Saturday, May 2, 2009

Four Months of Hiking Every Day

I have been very lucky this year and have managed to hike every day for whole four months. Some of those hikes have been pretty easy and a few have been quite challenging. I haven't had time to do any monster hikes but I'm sure I will before the year is out. I've got a few thoughts on my experience so far but since I don't want to bore anyone with my tedious ramblings on something you don't care about I'll try to keep it short.

Life is hard. Hiking is easy.
The easiest part of hiking every day has been the hiking. It's everything else that's tough. Going to work, getting kids to school, trying to write and post pictures, those things are time consuming and have specific time constraints. Hiking can fill whatever time you have free. You can go morning, noon or night and it can be short or long. It's pretty open ended in that you can take a walk in the park or climb the highest mountains on earth. The only limit is your will and imagination.

Excuses are lame.
When people tell me that they just don't have time for something, I laugh. Most of those same people have hours to surf the Net, watch TV reruns, go shopping for things they don't need or lay around doing nothing. I have yet to find an excuse that has kept me for a day on the trail.

Set your mind to do something and then go do it. There is no special skill or knowledge needed to do something new or to explore an area you've never been. Again, all that is required is will and imagination.

Stuff is overrated.
Hikers can spend an unlimited amount of money on gear but most of it is not only unnecessary, it gives people a false sense of security. For most of my hikes I take a minimal amount of gear. I take water, some snacks, a lighter and, if it's cold, some extra clothes. That's it. I don't like to be weighed down with all kinds of extra stuff. If I get a little cold or a little bloody or a little parched, that's part of the experience and it makes me appreciate the comfort of the rest of my life just a little more. What I don't appreciate is a heavy pack full of extra gear I'll never use. I'm not advocating lack of preparedness but what I am advocating is tailoring your gear to your needs. I don't need the same amount of gear for a two hour easy hike that I'll need on a eight hour snowshoe adventure. Plus, sometimes people get so caught up in their love for gear that it overshadows their love of the outdoors.

I have a foot fetish.
I think about my feet a lot. I guess because I've had problems with ingrown toenails, blisters and other maladies in the past, I don't want foot problems to ruin my hiking experience. So far this year I've had very little in the way of foot problems and I attribute that to two things. I mostly wear running shoes and I wear Smartwool® socks.
Running shoes, I think, are better for hiking than most boots because they give your feet freedom of movement and they are lightweight and breathable. Right now I'm using a pair of Patagonia trail running shoes and a pair of New Balance 993s. I'm not in love with either one of them but they are OK and I'm always looking for the perfect pair of shoes. I'm also looking for a perfect leather boot so I can have something for any snow travel I might get into this summer. I have plastic mountaineering boots but no lightweight leathers right now.

Smartwool® are the best socks I've found because they are comfortable, soft and the wool doesn't hold moisture next to your feet where it can cause blisters. They are not cheap but I've learned from bad experiences not to skimp where your feet are concerned.

I also regularly trim my toenails and apply salve to my feet to keep them in good shape. If your feet hurt, nothing else matters. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my feet don't give me any problems.

So many hikes, so little time.
I would love to take a year off and just go hiking. It would be incredible to travel around the country, and the world, and just hike every day. Unfortunately, that is not a possibility so I have to content myself with the hikes I can do in the time I have.

I have a to do list that I hope I can get to as the year goes by. There are some pretty big names on that list: Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, Kauai, Mount Whitney. If time allows, I'll hit all of them and more before the year is out.

Wish me luck.

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