Soft, Silent Footprint

With spring in full bloom and longer daylight hours ahead many of us feel the urge to get outside for a walk, take a bike ride or get the canoe out of winter storage. Spring is an exciting time as many of us renew our earnest resolutions to stay healthy and be more active. We all know that it feels good to get outside after a long winter; fresh air and activity nourishes the body as well as the mind and spirit. What few of us don’t realize is that while we walk, ride and paddle we are participating in a rapidly growing set of activities known as “silent sports.”

Silent sports are defined as non-motorized outdoor activities that are human powered and aerobic based. Activities such as running, biking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, birding and paddle sports fall neatly into this definition. Hiking and backpacking also come to mind because, by definition, silent sports do not disrupt others and do not have a negative impact on the environment. Many advocates of silent sports report that human powered activities can help remedy the negative effects or our sedentary lifestyles by getting us out of our automobiles and back on our feet; it feels good to move on the land under our own power and is more fun to experience the world face to face rather than from behind the windshield of a car.

The Driftless Area has a longstanding reputation as a destination for silent sports enthusiasts. Canoeing, biking and camping have been popular here for decades and more people are discovering the pleasure of kayaking, walking and biking every year. The Kickapoo River from Ontario to La Farge and the 400 Trail from Reedsburg to Elroy are two perfect examples of silent sports opportunities right in our back yards. While not without controversy, studies show that recreational trail systems have many positive social, economic and environmental benefits. And it’s not just tourists who use the trails, 46% of all Wisconsin residents ride bicycles on a regular basis. Many local families who have lived and worked here for generations have embraced this growth by creating businesses to support silent sports, improving the economy of their families and their communities in the process.

As we learn more about the importance of healthy lifestyle choices and the impact of our carbon footprint on the planet, the idea of pursuing silent sports begins to make even more sense. It’s easy and fun to get outside for a walk on a nice spring afternoon or to join friends for a bike ride on the weekends. The Driftless area is rich with opportunities, weather you enjoy birding, trail running or one of the many other silent sports that the area has to offer. The main point is to get out there, enjoy your self and experience the beauty of the natural world.

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