- Walk to your ability – If you are feeling adventurous, but are normally not very active, select a trail that is more geared for beginners, perhaps has less incline and does not take as long.
- What to pack – Most trails and natural mountain paths do not cater to us by providing a corner market. As a result, you will want to pack water, snacks (fruit, nuts, another form of protein such as our favorite, canned sardines or beef jerky). Don’t forget to bring another bag for your trash and take it with you when you leave. Never forget trash. You do not want wild beasts following you and it isn’t really nice for the others behind you.
- Spread the weight – A family taking a long hike is a great joy, but one person shouldn’t be responsible for all of the supplies. To avoid a cranky hiker, consider allowing the kids, and parents to contribute by taking turns with the pack or everyone carrying a little. This will not only help your posture when hiking but also allow everyone to contribute.
- Watch Out for the Critters – If you are lucky, you will see some wildlife on your hike. More than likely the animals heard you coming and took off in the other direction, but on occasion you might see something. Foxes, birds, bears, deer, armadillos, and wolves (recently making a comeback) are all on the trails. The best way to encounter most is to back away slowly. Running is not helpful, neither is climbing trees as most predatory animals can do this.
- Protect Your Feet – The three year old sneakers that you wear every week might not be the best option for hours of hiking. Generally, you want ankle and arch support, something that can stay dry or dry easily and that has good tread. Worst case scenario, you go sliding down a hill… Get decent shoes/boots. Also, wear socks that will keep your feet warm and dry in the winter. You don’t want to see a podiatrist after a few hour hike.
- Walk in Pairs – Only seasoned hikers should go it alone and even then you hear horror stories. Walking in pairs ensures that if an emergency occurs, you are not ultimately stranded. That sounds odd, but safety first! If you do decide to hike alone, please make sure someone knows where you might be if too much time passes. For goodness sake!
- Layer, Layer, Layer – When hiking at higher altitudes you generally start off cold and progressively warm up. With not enough or too many layers, your trip can be ruined. For extra cold climates start with a jacket, long sleeve shirt and then a short sleeved shirt. Clothing that wicks away water is always a good thought. Basic items like this can be found at Target and Walmart these days. (Hats are also important. They keep the ticks off of your head in the summer, and keep you warm in the winter).
- Know Your Surroundings – If you are on a marked trail, it is often suggested that you remain on the trail and do not explore. Watch for trail markers, check with local park rangers (if they exist) for any updates or questions. When you are blazing your own trail (which my family does all of the time and somehow live to tell the tale) at least know your north, south, east, and west markers.
- Be Considerate – This is my last little tip. Be a considerate hiker to those with you and those who may follow. Do not leave trash. If you build a fire at an overnight site, make sure you cover it with sand or dirt in the morning. And last but not least, when hiking, don’t snap tree branches in the face of the person behind you! Hold them until the person behind you can grab them and then pass them again. This is my hiking pet peeve.
Hiking is a wonderful way to enjoy and appreciate the creation around you. The sounds of the forest, whether a bird, stream, or just the wind in the trees is something you never forget after a hike and it is something you will begin to crave as a necessity of life. I promise! The seasons of the year, are like the seasons of our lives. If you do not stop and enjoy them, they will be gone forever, but this is your year. Try exploring the outdoors this year.
p.s. – We always take pre-hiking photos. It is an odd tradition of sorts, but you know maybe these will be used on a PBS special in the future? Maybe Ken Burns great-grandson or someone will make a film! Ha!