Since one of my suggested resolutions was “Hike More, Worry Less”, I thought I’d share a a few nuggets of wisdom that I have learned along the way.
Number One – Get A Good Pair of Hiking Shoes
I have hiked in sandals, flip flops, running shoes and even ballet flats. They have all left me with aching feet, and sore muscles. Hiking shoes are made specifically to handle rough, rocky terrain, supporting the feet and ankles on every step. The soles are covered in a rough tread because traction is almost always necessary, especially on wet rocks. They don’t have to be expensive, prices start at $20.
Number Two – A Hiker’s Backpack is a Must!
When we first started hiking, I would take needed supplies in an old discarded school backpack. It was fine for the first half mile or so, but then it began to get very heavy, an enormous burden on my back and shoulders. I didn’t realize at the time that it was much to large for my short body. I did some research, and discovered the world of hiker’s backpacks. They come in various shapes and sizes, are rated for short, long or overnight hikes, and are made with materials that are waterproof and breathable. I also learned that, just like clothing, the hiker should always try on prospective backpacks. Going to a store that specializes in hiking, taking time to try on and carefully choose my backpack was one of the best hiking decisions I have ever made. My back and shoulders thank me every time we hit the trail!
Number Three – Use the Map!
Even when hiking in one of our state parks, if trails intersect, the route may seem confusing. Fortunately, each state park has maps which can be accessed online or in their respective visitor center. They are a great tool not only for guiding hikers, but also for noting specific highlights on the trail. If the trail is not part of the state park system, I have found that Alltrails.com is a great resource to keep me on the right track!
Number Four – Know Before You Go!
I will never forget the first time I hiked to Twin Devil Falls in the Richland Creek Wilderness with Austin and Kurt. According to the guide and map, the hike was only two miles, so I packed my backpack with a few granola bars and a couple of bottles of water. Little did I realize that these two miles were in the extremely rugged terrain. In fact, we traveled at a speed of less than one mile per hour. When we reached the falls, we were ravenous, and our energy was spent. The small supply of food and water helped a little, but left me very concerned about the trek back to the car. Finally making it back safely, we inhaled the sandwiches and gulped the extra water that were stashed in the car. We were very lucky that day, in my opinion, and probably could have prevented any discomfort and/or injury had we done a bit more research on the area. I vowed to never make that mistake again!
Number Five – Bring Your Sense of Wonder.
There are so many amazing things to see in the Arkansas outdoors. The list is endless: towering bluffs, phenomenal overlooks, spectacular waterfalls and cascades, interesting wildlife, cool, dark caves and beautiful flowers! Each trail that I have hiked in Arkansas has so much to offer, and, before I take one step, I check my attitude. Am I ready to discover something unique, or experience something new? Can I forgo the worries of the day in order to enjoy this precious time in nature? Am I willing to find yet another reason to love Arkansas? Can I be open to the great story that’s about to unfold? A wholehearted yes should be answered to all of the above, but, of course, I know that’s not always possible. However, even an attitude slightly bent in that direction will be significant in a successful hike because, once the first few steps are taken, the trails of the Natural State undoubtedly has a positive effect on a person’s demeanor.
Arkansas is a great state for many reasons, among them the hundreds of miles of trails that can be explored. Having the proper gear and attitude will make that exploration easier and much more enjoyable!