Hiking and Walking  

Starting Out on the Trail ... walk graphic

Sometimes just starting is the hardest thing to do. I have a friend who threatened little hiker photo to join me on many walking trips, but never made it for years, then one day he just dropped everything and came along. Since then he's hooked and regrets wasting all those years making excuses. You don't need the greatest kit, or exotic locations, just exploring your local area can be fascinating .

Whichever is the case, one thing is for sure: There are many reaons to take up hiking, but the primary one is to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer in all her glory.

For some, it started on a family outing to some place in the deep country when, to occupy the kids for the whole eight-hour drive, someone may have handed them a copy of Backpacking: One Step at a Time. Maybe it's because they've been doing it for so long it was hard to remember a time when they haven't been slipping on boots and walking for tens of miles in the wild yonder.

You can recognize the first-timer the minute you see them coming, hobbling under at least 60 pounds on the back (for a two-night stay!) made up of an outback pack that is remanisant of the Beverly Hillbillies' truck, a 12-pound tent, a dozen doughnuts, a pair of running shoes and lots more thingamejigs that they insist might come in useful during the journey.

It's a funny picture, to be sure, but true for almost every seasoned backcountry old-timer out there the first time they started hiking. Who cares though. If you're one of the newbies, it won't take long for you to put enough miles on the boots. As time goes, you'll find yourself gathering some decent sense of expertise at your art of treking along the way, until your pack finally no longer looks like a truck and you no longer cart about nearly as many doghnuts.

Meanwhile, here are some tips and recommendations for you to cary out before you decide to learn from Experience and get your degree from the On-the-Trail University.

Have a Great Time

That's what it's is all about in the end. Certainly, there are several reasons why you want to put on those boots, but in the end, all of that is down to one thing - fun. Without that, then it's not worth it. Who wants to endure so much hardship when all they get out of it are endless mosquito bites and maybe a few scrapes here and there? If it wasn't any fun, why would anyone even consider doing it?

So take this advice: make sure to have fun. Take it easy. Watch a cloud go on it's way. Breathe the pure atmosphere. The numero-uno rule in the woods is "No Stress." Breaking that rule is not an option.

Get organized

Although hiking is fun it doesn't mean that you can neglect your safety all together. Be aware: this is the great outdoors. All kinds of things could happen. Not being organized is the cause of far too many backcountry mishaps and near-misses. Inadequate clothes, lack of map-reading ability, bad decisions - many of these have led to life-threatening predicaments.

The only way to be ready while backcountry hiking is knowing what situations you're going into. Once you do, work out a way to cope with them and pack the appropriate kit. You may also check out park managers who could give you valuable advice on local conditions and permitted procedures.

Talk to the Locals

Part of the fun of walking in a new landscape is the characters you meet. Make an effort to chat to locals, they can be a wealth of information about the area you are visiting and can point you towards particular features and attractions on your route, but more than that, they can advise you of any locally known dangers or warn you of weather conditions that they have intimate knowledge about, or simply save you time and trouble with thier knowledge of the area.

Get to know your kit

Being a trail nerd isn't so bad, especially if your life is on the line. And understanding what insulation your sleeping bag contains doesn't ruin your "cool" image in anyway if it turns out a storm is brewing and the night is going to be most likely freezing cold.

Being familiar with your equipment is always a the best idea because your gear may well be called upon to save your life one fateful day.

But don't make a fuss, for sure you need to wear the correct clothing if you are heading for remote areas and be prepared, but don't let that put you off. Tackle something that's easy to start with and you'll soon get the bug to go exploring furthur. Equipment and clothing can be picked up remarkably cheaply nowadays, or even buy second-hand of you're on a strict budget.

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