids and I get outside each month,” she said. “I also love meeting so many great people through the group. When you get outside and hike, you tend to end up having quality conversations and quality time because you are away from the distractions of everyday life. I think more and more parents are looking to get outside with their kids, but they don’t always know where to begin.”
The next Chatt Trekkers outings include an urban hike on historical Missionary Ridge on Jan. 19, a hike along the Indian Rock House/Snooper’s Rock section of the Cumberland Trail on Feb. 9, and an exploration of the Rock Creek Gorge Waterfalls in the Cherokee National Forest near the Ocoee River on March 2.
For more information, visit the Chatt Trekkers website.
Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge, whose writing interests include conservation, outdoor travel and sustainable living. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.