Extend Your Outdoor Hobby Into the New Year

by Lauren Dexter-Burns, guest contributor and Sycamore member

Have you hit the trails more than usual this year? You’re not alone. Sycamore staff and volunteers have seen that visitation to our public nature preserves has increased significantly during the pandemic. Trail managers throughout Indiana and across the country are experiencing a surge in activity, with many reporting double or triple the usual volume of guests, and some national parks now require reservations to curb overcrowding. With a vaccine on the way, will the popularity endure in 2021? Here at Sycamore, we’d like to hope so, and we’ll give you some reasons to maintain your newfound or increased hiking routine:

● As you’re likely already aware, outside activities are low-risk for transmitting the coronavirus and viruses in general. Hiking is naturally socially-distanced, plus the outdoor ventilation creates a safe environment approved by public health officials.

● With a large swatch of our workforce now homebound, some indefinitely, it has been difficult to find respite from the myriad of tech distractions at home. Many of us now literally live at work, making it more challenging to step away from our projects and leading to a greater chance of burnout. Studies show regular trips to unplug and breathe in the fresh air can help preserve mental health, ease anxiety and depression, and make you more efficient when you’re on the clock. Plus, in a COVID world of restrictions and canceled plans, hiking is one of the things that relatively remains the same, offering up a touch of normalcy in a very abnormal time.

● Many folks now working from home are reporting leading a more sedentary lifestyle. Get your body moving with even a brief jaunt on a flat trail– it can lower your risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, increase muscle strength, and much more. Plus, if you’re looking for a more significant challenge, you can always select a more rugged trail.

● Trail accessibility: no matter where you live or your range of mobility, there are likely a variety of options near you. Most of Sycamore’s trails are fairly rugged, but our Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve features a boardwalk and a crushed gravel trail that are nearly flat. Several local rails-to-trails offer more accessibility as well.

● The natural changes in season can have a beautiful impact on your favorite spot and make it feel like an entirely different experience. Many head out during the glorious fall season for some leaf peeping, but the winter can be equally as beautiful with glittery landscapes twinkling from a layer of frost and new views afforded by the dormant greenery. At Sycamore’s Trevlac Bluffs Nature Preserve, the evergreen eastern hemlocks stand out and views from the bluff are even better when the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves. Make a point to visit trails during different times of the year so you can fully experience what they have to offer.

● Lastly and most importantly, hiking fosters connections. Rather than walking city sidewalks full of distractions, natural landscapes allow for more focused and meaningful conversation with one another. Meandering through our beautiful ridges and valleys while enjoying the benefits we’ve outlined above, also affords us a deeper connection to nature itself.

As we close 2020 and set our resolutions for the year to come, continue your commitment to spending time outdoors, and consider caring for our land as it has cared for us in this challenging time. Help us continue to maintain and protect the nature preserves and trails that sustain us all by shopping in our online store, becoming a member, or making a year-end gift*. Your body, mind, and nature will thank you.

Happy holidays and we hope to see you happy, healthy, and out on the trails soon!


– Leave no trace: no camping, fires, littering, bikes, horses, or off-road vehicles are permitted. Stay on the trails and do not disturb plants or wildlife. Leashed dogs are welcome but please clean up after your dog.
– If a lot is full, the preserve has reached capacity. Please move to another location. Tip: you may be able to avoid this issue by visiting early in the morning, on a weekday, or both.
– Please follow all federal, state, and local safety guidelines, including social distancing and mask usage as directed.
– Preserves are open from dawn to dusk, except as noted.


*In Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This bill creates additional tax incentives for charitable giving during 2020. For those itemizing deductions, the adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for cash contributions was increased for individual donors. For cash contributions made in 2020, individuals can now elect to deduct up to 100 percent of your AGI (increase from 60 percent.) For those not planning to itemize deductions, the CARES Act allows for an above-the-line-deduction for charitable gifts made in cash of up to $300 per person, in addition to their standard deduction. For those investing in stocks, gifts of appreciate stock go a long way in terms of helping charities, maximizing your gift, and avoiding capital gains taxes. This information is not intended to serve as legal, tax, or other financial advice related to individual situations. You are advised to consult with your own financial advisor regarding your specific situation.