5StarTrailsOrlandoAfter begrudgingly dragging ourselves through Orlando’s sweltering hot summer months, cool fall weather is finally upon us. So, get outside for goodness sakes.

You don’t have to be crazy adventurists to enjoy Orlando’s outdoor scene; hikes are an easy way to get outside together to enjoy some quality time.

No one knows that better than Sandra Friend. The hiking enthusiast and author of Five-Star Trails: Orlando fell in love with her sweetheart on a hike. These outdoor jaunts are still one of the couple’s favorite QT activities. Here Sandra shares with GDO readers her tips for turning hiking into a great day date.

What's your favorite date night (day) trail?
Day is right! Most trails aren't open at night. I prefer going somewhere that's an easy walk, not too urban, is very pretty, and has places you can sit and chat if you feel like it. The Florida Trail at Little-Big Econ State Forest, Oviedo, heading south from the Barr Street trailhead is a great choice, as is Spring Hammock Preserve.

However, here's a super romantic NIGHT hike: every year, a friend of mine leads a moonlight walk at Hal Scott Preserve in early December on the night of the closest full moon of the year. It's so bright it's like walking under a giant flashlight, and a sight most people never see in nature. Check the Meetup site for the Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Trail Association for details.

Why do you think hiking makes for such great quality couple time?
It's a real "time out" from everyday life. When you head out into the woods, you don't want to have the cell phone fussing at you, so you leave it behind or shut it off. Away from that intrusion and other distractions you'd have in a more social environment like a restaurant or theater, you can walk along and share your personal discoveries with each other: spotting an eagle soaring overhead, wild bachelor's button growing underfoot, or the way the sunlight dapples across palm fronds in the understory. It's quiet, so you have a time and place to talk. It's calmer, so you're more relaxed. And if something funky happens, like a sudden downpour or a bear crossing the path, it's a shared adventure to reminisce about later.

Any tips for making the outing even more special?
Pack a picnic. Nothing says "you're special" moreso than prepping lunch for your guy (or gal) and toting it along! On Valentine's Day, we backpacked to a not-so-remote campsite in Seminole State Forest and John cooked steaks and potatoes over an open fire. Now THAT was special! If you run into fellow hikers, get someone to take your picture, and return the favor. It's great to build those memories together.

Thanks, Sandra.


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