Thursday, January 07, 2016

Where Should I Go? 6 Areas to Consider When Determining Your Hiking Goals This Year

There are so many places. So many trails. So many adventures waiting to be had this year.

Lots of trails. Lots of choices. 

What to do? Where to go? 

First, take a deep breath. Yes there are lots of places to explore. Maybe this is not the year though to do the big trails. The shorter trails, even trails in your own state, can bring great satisfaction and unique experiences than just the big trails we always hear about. No one heard of the Allegheny Trail in West Virginia which I thru hiked this past fall. It doesn't get the major press and hoopla. But wow, did I learn a lot by doing it. And grew in my hiking knowledge that I can now share with others and use as I go forward in my hiking experiences. That trail was for me!

If you are planning a big one – like a multi-day backpacking trip, take a few things into consideration in planning. Some say you can just drop everything and go. Not wise. By taking the time to think things through that maybe you hadn’t yet considered, you will be steered towards that perfect trip meant for you! And without the distractions misplanning can cause.

1.       Time. Do you have the time to do the trip you are considering? Will you need to take vacation time from work? Or a leave of absence for a major hike? Take into consideration how long the trip will take. You won’t be able to do 20 mile days. A 50 mile trip may take you five days. Plan accordingly.

2.       Money. It takes money to do a trip. Money for gear. For traveling to and from your destination. For expenses on the hike. For paying the bills or other needs on the homefront if you will be gone an extended period of time. Be sure there are the finances to do this. Don’t think – oh, I will earn money on the way. Or I can skimp on things along the way. Or raid hiker boxes, etc. More often than not it never works out the way you think it will in the comfort of your home. Always plan for more money than you will need. Save up and be self-sufficient.

3.       Physical State. How are you physically? It is important to know if you are able to hike safely the trip you have planned. Even weekend getaways. Carrying a backpack is not the same as walking or running. It uses muscles differently, especially bearing a full load. For instance, if you are having knee issues, it’s doubtful they will suddenly go away on a hike! So take care to get checked out by the Dr. Get fixed what needs fixing so you don’t exacerbate a condition. If you need to change shoes do so. Work on physical strengthening, etc., do it. And make sure you have the proper gear and you are not burdening yourself with lots of extra weight that can rapidly turn a trip into a grueling experience. Learn from others on what to bring and what not to bring.

4.       Social Aspects. Are you going on this hike with others or going alone? Both need planning. For instance if going with a buddy, do you both hike roughly the same pace? Can you live with that person for an extended time? If the buddy must leave the trail on a long distance trek, can you go on alone? Decide who carries what gear or if you should carry your own (which is a better idea). If you are going solo, prepare with your safety in mind. Maps, a cell phone, a guidebook, knowledge, even some personal safety devices like a SPOT etc. Are you also ready mentally to spend days and nights alone? Much of this can decide the kind of trip you want to do.

5.       Gear. Do you have the gear for the season and area you plan to hike? Research ahead of time what you are going to need to accomplish your adventure. Adequate footwear, clothing, outerwear, sleep and cookwear. The backpack. All important. But remember, gear first, backpack last. Make sure you know weather conditions ahead of time and prepare accordingly for whatever you might face.

6.       The Mental Aspects. Are you accomplishing a hike to chip off sections on the AT? Doing a thru hike of the John Muir Trail? Or going on your first expedition? Are you seeking waterfalls or a great view? Or maybe the hiking challenge this year of 52 hikes? Whatever it is, be sure your heart and mind are into it. The mental aspects of a hike is the number one thing that can kill it altogether if you are not ready and eager to get out there and experience the lows as well as the highs. The good and the bad. All of it is a learning experience. Stay positive even in the hard stuff. Limit expectations and take it one day at a time.

By looking at these different aspects of a hiking journey, you can better prepare for the perfect trip to fulfill your hiking dream this year. 



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