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Take a Hike! Ten Tips For Absolute Beginners

Stanislaus Meadow
Highway 4, Ebbetts Pass California

So! You think you want to take a hike. Maybe, like me, you joined a hiking group. Perhaps your partner likes to hike and you really want to share the adventure but are unsure about tagging along. Or maybe you are curious about the activity but are a little embarrassed about starting. If you are new to this hobby, I have some tips gleaned from a year’s worth of trial and error hiking or, as I like to call what I do, “hike-walking”. Curious? Read on!

First off, I call what I do “hike-walking”. I use this made up term because of two variables: distance and terrain. Shorter distances such as 2-3 miles on fairly level, even terrain can be considered as walking. The pace can be fast or slow depending on what you want. Longer distances such as 5-7+ miles over uneven terrain that has you traveling up and down hills or scrambling over rocks can be considered hiking. The pace slows down considerably as you ascend or descend and depends largely on the ground on which you are walking and how much you are carrying. Rocks slow you down (or at least they should slow you down) and weight slows you down too. I like a mixture of both types and so I call my hybridized outings “hike-walking”.

Over the course of the last year, I have racked up some mileage and learned some very basic things along the way. These are things I absolutely didn’t consider or know about before I started. They are simple tips and ideas to keep in mind before you begin. (I will also include, at the end, some ideas about what to bring along to make things comfortable.) Here are the ideas in order of importance:

1. Equipment Needed: The most important piece of equipment is your body. Climbing up hills, walking over  boulders, crossing small creeks and traipsing over smaller trail rocks all day is taxing. It is all absolutely different than walking on paved, level ground. Carrying a backpack of any size and weight adds to the effort. Additionally, your physical fitness level will become obvious very quickly. No piece of store bought equipment, item of food or fancy bottle of water will help you to get up the hill. The only  thing that will get you up and over is your body. Period, end of story. That said, there is a level of hike-walking and enjoyment for everyone, at any fitness level. Keep that in mind when you start. It is nothing to be embarrassed about.

2. Physical Conditions: This may seem obvious but if you start your hike with a headache it is unlikely to get any better. Hiking won’t make it go away and in fact may make it worse. (Think dehydration.) Ditto for other mild conditions such as muscle strains/sprains, earaches, the cold or flu or any gastrointestinal distress. Your best bet is to take a pass on the outing and stay home until the condition passes.

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