A Crash Course in Hiking
My childhood was spent traipsing from summit to summit in upstate New York and Vermont. Summers were dedicated to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or going up the slopes of Mt. Cameroon. I continued the search for mountains as I grew older. Time passed and knowledge accumulated. This knowledge, some of it passed down by my mother, became my guide to hiking.
The terrain in the Northeast can be rugged and isolated. Marshland, swamps and dense forests cover steep craggy mountains. The best time to hike is early September or early June. In September, the trees are alive with color and the weather is not too hot. The first few weeks in June are great because you are missing the rain of spring but can enjoy the warmth of early summer.
Show Respect; Don't Forget Where You Are
Nature is beautiful for a reason. It is not touched by humankind or trampled over with disrespect. The same policy applies to hiking. Follow the trail and look for trail markers.
It is extremely important to stay on the path when there is alpine vegetation. Alpine vegetation includes mosses and lichens that only grow in the alpine zone. If they are stepped on, they will not grow back.
When using tree roots to pull yourself up, be sure the tree is strong enough to hold your weight.
Let's Talk Gear
Layering is the most important technique for a hiker. Mountain weather is never consistent. It can be sunny one minute and then absolutely pouring the next. Starting off in a nylon t - shirt and quick dry shorts is fine. Just make sure you bring the essential layers below.
The Essential Layers for Spring and Summer
- long underwear
The Essential Layers for Fall and Winter
- long underwear
In terms of materials, be wary of cotton. It may breathe easily but it takes forever to dry. Polyester and nylon are great alternatives. Look for quick-drying material as you shop for supplies.
Keeping your feet dry is also crucial. Make sure you are using sturdy hiking boots that have already been broken in; no one needs blisters on a eight-hour climb. I love my Salomon Women's X Ultra Mid GTX hiking shoe. Pair Smartwool socks with your boots. These socks are made of merino wool and will repel water and sweat.
A pack with strong hip support is great for a day trip. I use the EMS Cirque backpack. I also recommend the Osprey Aether AG 70 pack. A Swiss Army Knife is a useful tool to take on the journey.
Nalgene bottles are indestructible and perfect for a hiker. They can hold up to a liter of water and come in all different styles.
Most well known brands, such as EMS, The North Face, and Patagonia, carry all the gear needed for a successful climb. Although prices can run high, you don't want to risk having dysfunctional equipment.
Skip salt-filled, oil-loaded trail mix and create your own!
BEST ENERGY BARS
TRAIL MIX COMBOS
unsalted roasted peanuts, almonds, raisins and pieces of Pascha organic dark chocolate bar.
classic pb & j
dried cranberries, crumbled chocolate bark thins, unsalted roasted pecans, unsalted roasted cashews.
turkey with mint pesto
cheese and tomato
Health warrior chia bars
roasted veggies and tofu
Tips for a Successful Climb
- Line the inside of your pack with a large plastic bag. If it starts to rain, your equipment won't get wet.
- Hydrate the day before you hike.
- Take a clean t- shirt with you. Once you reach the summit, you can change out of your sweaty one and wear the dry one.
- Bring flip-flops with you to the trailhead but leave them in the car. Nothing feels better than slipping into a pair of sandals after your feet have been squished together for hours.
- Eat a substantial breakfast.
- Follow trail markers if you see them.
Hiking in Morocco
JBEL TOUBKAL (Mount Toubkal) 13,672 ft
The highest peak in the Atlas Mountain range, Mount Toubkal attracts tourists to its slopes every year. During Peace Corps, myself, four Moroccan counterparts and three other volunteers, led a group of youth up the mountain. September was the perfect time to climb- not too hot and not too cold.
We began in Imlil, a small town high in the mountains. From there, we trekked to base camp and prepared for the final summit. At midnight, we grabbed headlamps and tackled the final stretch.
After the Hike
Once you return from a long day of hiking, fill a bath with hot water and a good amount of Epsom salt. The salt will draw the lactic acid out of your bones and make sure you are not sore the next morning.