"Lisa Brown (Always On Liberty) is a freelance contributor to the Heartland RVs blog."
One of our favorite things to do in our RV adventures is search for good day-hikes near new destinations! As a matter of fact, it's one of the reasons WHY we RV. Most of them are in National Parks and State Parks or we find either by driving or location research (i.e. word of mouth, Google, fellow like-minded RVers, etc.). Make no mistake, we do not consider ourselves extreme hikers, but we've done enough of them that we know our way around enjoying a good trails.
As it may be for others, we don't make hiking a 'workout' for us; it's not a race. Though we are proud of ourselves when we look at our Fitbit at the end of the day, it's not a contest to see how far we've gone. Our hiking experiences are immeasurable no matter how long or how short they are.
When we first began hiking, I would get so frustrated because Captain Dan would be increasing steps in front of me. I had to remind him that I had 'Corgi legs compared to his Great Dane legs'. We referred ourselves back to our days in the military that you put the person with the shortest stride in front to be your 'Gideon' in road marches.
We took that same principle to our trekking excursions which became more fun for both of us. We love to experience the reason of why we were hiking (i.e. observing wildlife, learning about plants and trees, taking photographs and enjoying the outdoors). But sometimes, I still let him lead because well, he reminds me that unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes.
Now, our son Dana, a 33-year-old experienced hiker and camper, oftentimes teases us on the phone calling us 'nature walkers'. That said, for 50-some-year-olds, we're pretty proud of our outdoor experiences. Most we endure are considered 'strenuous' or 'moderate' according to skilled and experienced hiking enthusiasts.
We aren't afraid of challenging slopes, grades, steps, rocks, and we certainly aren't apprehensive of distance. We do keep in mind of the time; after all, we are 'day hikers', which means we have to be back before dusk. We usually are on the trail by mid-morning after a good nutritious breakfast and a good amount of water. We always pack a good nutritious lunch with fresh cut veggies, fruits, protein (i.e. cooked chicken, tuna, etc.), with some fun healthy carbs and have a granola bar or trail mix stashed in our pockets for later on the trail. We always have plenty of water which, besides good hiking shoes, is the most important. We each carry about three to four 16oz bottles in our packs and keep more in Captain America (our dually) for replenishment on our journey back to our home on wheels. We former military peeps always say, 'hydrate or die, don't be that guy'.
So, before we hit the trails, a few things we equip ourselves for comfortable hikes:
- Hiking shoes or boots – Get properly fitted for the right shoes or boots for hiking. These will determine whether you want to get up and go. Shoes are the absolute most important gear you will appreciate...and so will your whole body. When getting fitted for hiking shoes, take the socks you plan on hiking in with you.
- Hiking Socks – Wick-away socks are great as they pull moisture away from your skin, as do natural fiber socks. You do not want wet or damp feet. Make certain your shoes do not 'ride' your heels or you'll be sorry.
- Backpack – ours have been properly fitted by outdoor specialists. Seriously, skip the school backpacks. They simply won't work and really, I don't know how kids carry their books in those things.
- Backpack essentials for day-hiking – brightly colored rain poncho, first aid kit, extra bottles of water, water filter straw, flashlight, signal mirror, compass, sunglasses, sunscreen, granola and trail snacks, ibuprofen, binoculars, sunscreen, bug spray, emergency reflective blanket, external cellphone USB battery chargers, pocket knife, and tissues/toilet paper. Don't forget your trail snacks!
- Trekking Poles – they are not only for support when stepping up or down but especially in rattle snake country, we use them to poke in holes, rock crevices and bushes before stepping. Better for the poles to get bit than feet or legs. They also can help you with your stride. We prefer telescoping adjustable-length poles made out of titanium as they are super strong, easy to collapse and store on our packs when we don't need them.
- Hiking Clothes – Be comfortable on your hikes. It's not a fashion statement (even though the outdoor clothing industry has made it that way). Sun, wind and weather protection is job one. Also, always wear a belt; if needed in emergency situations. Hiking trousers with a bit of elasticity in them are essential for bending, climbing, etc.
- Head Cover - Lightweight and light or bright colors to shield faces and/or necks. There is a plethora of varieties and styles of headwear out there. Find one that you like. Again, this isn't a fashion statement. Dress for the elements.
- Gloves – Good for rock climbing and preventing blisters from using your trekking poles. Not a 'must have' but something you may want down the trail.
- GPS – Handheld Global Positioning System
- Camera – small is best and we also recommend packing a small selfie stick. There are plenty of sweeping, picturesque vistas that make for amazing backgrounds, and your arms are rarely going to be long enough to get it all in frame.
- Trail Map – We pick these up at the National Park or State Park check-in or online and keep them in a Ziploc bag to protect them from the elements. We don't rely on phone apps as most times, we are in areas of no cell or data coverage and well…when we hike, we want to be 'unplugged'.
- Fitbit or Activity Tracker – We use our Fitbit activity tracker not only to track what we can brag about but also monitor our paces and distance. There are other brands out there that may work better for you.
So, as you see, there are a few preparations to get you started your own good day-hikes. Remember, hiking doesn't have to be an excruciating and miserable workout…and shouldn't be. Do keep in mind, it's always best to start with a good hearty breakfast, lots of water and STRETCH before putting your pack on and grabbing your trekking poles. As former motorcyclists, we always said 'ride your own ride'. Well, hiking has the same principle…HYOH…"hike your own hike". Most importantly, and we can't stress this enough, leave your loved ones a HIKE PLAN. Provide departure and estimated arrival times, location coordinates, park and hiking info that could prove beneficial and lifesaving should something happen on the trails. Enjoy the outdoors. Take the time to smell the flowers and take lots of photos to show your friends and family the awesome places you've hiked but leave only your footprints.
Blogger's note: This article is a condensed version written exclusively for Heartland RV's. For a more comprehensive version visit www.alwaysonliberty.com.