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Accepting the challenge of the trail

Whether you are on a mineral or fossil collecting field trip or a backpacking hike in the mountains, there are several techniques that you can employ to make your hike more enjoyable.

[01] Never hike alone. Choose a hiking partner who has a similar pace as yours. Rely on eachother during your hike. Help each other reach items in the other's pack. Help each other adjust equipment as needed. If one of you must leave the trail for any reason, the other should wait on the trail with the packs until hiking is resumed.

[02] Start out at a slow pace. Build your momentum. It's not a race. Don't try to keep up with fast-paced partners. Give your muscles an opportunity to get used to the hike. Take a short break 20-30 minutes after you start your hike.

[03] After you have given your muscles an opportunity to warm-up, find your pace. Everyone's pace is different. Find the pace that you can be comfortable with for a long period of time. If you have to take frequent breaks or if you cannot carry on a conversation with your hiking partner without gasping for breathe, you are hiking too fast. Slow down a bit and build up to a faster pace.

[04] To get the full benefit of your lungs on a steep climb, relax your throat muscles and gulp the air in as you breathe. Breathe in deep and smooth.

[05] Don't take too many breaks and don't take long breaks. It takes a lot of energy to get warmed up when you start hiking again after a break. Your muscles are more likely to be sore if you take long breaks. You should get in the habit of taking a 5-10 minute break once an hour.

[06] Keep a constant flow of nourishment to your muscles as you hike. Use a hydration system or keep your water bottle handy and sip on your water constantly. Keep trail mix within reach and nubble frequently. Do not eat a heavy lunch. You will find it more difficult to restart after a big lunch.

[07] Use a lock step on steep climbs. Back in the early seventies, when I first started backpacking, I learned a very valuable lesson from an older hiker in our hiking party on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. I would hike fast and pass this gentleman along the trail, but then I would have to take a break and I found it almost impossible to make a steep climb without stopping . . . several times. Every time I stopped this hiker would pass me and keep on going, slow and easy, without changing his pace or stopping for a break. At lunch on the first day I asked him about his technique and he shared this with me. Set a pace that you are comfortable with and do not vary from it. Don't take too many breaks and use a lock step when you are hiking steep uphills. Lock step is simply this: step out with your right foot, keeping your foot flat on the ground, rock your upper body forward and bring your left foot forward. As your left foot moves to the front, straighten your right leg and lock it briefly at the knee. Repeat this series for your left leg as your right foot moves to the front with the next step. This simple little locking action gives your leg muscles a brief rest before the next step.

if you have more hiking tips that you would like to share, please email them to MAGS.



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© 1998-2007 Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society. This page last updated 01.23.2007.