GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Some members of the United States Army Garrison Bavaria community may feel like there is nothing fun to do nearby, but lucky for them the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division offers free, monthly hikes located off post around the Grafenwoehr and Vilseck area.
Elaine Freeth, an Environmental Division volunteer started these “Get Into Nature!” hikes because she saw a need in the community for a cheap, fun way to explore nature around the local area.
“The purpose of these hikes is to get people engaged in nature and experience the immediate surroundings within the USAG Bavaria footprint,” said Freeth.
Hikes are a great way to get out of the house and they also teach people valuable lessons about the world around them.
“With more time out in nature, you’re able to develop a better connection to understand what is going on within the environment that you are a part of,” said Freeth. “We also talk about different ethics that are involved in trail walking because there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to being out in the environment.”
For those looking to spend more time outdoors and meet new people, the hikes are a perfect activity.
“Anybody in the USAG Bavaria community can attend the hikes. We’re really excited about getting everybody out and engaged in learning more about nature,” said Christa Rolls, environmental education specialist with the Environmental Division.
The hikes are held once a month, usually on a Saturday, and the locations rotate within a one-hour radius of the Grafenwoehr and Vilseck area.
The length of the hikes is usually between 2 and 6 kilometers.
The trail levels are always easy to moderate, allowing for attendance of various ages, degrees of experience and athleticism.
“We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to join in,” said Rolls.
Locations of the hikes are not posted until about a week before to account for weather conditions and possible last-minute trail closures.
The hikes are held under any weather condition, rain, snow, or shine.
Inexperienced hikers may not know what to wear or bring, but the Environmental Division has them covered.
“Every time we post on our Facebook page, we create a list of suggested gear people should bring,” said Rolls.
Freeth said there is no bad weather for hiking, just the wrong gear.
The January hike explored the Vogelfreistätte Großer Rußweiher State Park near Eschenbach.
Recent snow turned the state park into a winter wonderland and Rolls taught hikers along the way about the nature and wildlife that call the Vogelfreistätte home.
“I didn’t really think I’d like the January hike because it was snowy and cold, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed it and the snow made everything look very pretty,” said Spc. Emily Houdershieldt, a Soldier assigned to 7th Army Training Command.
The hikes show community members the kinds of nature this area has to offer while also giving them tips about how to safely and ethically explore those places.
“The best part about these hikes is being able to get together and have conversations about the flora and fauna that surround us,” said Freeth.
Every hike includes stops in which an environmental education specialist provides useful information about the area and hiking in general.
“Even though we only have the hikes once a month, we really encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the larger USAG Bavaria area on their own,” said Rolls.
Visit the Environmental Division’s website to learn more about their programs and services.