When leaving your car behind and setting out for an adventure on foot, preparing for inclement conditions is very important . A day may start out sunny with no clouds in sight but turn to a dangerous thunderstorm within hours, depending on where you are hiking. Take a waterproof jacket, plenty of water and food, a utility knife, an extra pair of wool or synthetic socks, a hat and gloves, and a first aid kit. If you are going to be out overnight, pack a tent, sleeping bag/pad, extra change of clothes and fleece, camping stove, fuel and pot, bowl and spoon, water purification (filter or iodine), and a walking stick if you prefer. Stop at the ranger's station to see what dangers may arise like bears, certain snakes, and rock slides due to recent heavy rains. This is also where you can get a permit if necessary for hiking or overnight camping.
Basic First Aid for Hikers
If you are hiking, chances are you might not get good cell phone reception, therefore, you need to know some basic first aid in case you or someone you are with gets injured while far away from a hospital. Take a basic first aid kit with you even on a day hike that includes band-aids, gauze, antiseptic wipe packets, antibiotic ointment, non-latex gloves, cloth tape, tweezers, elastic roller bandage, 1 breathing barrier, aspirin, anti-itch lotion, an instant cold compress, and a first aid instruction booklet. The booklet will tell you how to care for tick, spider and snake bites, give tips on how to splint an injured limb, create a sling, and how to deal with hyperthermia and hypothermia. Knowing CPR is a very useful skill that takes only an hour to learn how to do but could save someone's life. Check with your local Red Cross to see when they offer a course, or visit their website.
When to Hike and Where
Hiking can be a year-round adventure if you have the proper gear and attire. There may be a “best time” to hike in certain parks though because of the colors you may see and the trail conditions. April is a good time to hike in the Northwest, such as in Olympic National Park in Washington, or in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada so you can avoid the scorching summer temperatures. Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah suggests coming in Spring because it is mostly desert. Nearby Arches National Park is very crowded in the summer so Spring is also a great time to visit. Down the road, Canyonlands National Park provides gorgeous views year-round, though you may run in to some powerful summer storms in July. The colors are brilliant in September in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington, in Big Bend National Park in Texas, Baxter State Park in Maine, and the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Hike the Grafton Loop Trail in Maine during June to escape the crowds and the heat. For a wintry hike, head to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. For a great place to go hiking anytime of the year, visit William B. Bankhead National Forest in Alabama.
Hiking the Appalachain Trail
The Appalachain National Scenic Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine in the United States was completed in 1937. A 2,178 mile long footpath, it crosses six national parks, eight national forests and touches 14 states. Over 10,000 hikers have trekked through the Appalachain trail. There are many entry points, but a few brave and determined hikers do attempt to hike the entire trail in one trip. A typical thru-hiking trip on the Appalachain Trail takes six months. The Appalachain Trail Conservancy reports that only one in four hikers are able to complete a thru-hike. Fortunately, for the less ambitious hiker, there are numerous day-long, week-long and month-long hiking trips available. To begin exploring your Appalachain Trail options decide when you would like to hike, and where you would like to start your hike and end your hike. Even though you may have a particular month you want to hike, you have to take in to account the season and weather conditions for the area you are hiking. Next, you'll want to decide on a realistic mileage goal. This will be equated by figuring out your physical fitness level, your hiking experience and the Appalachain Trail's terrain. To get detailed information about planning any hiking trip along the trail, go to the Appalachain Trail Conservancy website to download a free pdf booklet called Step by Step: An Introduction to Walking the Appalachain Trail.