One of my favourite weekend activities is hiking. Nothing gets my tired mind back to a relaxed state and nothing else gets the blood in my body back to a comfortable flow like walking outside. Being away from the big city, setting one foot in front of the other, trying not to slip on the muddy soil, breathing in the fresh air, discovering the big and little oddities of nature does so much for me in so little time. Not having a car last summer meant reducing our hiking trips to a bare minimum, which really made me sad – we did use zip cars for this purpose once in a while, but renting them for whole days becomes expensive fast. Now DH’s car is back from it’s ban (we left it in the parking lot for a year to see how it is without) and I am really glad that we have the opportunity back to use it and just leave it all behind when we feel like. The car is paid off, which makes it a lot cheaper compared to renting the zip cars.
When we plan to go hiking, we usually get up early (but sometimes not) to prepare sandwiches, some bananas and something sweet (like cookies), and to fill the water canteens. Usually we take one liter of water per person (I like to add a little lime juice), in summer when it’s hot or when we have a long trail ahead of us we take two. When we came here we bought a hiking guide book – if I’m unfamiliar in an area a guide book can provide lots of ideas for trails that are appropriate for what you want to do or see, or which difficulty you should pick (when you bring your children for example). Most National Parks in the US also offer free trail maps at the trailheads. Proper clothes are also a very good idea. We usually wear long hiking pants, hiking shoes, a shirt with good moisture wicking capabilities and whatever layers are necessary on top of that. In winter I usually go with a fleece and a rain jacket (hard shell), in spring and summer I take a soft shell jacket/vest. Mr. Handsome and me also use the infamous hiking sticks since last year – I am very fine with being ridiculed or called “a pro” by fellow hikers, because the sticks do make ascents much easier on the knees (we both have somewhat bad knees), and it pays off to use them regularly for that reason. I don’t consider it necessary to have gear that would be appropriate for climbing the K2 and are worth a small car, but on the other hand seeing people slipping around Mt. Washington on wet rocks in their ubiquitous tennis shoes makes me shudder. It’s a good idea to invest in safety – after all, that’s what gear is for, to make your task at hand easier, not to fashionably impress other people.
In winter, we usually hike trails that don’t have too much of an altitude profile and are shorter: snow and ice add a whole new dimension of exercise, and extremely low temperatures can make breathing painful – this is why I prefer to not over strain in winter. But the most amazing experience comes from hiking mountains in the summer. We don’t do the whole extreme climbing thing, but still it can be very rewarding to get to the top of a mountain after several hours of ascent, and get an amazing view in return. One-day mountain trips should best be planned to start early in the day, so that the summit can be reached around noon. One reason for this is that around mountains, often rain showers come down in the afternoon. Another reason is that it’s better to have lunch when the hardest part of the hike is over, in order not to get sick. You also shouldn’t eat heavy before you start your hike in the morning.
What I especially love about hiking is the people we meet. Without exception, whoever we meet in the mountains and on the trails is in a good mood, chatty, and very helpful. I’m still trying to find out whether it’s the same set of people that push me aside on the boardwalk in the morning with their lattes in their hands on their way to work, or if there is a secret happy mountainfolk that just doesn’t descend into the realms of the sad cityzens in general. I see ladies and gentlemen way into their sixties and seventies in awesome physical shape, I see parents who bring their small children (that are still fresh and excited shortly below the summit, even if their parents are already red in the face). I saw many overweight men and women and even people with crutches challenging themselves to making it to the top. I like to see people being like that. Now what discerns them from everyone who would love to do this aswell but doesn’t think they’ll ever make it?
Probably they realized that every long way is only an accumulation of many small steps.