Friends! Welcome to the very first ever “Tuesday’s Tip of the Week.” Every Tuesday, with minimal failure, I will post a new hiking tip.
Well, until recently, I’ve spent a lot of time SAYING that I like to hike. The problem was, I never actually went. I had all the excuses in the world and I let them get in the way of me and the outdoors.
High Fives for Hikers Tip of the Week is your VOICE OF REASON!
If you are someone who:
- wishes they could try hiking, but feels unprepared…
- likes to hike, but is letting your REASONS get in the way (distance, gear, know-how, partners, etc)…
- has been doing things the same way for 20 years and would like to see what’s new in the hiking world…
- is new to hiking, and would love to see how others are doing it…
I could go on and on. Put simply, the “Tip of the Week” section is for anyone who would like some tips about hiking, backpacking and running on the trails.
This week’s tip:
You Just Have to GO
Kyle and I were hiking at Bear Creek Nature Preserve when I first had the idea for “Tuesday Tips.” After coming up with 20+ ideas for potential articles, I turned to Kyle and said, “so what should my first tip be?”
He said, “tell them to just go!” I rolled my eyes. He wasn’t taking me seriously.
I said, “c’mon, I’m really asking! That would hopefully be the result of the tips, but….”
“I’m serious!” he said, “Half the battle is knowing that it’s no big deal! All you need to do is set aside some time, plan a trip, and just go!”
It’s true. Sometimes it is all in the going. In my life, despite loving the outdoors, I have spent very little time enjoying them:
- As a kid, we used to go camping a few times a year as a family. I definitely had a knowledge base. I could set up a tent and start a fire. I loved to hang out in the woods and catch salamanders in the stream.
- There was a hiatus of family camping during high school, but right before college I signed up for Penn State Altoona’s wilderness freshman orientation. We backpacked for 5 days on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. This was my first backpacking experience and I LOVED it.
- After that, I think I hiked one or two times while I was at Penn State.
- The summer after my 4th year (I went for 5 years), my friend Sarah and I spent a week doing a section of the Appalachian Trail. It was horrid. We were simultaneously over-prepared and under-prepared. Sarah turned to me at the end of the trip and said, “yeeeaaa, I don’t think that backpacking is for me.” I wasn’t sure whether to agree or not. I WANTED to like it, but I didn’t.
- When I moved to Boone, NC, I did a handful of hikes. I was living IN THE MOUNTAINS and I very rarely did any hiking at all.
- Those hikes were in preparation for a month long hike on the Appalachian trail. We started at the Mason Dixon Line and went south. To date, this by far the longest I have spent on the trail.
- The 18 months that followed my month long trip, I did very little hiking.
- I FINALLY asked for help. I met my friend Dan at Hawk Mountain and he gave me some tips on where to go. Posting pictures of these hikes prompted an old friend to invite me on a couple of weekend trips.
- Now? It’s writing, hiking, teaching and the occasional bottle of wine.
Don’t be like me.
Don’t wait 28 years to start.
I’m not saying that everyone wants to hike. I’m only suggesting that a lot of wish they were hikers and aren’t. I’m standing for anyone who even THINKS they MIGHT want to be a hiker.
1. Figure out what’s getting in the way
and get it out of the way.
For me, I wasn’t confident in my ability to find the trail head. I thought there was a very real chance that I would drive an hour to a trail head, not be able to find it, not have any cellular service, and have to turn around to come home. OR WORSE–what if I found the wrong trail head and ended up lost and alone? FINALLY, at the age of 28, I asked for help. It took me taking a drive to Hawk Mountain and asking one of the volunteers for advice. Once I asked for help, the rest took care of itself. Really look at what is getting in your way! Usually, it’s something silly. Getting that thing out of your way is as simple as asking for help. So do it!
(By the way, I’m here, willing to help.)
2. Plan a hike
For some of you, the thing that is getting in the way is not knowing where to start.
DON’T: Show up at a park and hope for the best.
It MAY turn out fine. You MIGHT get to the park, find a map at the trail head, choose a really great hike and be totally satisfied with your decision.
What’s more likely is one of the following:
- You get to the park and you can’t find a trail head. Sometimes trail heads are littered all over the place. Other times they are tricky to find. You won’t know until you get there if you don’t plan ahead.
- You get to the park and the trail map is too faint. Most trail heads have a map so that you can “plan a route.” They sit out there for YEARS and eventually they are no longer legible.
- You get to the park and pick a random trail head. The trail map is legible. Great! The problem is that the trail map doesn’t have a 1-5 list of the most scenic to the least. You may end up randomly choosing the least popular route and then your view of that location is skewed by inaccurate information.
- You don’t have a map to take with you and since you’re not familiar with the route, you get lost.
I could keep on going, but I think you get the point. Being spontaneous can be fun, but always make a primary plan. You are free to change it at any time!
DO: PLAN A HIKE.
This definitely seems harder than it is. Wherever you live, there are definitely organized sites that provide detailed instructions about ALL the hikes in and around your area.
- Open google.
- Type in some stuff:
- “Best hikes in/near _______________(the place that I live).”
- “Hiking in/near _______________ (the place that I live).”
- “Day hikes in/near _____________________ (the place that I live)”
- Open up the some of the links, and book mark the ones that seem legit.
- Read reviews. People will tell you if they hated the hike and why. Then, based on their reasons for loving or hating it, you can decide whether or not it’s for you.
- Pick something EASY and relatively CLOSE for your first hike.
- Print the map (and bring it with you)! If the map is not printable, you may need to order it.
- Highlight your route.
- Familiarize yourself with the elements of the hike. This will allow you to have peace of mind as you hike. You can say: “Ohhhh right, here’s the stream at mile 5. We turn right on the blue trail in 1 mile.”
- Where are the views? Where are the streams? Where do you need to turn (if at all)? How long is the hike? Can you bail out and return to your car at any time? If so, where?
3. JUST GO!
Seriously, you just have to do it. Set an alarm. Ask someone to go with you. If no one can go with you, go anyways! Kyle and I prefer to hike together, but sometimes it’s really nice to hike alone. Fact is, you’ll only find out if you just go.
Really take a look at what’s getting in the way of you taking a step out the door. I’m willing to guess that the only thing getting in your way is you. If you can’t get it out of the way, ASK FOR HELP! Plan a hike, and go! I think you’ll be happy you did.
AND! While you’re out there, take some pictures and share them with us!