Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Hiking Tips For Beginners
It's time to get serious and make The Everyday Adventurer a little more useful to its audience. My usual goofy posts will continue on most days, but today I want to guide absolute beginners to enjoy nature for themselves. I want to introduce more people to nature so it becomes better for us all. This first post of nature tips will be about hiking tips for beginners.
This list is by far not complete. That's where you come in. Some of you are very experienced about nature and hiking, but even if you are not, I'm asking you to please help whenever you can by adding to this list of tips. Whenever you think of anything useful for a beginner, just add it in the comments section below. For instance, what experience have you had that might benefit an absolute beginner? All other comments and especially questions are also welcome. I love questions.
When this post is up, I'll put it in a prominent place on my sidebar so everyone can find it from now on. I'll periodically look through the comments and add the best beginner tips to the main list. I hope to make this post the most viewed and commented post on this website. This is my biggest attempt to introduce others to nature and hiking, so please help with what you can.
On to the tips.
The first thing to do before you go anywhere alone, or even in a group, is to tell somebody where you’re going. Also plan to have a way to communicate with the world when you get there. That means, if it’s possible, take a cellphone or some other means of communication with you. Whatever will help others know approximately where you are will be your best help in case of an emergency.
Most likely you’ll never need any of this, but who knows what kind of freak accident might happen. What if you sprain your ankle because you trip over something? You might need some assistance getting out of even a small nature preserve then. Injuries can happen anywhere, so try to stay as safe as possible when you’re in a place that can only be reached by foot.
2. Start Slowly
If you’ve never been hiking before, don’t try to do too much. The first and best place to go for a beginner is a small nature park like the ones I feature on this website. Most of them are small enough that most people can walk to the end and back.
Remember that you don’t have to walk too fast. Take your time and look around. You can even stop to get a better look at some of the more interesting features along the way. You’re supposed to enjoy yourself. There’s no reason at all to hurry.
In most parks you can also periodically find benches along the way. If you’re tired, go ahead and take a rest on a bench. This not only gives you time to catch your breath, but it also gives you a great opportunity to get a better look at the nature that surrounds you.
If you’re tired and you feel like turning around and leaving, go ahead and do that. You can always go back another time. A hiking trip can be as long or as short as you want it to be. You want this to be an enjoyable experience, so don’t wear yourself out very much when you’re first starting out. This is all so you can become accustomed to nature and hiking.
3. Use A Compass
A compass can be a very valuable tool. Its main function is to tell you the direction that you are going. You can buy a cheap compass for as little as $2, maybe less in some cases. That’s all that’s necessary in some cases. I’ve used a cheap compass to find my way around in some very confusing places. Even if you think you know where you’re going, it’s sometimes easy to get turned around if there are many different trails.
In a future post I’ll teach you to use a compass. As a matter of fact, I’ll show you how to do more things with a compass than you’ll ever need. It will be a very complete lesson.
4. Stay On The Path
This one is essential for any beginner. You never know what you might find if you step even a few inches off of a hiking trail. There are all sorts of hazards. I’ve seen snakes at every nature park I’ve been to so far. Most of these are small parks in urban areas. You almost never see a snake until it’s right in front of you.
There are poisonous plants at the edges of several of these trails. If you don’t know how to identify most of these plants and animals yet it’s better just to stay on the trails and not wander into the forest. None of us wants a bad case of poison ivy, do we?
Besides, if you wander too far off the trail there’s a strong possibility that you might become lost. A person who is lost has a much better chance of someone finding them on a well traveled trail than if they’re out in the middle of the forest.
5. Don’t Feed The Animals
Most places you go have signs up all over the place telling you to not feed the animals. You may think it’s just a cute little thing that you can make friends with, but it’s a wild animal. Have you ever fed an eager dog and it accidentally nipped your fingers? Any other animal is no different.
Just think of trying to feed a cute little squirrel. The animal becomes brave enough to come take the food out of your hand. Then, like the dog, it accidently nips your finger. What happens if the squirrel was diseased in some way? Even if it wasn’t, do you really want to take that chance?
Maybe you’ve decided to feed a small flock of geese. A goose is a lot bigger than it may seem. What happens when the geese become overeager for your breadcrumbs, and all of them try to take them from you at once? A goose can kill a dog by beating it with its wings. It could probably injure a person.
What happens if an animal becomes dependant on food from humans? It might forget how to get its own food. It might end up starving to death because you innocently thought you were helping it by giving it that little snack.
What tip(s) do you have for beginners? Do you have a question? Words of encouragement? OR do you even want to expand upon or correct my original tips? Are you a beginner who wants help? Any one of you can answer questions here too. I welcome everything, so please contribute.