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3:52 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

Highlands Center kicks off third 'Take a Hike!' hiking spree

The Highlands Center for Natural History, in partnership with the Prescott National Forest, the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation Department and Yavapai County is launching its third annual "Take a Hike!" Hiking Spree.

Participants have nine weeks to complete at least eight of the 12 hikes. The spree begins on Saturday, Sept. 25, and continues through Nov. 28. The Hiking Spree is designed to provide novice and avid hikers, families and social groups with the opportunity to discover and access new trails in the Central Highlands region and experience the wonders of nature.

The Spree will kick off with a special ceremony at 9 a.m. Sept. 25 at the Highlands Center's Kiwanis Amphitheater, 1375 S. Walker Road, Prescott National Forest. After a brief introduction to the spree, participants head out on the Stretch Pebble Trail and check off their first trail on the list. Representatives from the Forest Service, City of Prescott, Yavapai County and the Highlands Center will be there to answer questions.

Hikers completing eight or more hikes have a chance to buy a wooden hiking stick and a specially designed medallion which can be mounted to the stick as a collectable souvenir. This year's medallion features an impression of a hiker climbing a mountain.

The hiking stick and medallion are sold at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children younger than 17. Medallions are available separately for $5 for those adding to their sticks from previous years.

Forms must be returned to the Highlands Center by Nov. 28, and participants are entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card compliments of Manzanita Outdoor.

Participants will find basic trail head directions provided in the hiking spree brochures, which can be picked up at the Highlands Center for Natural History, Prescott National Forest offices, City of Prescott's Grace Sparkes Activity Center, the Prescott YMCA and Manzanita Outdoor in Frontier Village. Those wishing for more detailed trail maps and directions may visit the Highlands Center website at http://www.highlandscenter.org to download and print these additional resources.

Maps provide GPS points should participants choose to use a GPS during their hike. The maps also include directions to the trailhead as well as little bubbles of additional information such as viewpoints, turnaround points, and trail junctions.

Last year more than 200 hikers of all ages completed the spree. Many were introduced to new trails and lesser known locations. This year the trails are different and seek to showcase more hidden jewels. The trails have been chosen from all three ranger districts of the Prescott National Forest. Each trail offers views and challenges unique to its respective location.

For the first time this year the Spree also features two trails from the City of Prescott Parks; Butte Creek Trail and Watson Dam Trail. Butte Creek runs along the Hassayampa golf course for a while but then takes you on a tour of tall, old ponderosa pine trees and weaves in and out of creek beds up into the Prescott National Forest. Hikers have an option of going farther once they've reached the forest boundaries. The Watson Dam trail takes hikers down into and through the dells and up to the Watson Lake Dam.

For more information on the Spree, call 776-9550.