Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hiking Hints

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved hiking. My dad took us on random hikes all the time. Some were only half hour away at Red Rock Canyon where we did more climbing than hiking; some took longer—half a day or more—and we had to be more prepared. When we visited my grandparents in southern Utah, we’d hike trails in Zion National Park (heaven on Earth).
To some, hiking might seem the epitome of pointlessness. Why work so hard to get up to a ridge, just to come down again? And your feet hurt! If you feel that way, maybe you just haven’t gone on the right hikes…or gone prepared with the right attitude. Here are some hiking hints to remember and heed.

1—WATER. Don’t leave home without it! The longer the hike, the more you should take. Keeping hydrated helps you not get headaches and other problems.

2—FUEL. Take snacks or lunch to keep your energy up. Salty snacks are good. In the desert, not too much can be said about water and food. Gum or hard candy to suck on is nice too!
3—CAMERA. Seeing new sights is one of the payoffs of hiking. I love snapping pictures to remember places we’ve been, capture a stray deer or fox that bounds by, or a gurgling stream. There’s also nothing like a silly family photo out in the wild.
4—STURDY SHOES. Don’t hike in cheap sandals. Blisters are a pain. The longer the hike, the better shoes you should have for support. If your feet are comfortable, you’ll like the hike a lot better, I promise.

5—ADVENTURE. The same hike, done year after year, yields different results. Wildflowers might abound in a meadow one year and not be there at all the next because of drought. I’ve had grand adventures hiking: a hailstorm on a ridge at 9,000 feet where we had to seek shelter under a dead log; a baby bear has run across my path and I’ve been terrified that Mama would come next; we’ve come around a bend in Yellowstone to find a huge buffalo blocking our way, with no way around him. But even if nothing crazy like that happens, it’s still exciting to anticipate what’s around the next bend or on top of a ridge.
6—ENJOY. When you hike you mostly look down at your shoes (another good reason to have good ones). You don’t want to trip over a rock or exposed tree root, but if you never take time to look up, you’re missing out on what makes the hike truly enjoyable. It’s not the rutted path you travel (those look quite the same everywhere). You must stop occasionally to partake of the beauties around you. Look up, look outward…and ENJOY. It’s hard to duplicate the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you reach a summit and look off in all directions for hundreds of miles or reach a cliff overlooking an alpine lake that takes your breath away. These are the rewards for hiking.
7—BONDING. On a hike, your masks fall off and the TRUE YOU shows. As a kid, my mask came off quickly. I was the oldest, but was the chicken compared to my brave little sister. I loved nature’s beauties, but wasn’t fond of scraped knees or bloodied hands. I whined when we climbed up ledges and thought I might fall. My dad shook his head in exasperation many times when I’d holler, “If you leave me here to die, Mom’s going to be mad at you!”

As a parent, hiking is a great way to figure out who your kids really are. I have one child that is exactly like me when I was young; she’s a little fearful, but is delighted with wildflowers and grand vistas. I have others that are fearless and have an endless supply of energy and determination. I had one that would sit down stubbornly in the middle of the trail and refuse to go on no matter how much we threatened (he’s also my one who got frustrated with Yellowstone because it had “too many trees”). It’s great seeing what your kids will do.
Hikes can be small half hour jaunts or week long expeditions requiring lots of planning and equipment. It all depends upon your stamina and what you enjoy. I, for one, love the small to medium hikes because they’re easy to do and are just as enjoyable as a long one that takes more effort…and your feet don’t ache for days afterward. But whether short or long, HIKING has great payoffs for ALL if you go prepared to ENJOY!

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