Hiking 101

New to Hiking?  

Think going for a hike is just taking a walk outside? Not when you're headed into the wilderness; though plenty of newbie hikers apparently think that way. According to a recent Brown University study, new hikers are frequently unprepared for the challenges of the trail (surprise, surprise). They get lost, they don’t bring enough water, they wear inadequate shoes, and as you'd expect, they don't bring emergency gear.  As a club, we find individuals show up for a hike, and they have no idea that hiking is a strenuous physical activity.   Being able to walk in town is not the same as walking on rocky dirt trails in the hot sun in thin air. 

Trails include rocks, roots, water passage, and/or steps. Slopes with steep inclines up or down.l  Long stretches that stress the body and raise the heart rate.  Physically, you need to start strong and then you will get stronger over time.   Before considering hiking, consider your abilities, then prepare. 

Here are a few tips to get you on the trail for your first hike. It’s impossible to say what a good list should include since conditions and personal preferences vary so much.  On a day hike I can get by with a LARGER “fanny pack” that also has water bottles on the sides OR a day pack. 

My large fanny pack has room for:                     
  • 2 liters of water in bottles attached on the outside (Water is a must!)
  • Light lunch and snacks—I put everything in a plastic grocery bag to prevent accidental   food stains, and then I use the bag for trash.
  • Chapstick
  • Cell phone        
  • A folded sheet of paper and small pencil                
  • Baby wipes travel pack (or almost depleted toilet paper or travel pack of Kleenex)
  • Plastic Rain Poncho  Yes, I know we’re in a drought, but it is always a good idea to have one if needed.  Weather on a mountain can be very different than weather in a valley.  And, a compact, lightweight poncho only cost $2 in the WalMart camping section.             
  • A hat with wide brim                                                 
  • Small container of sun screen
  • A small first aid kit                          
In my day pack I can add: 
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Light weight jacket or long sleeved shirt when not wearing it
  • Camera
  • More food for longer hikes
  • GPS unit
  • Miscellaneous items for a specific hike (flashlight, batteries, hand clippers, geocaches, reading glasses, sandals for hiking in water)
  • Extra Liter of water
  • Gloves, ear muff, stocking cap for winter

Use the kind of backpack you already own.  If you are going to buy something, consider what you might use in the future if not hiking.  If this is your first hiking venture, you can upgrade later if you like hiking.  Don't go overboard on your first hike.

Light Lunch—Everyone’s tastes vary. Some individuals like just a light snack.  Some individuals like 12” Subway sandwiches.   Many days my light lunch includes a Lunchable, small bag of chips, and a piece of fruit.   I also toss in a couple of snacks for along the trail.  This might be a small baggie of trail mix or nuts, or a granola bar.  At times I’ve brought a small baggie of baby carrots and a spoon full of hummus.  (If you think you’ll really be hungry, you can stow an additional lunch in the car and eat again at the end of the hike.   That extra orange waiting in a car is a great motivator for pushing on!)

Attire for the day includes good walking shoes or hiking boots and good socks.  Basically you want a comfortable fit, sturdy soles, and good traction.  If you buy new footwear, it should feel really comfortable right in the store with your hiking socks on.  Then wear them several times to break them in.  Good heavy socks can make a real difference in your walking long distances or steep slopes.

Wearing long pants and dressing in layers is always a good idea.  Long pants protect you from thorny bushes, cactus, and sticky pine sap. Levi’s work fine.  A short sleeve shirt and a long sleeved shirt or light jacket will work well.  When you start burning calories, you can remove the top layer and tie the shirt or jacket around your waist.

A hat helps guard against bright sun and sunburn.  We know we burn in desert climes, but mountain air is thinner, and it is very easy to sunburn at higher elevations.   A small bottle of sunscreen is important. 
A camera is optional.  There are always a couple of opportunities for great pictures.  Many club members use their iPhones which take great pictures.
Trim you toenails—While your hike may not have steep slopes, on a downhill trek the toenails hit and are constantly being “lifted” by the front of the shoe.  You will lose a toenail, and it’s not pretty.  So, clip them back as far as you can. 

Trail Etiquette
If you're headed out on a hike, it's important that you understand trail etiquette--and share your knowledge with those you go hiking with.

  • Safety first.  There is wisdom in not hiking alone.  But in all cases and especially if hiking solo, know where you're going, and tell someone else your plan.  Don't become a casualty by heading out unprepared.  Bring food, water, clothing, and equipment which is appropriate for each outing.  Bring maps, a light source, matches, and other equipment you may need.  Think ahead and bring the essentials.  Cell phones are an excellent idea, but batteries can die and accidents an happen in areas with no cell reception.
  • Respect other users.  Conduct yourself in such a manner as not to impair the safety health, or enjoyment of others.  Be mindful of your actions.  People often go back to nature for the peace it can offer.  
  • Be friendly and courteous.  Greet other folks with a simple "Hello!" or "Nice day today!" Even stop to visit. Those you greet are more likely to remember you if late that night you're reported as missing.
  • Stay on the trial.  Creating your path or cutting switchbacks creates erosion and damages habitat and natural resource. By using the trails, you help maintain the health of the trail by keeping the trail well traveled, and it will minimize the chances of getting lost.
  • Respect all public and private property.  Leave all gates as found unless signed otherwise.
  • Pack It In--Pack It Out.  Carry out your litter, including apple cores, banana skins, and orange peels. 
  • Preserve wildlife.  Refrain from picking any plant, disturbing or killing any animal, or removing or disfiguring any biological, archaeological, or geological material. The wilderness scars easily and can take years to recover.
  • Do not contaminate any water supply. We don't get much rain here in Arizona, and it is life for us and the environment.
  • Abide by current fire restrictions. Unfortunately, we see the devastation wildfires have cause on Mt. Graham. When fire danger is high, do not build fires. Smoking should be restricted to inside cars. When fire danger is low, build fires in a safe place and make sure they are put out before leaving.
  • Heed the "Call of Mother Nature" at a fair distance from the trail and possible water sources. For bigger “contributions,” make sure to dig a hole, and cover up the hole when finished.


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