Take a Hike

Exercise is an important part to a healthy lifestyle. But, if you’re like me there’s two things that keep you from doing it: it’s boring & expensive.

While I understand why others join gyms, I just can’t. I’ve been to several gyms as a guest of a full member & always have positive experiences, but I never want to commit to a membership myself. I have very little gym equipment at home, and it’s my dad’s (inversion table, total gym, standing punching bag). It’s also in the basement & basically inaccessible right now. I’ve bought a yoga mat, but it’s seen more beach days than sun salutations. I went for a run alone once & looked like Scotty running away from Dr. Evil.

If I’m going to work out, I want an intense fill body work out in seclusion.

I seriously commend the people who have mastered and found peace & enjoyment in the forms of exercise that so allude me. I say it’s because I never want to work out. But, then I find myself manually breaking & stacking fallen tree branches on the 4 acres of property I live on until the sun goes down. Or reorganizing 20+ tubs of Christmas decorations & family memorabilia until the garage is walk-able again.

I’ve come to realize maybe it isn’t a matter of not wanting to exercise, I realized my perception of exercise contained it to a gym with routine & ignored rigorous spontaneous activity, like yard work, as my work outs. Unlike a regimented gym schedule, these workouts can occur more naturally & often times spontaneously. Take hiking for example: Even if you plan a hike ahead of time, you can’t plan what the trail will hold.

Hiking is my favorite way of staying active year round. Unless temperatures are below 50 or above 90, you might find me on a trail. I certainly prefer hiking on cool, sunny days, but those aren’t always the days I can hike.

It’s very important to keep a few things in mind when you’re an outdoor explorer. No condition is a means of preventing a hike; Every condition can affect the safety & pleasure of a hike.

Weather & Conditions

Hiking can be done in every type of condition. I’ve gone hiking in many questionable conditions & have been very fortunate for as unprepared as I was. I’m hoping I can help someone, like me, avoid some potentially dangerous situations.

Rule #1: If there’s an official sign with directions, follow them. You don’t know the trails/park as well as the people that care for them professionally.

Note #1a: If the Rangers close the park – for any reason. The park is closed. Do not go against them.

Note #1b: If there’s no official notice closing the park due to weather that doesn’t mean the trail isn’t potentially dangerous.

Rule #2: Always check the weather a few hours before the hike & dress/prepare accordingly.

Note #2a: “Dressing accordingly” means wearing light colored, breathable fabrics in the summer, or (at least packing) gloves & a hat in the winter. “Packing accordingly” means bringing allergy medication on high pollen days, or extra water on humid days.

Difficulty Level

National Park systems like Shenandoah, in Virginia, & the Smoky Mountains have all their trails ranked by difficulty on their official websites.

There’s even a Hike Difficulty Calculator, if you’re willing to crunch numbers yourself + there’s a post-Hiking Calculator, to tell you how many calories you burned. John McKinney, explains how these calculations determine the difficulty of a particular hike here. If you’re not good at keeping consistent data, hiking with a device like a fit-bit is an easy way to calculate those numbers.

with Animals

DOMESTIC: When hiking with pets, like when hiking with other humans, you must consider the limitations of all the members in your party before venturing out. Many domestic animals enjoy the outdoors & good exercise, whereas others could careless. Some animals want to be as active as their owners, but aren’t conditioned as properly. Ignoring a pet’s needs (in any regard) is a sure fire way to encounter problems. Hikes are more strenuous than most walks. Be sure to bring with you food & water for them too. Some animals, like dogs, do not self cool well & are prone to overheating. It’s important to research your pets needs in terms of heat, as that’s not something you can control, but can prove to be deadly.

WILD: Even though hiking trails were created with the intention of human use, they also cross over real life habitats. Some hiking trails are within protected park systems, so animals are not deterred by human hunters like they would be in other areas. I’ve encountered a Black Bear at the Delaware Water Gap. I was with two friends. She was not more than 10 yards away from us, crossing a river, as we were crossing the same river. When we saw her, she saw us. She didn’t stand. She just stared. & then went on her way. We did scream at her. We didn’t run. We didn’t wave. & we turned the flash off our cameras, even if the shots were worse. We were in her kitchen. We were uninvited guests. She was beautiful & kind. She did not pursue us. We made sure the keep far out of her way as we made our way out of the park. It was amazing. It could’ve been lethal. You never know what will happen when you venture into the woods. Always tell someone you’re going, or bring someone with you. Do not run with headphones in, as you won’t hear if you’re being pursued. Pin your location or turn your GPS on. Know your trail. Time your hike. Respect the park & trail. Be thankful when you make it back to the trail head you started at.

Tips:

  • Deer/Buck
  • Bear
  • Goose/Swan/Duck/ other bird
  • Fox
  • Moose
  • Skunk
  • Porcupine
  • Mountain Lion/Linx/ other big cat

on Bikes

Many hiking trails are also biking trails. It’s important to understand the advantages & limitations of being on bike & on foot. Bikes offer a different kind of workout & allow the user to exercise for longer, on average. However, on foot you have the advantage of jumping out of the way of a biker more easily than they can swerve off an already unpaved path.

When biking, always wear a helmet.

on Horseback

Horseback trails tend to be kept away from other civilian use, but on the chance you happen upon one on bike or foot, it’s important to understand that horses, even well trained & with handler, spook easily when unsafe or frightened. Horses are as amazingly majestic as they are powerful. They can harm other living things if they stampede & seriously endanger the rider if they buck. Horses have the ability to kill. Horses are typically very docile, until agitated.

Rule #1: Unless you’re riding the horse, leave the horse alone.


Now, take a hike.

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