LIVINGSTON -- Cool weather is coming, hopefully.
And with lowering temperatures, Louisiana offers a plethora of opportunities to get outdoors and explore everything nature has to offer.
For Eric Heber, the best way to take advantage of the natural wonders of the Sportsman’s Paradise is through hiking.
Heber, whose day job is in real estate, has turned what began as a hobby into a passion. He recently shared that passion with the Livingston Parish community when he gave a talk at the South Branch of the Livingston Parish Library.
Heber said he began his hiking journey by going with friends. He was overcome by not only the views, but the experience as a whole and began pursuing more opportunities to strap on his trail shoes. During the talk, he discussed locations for both day hikes and longer backpacking trips and gave an overview of the equipment he uses for each type of excursion.
“Initially, when I got into hiking and backpacking, I wanted to move,” Heber said. “But that wasn’t really an option. So, I started looking around at the hiking trails we had here in Louisiana, and it was really difficult finding maps and information about trails.”
That dearth of information led him to create his website – LouisianaHikes.com – as a way to pull all the information he could find together in one place. He noted that Louisiana has more than 500 miles of hiking trails spread throughout the state, including six backpacking trails, mostly in Kisatchie National Forest in central Louisiana.
The website features trail information and guides as well as his personal blog. He also has a strong social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
In fact, Heber believes that most people find him through his YouTube channel, where he posts videos of him hiking the trails he finds around Louisiana.
“My goal is to make a video for every trail in Louisiana,” said Heber, who divides his hiking videos into regions of the state to make it easier for people looking for places to go in each area.
He has other goals, of course, one of which he recently checked off his list.
The Ouatchita Trail in Arkansas is a 223-mile trail that winds through the mountains of Arkansas. Heber completed the trek in 2018, taking 17 days to traverse what he called a “pilgrimage” and documenting the trip on social media.
“It’s funny, I was preparing myself for all types of emotions after such an amazing experience,” he wrote on Instagram below a photo of himself with his arms outstretched in victory. “Honestly, I just feel empty, but in a good way. I don’t have anything left to give to this trail or have anything else that I need to get out of it.”
For Heber, the physical benefits of hiking are great, but what he finds the most gratifying is the boost in his mood and decrease in stress that comes from the physical exertion.
He quoted the president of the American Hiking Society, “Research shows hiking has a positive impact…on the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.”
He added to that with his own feelings, “People sometimes forget that we are a part of nature, too. Getting that time in nature is very beneficial.”
During the talk, he highlighted some of the trails that are within close proximity to Livingston Parish. While Tickfaw State Park is the only trail in the parish, there are numerous opportunities within a relatively short drive, he noted.
Heber pointed to Tunica Hills and Clark Creek to the north and the Bluebonnet Swamp, Hooper Road Park, and Comite River Park in the Baton Rouge area.