Originally Published: September 21, 2011 10:07 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The Highlands Center for Natural History's annual "Take a Hike! Hiking Spree" that starts Saturday has been declared an official Arizona Centennial Event.
Many of the trails featured during the Hiking Spree have historic significance, and often have a link to the success and longevity of Arizona, which turns 100 on Feb. 14, 2012.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk will help kick off this year's Hiking Spree with a few words of encouragement at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Highlands Center, located at 1375 S. Walker Rd. a few miles south of Highway 69 at Costco.
"I love the Hiking Spree," Polk said. "Not only does it introduce me to new hikes in the area, but it also re-ignites the pleasure of hiking not just for exercise but to experience new scenery, practice my orienteering skills and broaden my knowledge - and love for - the Prescott area."
Hikers can complete one trail Saturday with experienced Highlands Center Naturalists leading the way on the Homestead Trail #305. This seven-mile stretch of trail winds its way through the Lynx Lake recreation area and gives hikers and bikers a chance to imagine what gold mining must have been like along one of Arizona's most productive gold bearing creeks.
Another historic trail on the Spree is the General Crook trail, designated a National Historic Trail. It takes off from Dewey and while it continues for almost 200 more miles, the section chosen this year will span just a few short miles, enough to give the curious hiker an insight into what it was like when Gen. George Crook traveled to Fort Apache almost 100 years ago.
This year's hiking forms are available at the Highlands Center, the Grace Sparks Center (the old city armory) on Gurley Street, Manzanita Outdoor on Highway 69, and the Prescott National Forest office on Cortez Street.
The Forest Service office also has trail maps that indicate which of the trails are historically significant.
The trails offer hikers of all abilities a chance to explore the forest during the best weather of year.
People who prefer to hike in a group can join the TrekAbout hiking group, a partnership between the City and County Health Department. There is a fee of $12 to participate year-round, but they're waiving that fee for Spree participants if people want to hike some trails with a group. TrekAbout puts out a schedule of when they're hiking what trails a month ahead of time.
Walk at least eight of the 12 trails between Sept. 24 and Nov. 29 and return your form to the Highlands Center Nature Store to be entered into a prize drawing for a $100 gift card to Manzanita Outdoor.
You will also be eligible to purchase a special wooden hiking stick ($10) and/or this year's unique medallion ($5) that can be mounted on any hiking stick.
The Highlands Center's website at www.highlandscenter.org has all 12 trail maps, further hiking information, a quick GPS guide, and archived Spree maps. For more information call the Highlands Center at 776-9550.