Mistakes On the Trail

Linville River
The Linville River can be seen along the 11-13 mile trek on the Linville Gorge Trail.

Hiking is not for everyone, but is for those who enjoy the outdoors and want to enjoy their time with nature. Struggling out on the trail two miles in will make for a miserable hike or camping experience.

Hopefully, the following tips that i feel are important  will serve as a helpful  starting point.  Consider them them as you would the trailhead — and  while you are suiting up,keep in mind that you m,might need to make adjustments.

What should I bring?
A beginner hiker will make the mistake of bringing the whole house to be comfortable. Not a very good idea. Compare your needs with where you are going and if that extra pack pillow is really necessary. Food and water are essential, but evaluate the weight of it all. Not a good idea to bring a can. Transfer it to a lighter carrier or even a Ziplock bag. Clothes are another concern. How much do you need to stay clean and comfortable? You determine, but consider time away and actual needs. That heavy jacket might take up too much space. You should evaluate your gear, food and essentials well before the hike.

Health on the trail
You should always be prepared to mend a wound. I carry a first-aid kit for the basic nicks and cuts, with others items for an ankle sprain or deeper cut. You should also bring enough water and food for the trip. It is possible to get water poisoning by drinking way too much water, so bring small packets of Crystal Light or something similar to hydrate. Not bringing in enough electrolytes to balance the body from dehydration is not a good thing and will shorten the trip. I have seen  people with just a bottle from the local gas station in their hand with several miles to go on the trip. Bad mistake. I carry a hydration pack; there are several kinds on the shelf. Plan out your meals and pack them as light as possible. Nutrients are essential to maintain your energy.   Remember, cans or heavy carriers will only weigh you down.

Weather – you like it or not
Be ready for a microburst. Rain will add to your misery on the trail, but you can minimize the discomfort of being soggy if you check the weather before you leave — or just brave it anyway — and have a good poncho or rain gear set-up. Here in the mountains of North Carolina, I tend to do my short hikes early in the morning because I know by 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. the thunder boomers will begin to muster their power. I carry a good poncho to cover my pack and camera gear. My poncho also seconds as a temporary shelter. It helped me survive the Profile Trail of Grandfather Mountain when a quick hail storm dumped dime- sized hail on me. I erected my poncho and hooked bungee cords in the loops to trees and just rode it out. I was prepared.

What do I wear?
It really depends on how long you stay out on the trail. Use the fast water wicking polyester clothes for longer treks because they dry faster. Cotton really holds on to the water and tends to hold the odor;  you probably can’t smell it, but others can. Short hikes,you can wear either. This is really your choice. I also guard against chaffing on long hikes by wearing under garments designed for bike riders. It helps keep the sweat from gathering and causing your skin to rub together and burn. or cold weather hikes, you should layer properly and always have dry clothes available to change into when you finish. Hypothermia is no joke.

Poles and your pack
Some use poles for their hike and  say they have increased their ability to navigate the trail efficiently. I am split on this, but it does help on the descent. It makes it easier on the knees. There are tricks housing them and plenty of Websights showing the proper use of the poles. Using the straps are popular, but you will determine your own way to use them as you begin to hike. Now, the backpack, this is a huge part to being comfortable on the trail and not wearing out. If the pack sits on your shoulders and weighs you down, you will tire easily and have to rest more often. Get your pack properly fitted. There are charts to help with the right fit.  Also, know your pack and learn how to pack it properly for either long or short, distances. It makes all the difference. I have a Gregory pack. It it fits perfectly and I love it.

The gold standard
How many times have you been on the trail and you “have to go” or just forgot something real important? Check your list and make sure you have everything that eases the hike. Toilet paper, bug repellant, or whatever, could weigh on your discomfort well into the hike. Remember to leave no trace, so a bag to hold your trash might be an option. Wildlife loves a free meal and you do not want an uncomfortable meeting with Mr. Bear. The other (human) waste should be off the trail and in a six-inch deep hole. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Pace yourself
Do not be the Rambo of the trail by trying to speed up the hike. Set a pace that is good for you. Experienced hikers tend to have a fast pace on the trail because they are skilled and know when to slow or speed up. New hikers tend to start out fast and also pack too much for the adventure. Understand the route before you start and factor in weather and terrain. If you are in a group, expect someone to be slower than everyone else, so that needs to be determined before you set off.

I am sure there are many other mistakes hikers make while on the trail. One thing you can do is to learn from them by going with an experienced hiker, research or just ask an outdoors store representative who hikes. Get on a blog and ask questions. There is nothing wrong with being prepared. One rule I use on the trail is if it does not look safe, do not attempt to defeat it. Figure out something else or just do not try it.

Trek on.

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