With hot weather sweeping into the region and people stuck at home during summer break because of the coronavirus, locals are looking to spend time outside soaking up vitamin D and getting exercise. Thankfully, Madison County has plenty of outdoor opportunities for those looking for summertime activities.

Mike Hale, owner of Mike's Hike and Bike, and Alex Sipple of Get Outside Kentucky LLC, spoke to The Register and broke down the different types of local activities individuals and families can enjoy on a pretty day.

Water activities

Paddling, which includes canoeing and kayaking, is a great activity for those looking to get out on the water.

"We have three great lakes to go paddle on with free access," Hale said.

These lakes include Owsley Fork Reservoir, Lake Reba and Wilgreen Lake. Hale said these lakes offer fishing, paddling, free boat ramps and plenty of wildlife for visitors to see.

Also surrounding Madison County is around 65 miles of the Kentucky River. This river, and the various creek systems branching from it, offer further paddling and fishing opportunities. Hale said there are around seven public ways to access the river.

"(The area) is dam controlled, so you're in a series of pools, and you can paddle upstream or down because the river is slow moving," Hale said.

Sipple said these kinds of water activities are great for the entire family to participate in, and that there are materials available for anyone who wants to get on the water. Sipple said all you need is a life vest, paddles and some sort of floating device. All of which are available at Get Outside Kentucky.

"Something that's great about our company is that we do have accessibility for all sorts of different types of people. So, from the youngest kids to the largest adult possible. We have boats that range from 5-6 feet that hold little kids (all the way) up to your 10 foot-12 foot doubles, even canoes that hold (500-700) pounds. It's very family friendly, kid friendly. It really encompasses it all."

Sipple's company offers delivery of equipment to people going to Owsley Fork Reservoir. The rental price is $20 for two hours, or $30 for four hours.

"Many people that are traveling … they're not driving in a truck or a big SUV, they're in a gas-saving car, and so what's great is we can provide that for them," Sipple said.

Biking

Madison County also offers great biking opportunities for those who want to hit the roads. According to Hale, the top bike route in Kentucky goes right through Richmond.

"There are 30 miles (of the route) in Madison County," Hale said.

Madison County is a great place to bike due to the curviness of the roads in some places.

"The smaller and twistier the roads, the safer they are. (They're) fantastic for road-riding," Hale said.

In Madison County, there are two bike paths. One of which is located in Berea and the other in Richmond.

Berea's bike path lasts for about eight miles and begins roughly at the Artisan Center. RIchmond's multi-use path, which means it is good for not only biking, but jogging and running as well, is located at While Hall State Historic Site. Hale described it as "very pleasant riding" with the inclusion of a small fishing lake in the middle of the park. The path covers about 3 miles, according to Hale.

Biking is a good way of getting to know the area you're in, Hale said.

"If you talk to cyclists or runners they talk about landscape. They know the road like nobody else. … and are very descriptive about nature and the area. You have time to look around," Hale said.

Sipple encourages visitors or anyone looking for bike paths to grab a map of Madison County and start planning.

"There's good map systems for the Richmond area, the Berea area, that can show you different hiking spots and different lakes. Being from Berea, there's all kinds of bike paths. It all depends on those people and what they're going for -- ability wise, length of trip, etc.," Sipple said.

Hiking and safety

Lastly, there are hiking trails within Madison County's borders that provide opportunities for those who don't wish to ride a bike or dip into a lake.

The most popular trails are located at the Berea College Forest, which encompasses various trails, leading up to the pinnacles as part of the Indian Fort Mountain Trail system.

There are also various walking trails located from Boonesborough to Waco, including Fort Boonesborough State Park and the Central Kentucky Wildlife Management Area. Lake Reba hosts some walking trails, including at its Camp Catalpa area.

According to Sipple, getting outside is just as easy as walking out your door.

"You can go out and walk outside, you don't need much to get the benefits of getting outside and having fun with your family," Sipple said.

However, Sipple and Hale remind people that being outdoors means staying safe and taking precautions.

The most obvious recommendation is to stay hydrated.

"Kentucky is humid, and so people get out and they exercise, and they feel horrible after they get done because they don't hydrate properly. As you dehydrate, it actually thickens your blood, so by maintaining your hydration levels your body moves a lot more efficiently," Hale said.

Sipple and Hale both touched on wearing proper apparel for the activity you are participating in. Hale also encouraged people to bring repair equipment if they are riding bikes, and most importantly, to learn how to use that equipment incase of an emergency. Other tips included wearing good shoes and looking out for dangers in the area.

"What's good about our area is there's not that many dangerous animals, other than your snakes or snapping turtles or things like that. But it is out there, so keep your eyes open," Sipple said.

Hale also encouraged those who are hoping to pick out an exercising regime to stick to it, even though the first few times of riding or hiking might leave you stiff or sore.

"The first couple of times you do it are gonna be horrible, so you get done with the walk and you're exhausted, and then next thing you know, your muscles locked up. (But) by the fourth good repetition you move better," Hale said.

In the stressful times our nation is currently facing, getting outside and escaping from the pressures of work, or the lack thereof, is more important than ever. According to Hale, just getting vitamin D from the sun can help ease seasonal depression and improve our mood. Sipple said getting outside, even bringing along a pet, is something many need in these "crazy times." Especially since heading outdoors is the easiest way to practice social distancing without even realizing that you're doing it.

"Find a map and get going," Sipple added.

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