Take a hike? No really, I mean it. What better way to get back to nature and enjoy the great outdoors. Hiking is yet another one of my passions. I was able to recently rediscover it with Dorothy, my patient adventure friend.
What do you need for hiking?
Well, if you're just trying it out to see if you like it, a good pair of shoes is a must. Make sure to bring a back up pair; in case you encounter water or mud. Hiking footwear will come later, when you decide that this sport is for you. A good quantity of water is also a must. I prefer carrying it in a hydration pack, more well known as a Camelback. Essentially, it's a small backpack with a bladder inside connected to a hose which you suck the water through. It's very convenient. These packs also allow you to stash a lunch; which is a must when hiking. You need to keep your energy levels up when doing such an activity. Finally, remember to protect yourself from the sun and bugs with your choice of sun screen and repellant. If you don't like applying all sorts of chemicals to your body, then your option is to wear long pants and long sleeves. You can even get "don't bug me" armor, which consists of a fine mesh jacket with a enclosed mesh hood. This keeps the pesky bugs away while letting you enjoy nature without poisoning yourself.
As you can surmise, gearing up for hiking can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. To check out hiking gear possibilities and great articles on how to choose particular equipment, I would suggest visiting the Mountain Equipment Co-op online page at:
Better yet, go visit their physical location. You'll be helped by knowledgeable people and you'll get to check out their amazing selection of camping/hiking gear. Besides MEC, there are other stores that also carry hiking equipment. It's best to Google this sort of thing and conduct a research for the store that might best suit your specifications.
How to start:
Although there are adventurous blind hikers out there, who choose to blaze the trails on their own, see the following article:
I would highly suggest using a sighted guide due to safety concerns. Well, at least on your first excursion.
Put the word out that you're interested in hiking. Find yourself a guide that you trust. This is important, as you might encounter tricky terrain while you hike and you'll need someone who knows how to quickly describe the challenges.
Once you have someone lined up, find a local trail and as the old Participaction program used to say: "just do it". Okay, I guess I'm dating myself here. lol
Hiking trails can be steps away from where you live and you might not even know it.
Since I've only recently started serious hiking, I'm still in the exploring techniques phase. Here are a few things that I've tried and seem to work for me. When the terrain is fairly straight and not too encumbered with boulders, roots and debris, I simply follow my dog. Oh, did I mention my dog likes
Hiking? He's pretty good. He treats the trail the same way he would a city sidewalk. Slowing down to show me possible tripping hazards, stopping when big branches might slug me in the head. It's amazing work actually. And he gets extra belly rubs and treats when he gets home.
Using a cane could also be done for hiking, although the challenge would be for the overhead obstacles. Perhaps, a brimmed hat might work.
When the terrain gets a bit more challenging, I grab the straps from my hiking partner's backpack and listen to instructions. She has also started tapping on possible obstructions with her hiking stick in order to bring attention to them. My next hiking device will be some sort of stick with a handle attached to my hiking guide in order to better feel the elevations and/or declines when walking. That sort of information is not readily apparent when holding onto a backpack strap. We're both learning new techniques on the way and discovering what works best for us.
Speaking of devices, I brought my Trekker Breeze talking GPS last time I went hiking. Although, the trails weren't on the unit, I was still able to find out which direction I was walking, my altitude and the distance. I could have also dropped audio markers to build a route for future use. It was nice to have somewhat of a concept of where I was.
Join a club:
So, now that you have a hiking guide, it's time to find a club. The easiest way is to do a Google search with your city name and the word hiking. That, or get your hiking guide to do the leg work for you. Hehehe, leg work, hiking. Okay, I'll stop. Clubs vary in interest and the sort of terrain they like to explore. Most hiking clubs will also have a hiking scale which will tell you whether a trail is easy, (1), or just darn difficult, usually a (5). Some clubs do urban hikes which are hikes around the local area, accessible via transit. Others will have organized trips out of town where you can get really close to nature. They may provide transportation at a fee, or you may need to carpool to the trail.
Most hiking excursions are day trips, although some clubs will host weekend getaways. It's up to you to choose your level of challenge and the length of the hike.
All in all, hiking is a really neat outdoor sport and can be enjoyed by everyone of all ages.
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