Some people have fought many years of their lives to preserve the rich heritage of the outdoors and nature we now enjoy. That dedication and effort have been rewarded by fantastic hiking opportunities in our local, state, and national parks systems. In honor of their efforts, let's break out of our winter hibernation and venture into the crisp, clean outdoor air and hit some of those dirt trails.
Here are 4 steps to an enjoyable hike, no matter where your feet decide to take you.
1. Know the area you will be going into. Although many states, like California, Colorado, or Wyoming have exceptional hiking hot spots, even your local park will have some kind of useful information. Whether it's a website with information and trail details, or a map at the park office, trailhead, or visitor center, always check before you head out on your hike so you know what to expect.
2. Know the conditions you will be facing, wherever you go. Nothing is worse than traveling to a hiking destination only to miss the hike, because it was raining or freezing and you weren't prepared. If the trail is flooded out, or snowy conditions have shut it down for an extended period, you should be able to find this out as well. It is also good to know if there are any plants or animals to watch out for at your hiking location. Wiping with poison ivy won't feel good in the morning.
3. Wear clothing that works and fits the terrain and hike conditions. There are many options in your clothing arsenal, to keep yourself comfortable, here are a couple of pointers: - Try and stay away from cotton. Instead, look for synthetic and natural fibers that pull moisture away from your body, or at least stay warm when wet. - Also, go for layers to keep yourself warm, versus carrying around a huge parka, in case you are hit by a freak snowstorm. - The two most important pieces of clothing for any hiker, are good socks and good shoes. Don't underestimate the pain a hike can cause with uncomfortable shoes and socks. Finally, a hat in cold weather is a great addition, since your body loses over half its heat through your head.
4. In addition to knowing the weather conditions, you will need to be prepared with a first aid kit that matches the hiking you will be doing. In most cases a simple kit will do. You can pick up a simple first aid kit at a local department or sporting goods store. Or you can build you own, which should include these basics: - Different sizes and shapes of bandages and gauzes. - Various types of tape for wounds or fixing tools. - Suntan lotion. - A light emergency blanket (preferably with some kind of water resistance). - Aspirin, allergy, laxative, and anti-diuretic medications. - Small multi-use tool with a knife, scissors, and a needle and thread. - A cell phone can come in very handy in emergencies. It is recommended that you pack all of this in a waterproof bag or container.
These tips should ensure a comfortable, short hiking adventure.