In 1976 when I arrived in Oxford, Georgia, a couple minutes’ walk brought me to a woodsy, very low traffic road. I soaked up the “out in the countryside” sounds, fragrances, and seclusion as I jogged. It was my place to find solace and peace.
Life changed. I could no longer jog, so I became a swimmer. Much as I appreciated the relief swimming afforded my feet, I missed being in the outdoor world every day. I missed the lively senses of jogging through the seasons: the light greens of spring’s young new leafing, summer’s humid, hot, soaking sweat, Piedmont Georgia’s vivid yellow, orange, red, brown transitions of autumn, the deep views into winter’s foliage-free woods. So I turned to bicycling. The countryside around Newton County and the low-traffic roads were a happy solution.
Life changed. The quiet, rural setting that so attracted me attracted others, too. It began to be difficult to find low-traffic country roads. I began loading my bike and travelling east of Oxford to find such peace.
Life changed. People understandably populated those beautiful adjacent counties. Low-traffic became almost non-existent and more and more difficult to find. I began loading my bike to go to the Silver Comet Rail Trail, and taking vacations to other, more distant rail trails.
I found on those trails bicycling comfort--no traffic, beauty, peace. I found families--children, grandchildren—talking, walking, cycling, enjoying each other. I saw friends strolling together, people in wheelchairs, children in wagons, people walking dogs (taking care to clean up after them). Local citizens advised me about neat places to eat, helpful bicycle shop owners, locally owned grocery stores, and ice cream shops! I found these communities near rail trails consistently welcoming to visitors. Chambers of Commerce and visitor centers guided me to interesting places to visit.
Best of all, I was back to the world of nature, experiencing that world with all senses. Enjoying quiet sunrise rides, seeing a bear cross a trail, then finding hearty breakfasts in the happy camaraderie of a local restaurant.
On the trails, I enjoy pauses to identify spring and autumn wildflowers. Enjoying so much more -- the calls of birds, the hasty stops to grab binoculars to better see them, feeling each season’s breath: summer moist, autumn crisp, spring fresh, winter sharp. Hearing the unique wind voices of the gentle evergreens contrasting with crisp deciduous. Watching the light change across the day. Then sunset, gradually merging into twilight. Nocturnal whippoorwills’ conversation. Dinner at a cozy local restaurant.
On such trails, I find the solace of the natural world. I feel the joy of seeing other people appreciating that world and appreciating each other. It’s hard to beat.
In the meantime, back home, a small group of citizens, with a vision toward fresh ways to improve the quality of life for everyone, brought Newton Trails into being. Through these citizens’ dedicated, patient efforts, life changed again: the creations of the 1.2 mile Oxford and the 2.5 mile Eastside Trails offer safe bicycling right here at home! There came the Lake Varner, Turner Lake Park, Yellow River, and the Charlie Elliott Multi-use trails. Now our citizens have these pleasant outdoor places for families and neighbors to be together, at ease from the fast pace of life.
Let us each do whatever we can to establish additional local trails, enriching the opportunities for all citizens to experience trails to peace.
Retired Oxford College Professor
and Newton Trails Volunteer
Editor's note: This is the first in what we hope will be a regular feature of local "Trail Views." Whether you're a lifelong resident or recently moved to the area, we welcome your perspective on how trails enhance our community. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to submit an article.