How to plan local hikes
A day in the forest
Getting out for a day on the trails is a great way to spend some free time. Good exercise, nice scenery and the chance to breathe air you can’t actually see make local hikes an ideal choice for the entire family.
But before you strap on the boots and hit the path, take a bit of time to plan your jaunt through the untamed wilds. As enjoyable as a day of soaking in nature can be, not planning in advance can turn your stroll through the backwoods into a Nightmare on Elm Street.
First, decide who’s going on your day of outdoor adventure. If the kids are coming along, there are some additional considerations than if it’s just you and a buddy. You also need to consider the kind of shape you (now, be honest) and your companions (they need to be honest too) are in.
Selecting the right trail is the #1 factor in determining the success or failure of local hikes, and conditioning needs to be part of the equation.
Picture this; a group of 4 or 5 of you are cruising along enjoying the scenery and you have to stop every 15 minutes for the guy in back who’s already gasping for air. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if you were 3 hours into a long, uphill climb; but with the cars are still in sight? Choosing a less challenging trail will decrease the likelihood of continual pit stops, and your slowly building desire to cause bodily harm.
So plan the trail ahead of time, based on those factors, and let some friends and family know where you’re headed. The chances of getting lost on local hikes may not be high, but “stuff” happens in the untamed wild and it’s nice to know someone has an inkling of where you are. A cell phone may seem out of place, and it is if you use it throughout the day. But having it with you (off, of course) in case of emergency just makes sense.
For gear it’s important to be prepared for sure; but be careful not to throw the kitchen sink into the pack too. Local hikes don’t require a week’s worth of rations, just what you’ll need plus some extra just in case. Some of the essentials are food (easy to eat high-energy bars and the like are great), bug repellent and suntan lotion, a little first aid kit and plenty of water. If you’re a bird or other critter watcher, bring a pair of binoculars.
And don’t forget a change of socks to go with your nice hiking boots. One slip into a creek, or step into a quagmire-like puddle and you’ll be glad you did. A decent walking stick is worth taking along too. It can help beat down the brush and provide some support for rougher terrain; plus they look cool.
If your local hikes include a night or two in the forest, practice setting up and breaking down your equipment. This includes your tent of course, but also cooking equipment and other utensils. Daylight in the woods falls like a stone, and it’s nice to know you can have camp set in minutes, not hours.
Looks like you’re all set to enjoy a little slice of nature. The beauty of local hikes is you don’t have to be Grizzly Adams or Jeremiah Johnson to take in all that Mother Nature has to offer. You just need a few minutes of planning, gathering the right equipment and you’re off!