Hiking 101

Hiking 101

par: Chelsea Brennan

Are you all loving the nice Spring weather as much as I am? I hope so because it’s finally time to bring everything outdoors! This past weekend I went on my first hike of the year and I realized just how much I missed it. Being outside, breathing in fresh air while enjoying a nice brisk walk was just what I needed to change up my workouts. Feeling like you need to do the same? Awesome! Here’s a few tips on how to get your hike on since I know a lot of people like the idea of hiking, but think it’s too hardcore or don’t have the proper ‘equipment’. The truth is, you probably already have everything you need.
1. What to bring
Whether you are going through a quick 30-60 minute trail or you’re maxing it out over a few hours or more you should definitely bring water. It’s a workout regardless of how long or intense the route. Snacks! Fuel up on the go with fruits, nuts, veggies, or something to keep you going. Bring a camera, too. Luckily our phones have pretty good cameras in them and you might find some breathtaking views, or beautiful nature shots worth capturing. Bring your cell phone. I know it’s good to ‘unplug’ but when you’re trekking through forests and find yourself lost, you’ll be glad you have a phone to track your location and even possibly make a phone call.
2. What to wear
If you own a pair a hiking boots then definitely wear those, but sneakers will do just fine. You want your feet to be safe and comfortable, so leave the sandals at home. Ideally you should wear pants. When we are hiking through grass, bushes, trees and shrubs you never know what might be poisonous and it’s best to keep your legs covered just in case. Dressing in layers is always smart. Having a longer sleeved shirt or jacket can be nice if it’s a chilly day but make sure you have something underneath if you need to peel a layer off. You’ll most likely be sweating if you’re going up and down hills. As with any outdoor activity a hat and sunscreen are a must. Even though big trees can provide us with a nice shady umbrella, you can still get a sunburn through the branches, trust me!
3. What to expect
If you’ve never been on a hike before you might not know exactly what you’re in store for but here are a few guarantees. Uneven terrain. There’s usually a mix of grass, dirt, gravel, rocks and big roots from trees in and around hiking trails so be careful if you’re walking fast or running. Twisting an ankle is not very fun when you’re a few kilometres deep in a trail. You’ll most likely encounter hills. If your really out of shape or have any recurring injuries just be smart about approaching them slowly and carefully. Again, the ground is uneven and sometimes broken up so be mindful! Expect to see and be around wildlife. Birds, snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, possibly coyotes and even deer (if you’re lucky). They most likely want nothing to do with you but if ever you do see a larger size animal, remain calm and continue on with caution.  Expect to see, feel, smell, and hear the amazing nature all around you. Beautiful trees, streams and rivers, flowers and shrubs, crazy fungi and some awesome  animal homes. I once saw a massive beaver dam that blew my mind, it was incredible.
4. Where to go/how to plan
First of all plan where you’d like to go. If you’re not sure where to go use our best friend Google. Try searching for local trails and parks near you, you’ll be surprised at what you find. Moving to Toronto I assumed there wouldn’t be many but I was pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was!  There are a few websites for urban hiking too if you’re not near a big park. Next, decide how long/far you’d like to hike for and narrow down your searches based on kilometres. 3-5 km’s is a good starting point. Make sure you let someone know where you are going. For the very unlikely chance you get lost and don’t come back home, at least someone knows where you are. Last but not least, check the weather. I was caught in a brutal rainstorm last weekend and was drenched completely, so plan and dress according to the weather.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to reconnect with nature. Get outside and witness the true beauty of our planet and immerse yourself in it. Just remember, we share this beautiful Earth with many different species. Treat it with respect and do not litter! Happy hiking!!

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