Getting Started: Hiking

Want to take part in the 100 Missouri Miles challenge? Here are some tips on how to get started.

The biggest step, is the first one.

Hiking the Silver Trail at Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area

Hiking the Silver Trail at Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area

If you’ve never been hiking or it’s countless years since you were last walking out in the wild, go and take that first step. Do it tomorrow or this weekend. Book it on your calendar.

Get out there and do it. Once you do, hopefully you’ll get hooked like we did and keep on coming back for more.

Photograph:cooling off in a creek during a hike at piney creek in the ozarks

Record temperatures meant a wallow in Piney Creek was necessary

Beginners’ hiking Tips

Start small. Find a nearby nature trail, one or two miles long. Slowly build up to longer more rugged trails.

Use well marked trails. Start with well marked trails – even paved ones. If a map is available take it, and use it to practice working out where you are and where you are going.

Take it easy. It’s very easy to get over-ambitious on your first hikes. But that can end up putting you or your hiking companions off the idea forever. So start with some easy trails and work your way up.

Plan.Typically people will hike between one and two miles per hour. It’ll depend on your stamina, the trail conditions and how often you stop. We typically average on the low side of that, but we stop a lot to look at the plants, the geology, and to take pictures.

Don’t worry about hills. Unless you are really feeling unfit, most of us can manage a fairly big hill. Just stop and rest whenever you feel the need. Depending on how often we’ve been out we might stop for every 50 ft. or so of climbing we do. With plenty of exercise behind us we can go four times that or more without stopping. Right now, after sitting at our desks all summer we’re definitely at the stop every 50 ft. stage.

Check the weather. Check the forecast before you go and dress appropriately for the conditions.

Don’t be afraid to turn around. If you are under half-way around a circular hike, or any time you are feeling too tired or too uncomfortable to continue, go back.

Tell someone where you are going. Just in case there’s a mishap, or someone needs to contact you in a hurry. Cell phone coverage can be poor to nonexistent on the trail.

Don’t rely on technology. Your phone has a GPS – that’s fine until you drop it in a creek or the battery dies on you. Don’t let the technology give you a false sense of security. Learn how to use a map, a compass, the sun and the lay of the land to cope without it so if it ever does fail you won’t.

Attitude. Prepare yourself. Accept that getting tired, sweaty, wet and muddy can happen and can be part of the fun as long as you are ready for it. It’ll wash out of clothes and off of you – don’t worry about it. This is not a race, pace yourself at a speed where you’re comfortable. Have fun!

Hiking at Busiek

On the trail at Busiek State Forest

What you’ll need to start hiking

For your first few hikes on short a well maintained and trafficked trails, you will only need a few simple things.

Shoes. Any comfortable, stable shoe with a reasonable grip. For example: running shoes, trainers, tennis shoes, or even Tevas or Chacos. You do not need hiking boots. In fact, neither of us owns a pair of hiking boots. Ginger wears trail running shoes and Gary wears his huaraches. We wouldn’t recommend huaraches to anyone just starting out, and definitely don’t try hiking in flip-flops or heels. With time you’ll figure out what works best for you.

Sunscreen and bug spray. It’s surprising how easy it is to get sunburned when hiking especially on cloudy days when you’d least expect it. And spray up with bug spray to keep the mosquitoes and ticks away.

Water. Simple plastic water bottles will do. A simple rule of thumb is two liters of water per day for an adult while hiking in moderate temperatures and conditions. In the heat of an Ozarks summer we’ve got through even more at times.

Food. We like to take a sandwich bag of nuts and raisins to munch on the trail. Anything high protein with some fat would be good. We don’t recommend sugary granola bars. Gary loves bite sized Snickers on longer hikes – but not in the summer when they melt!

Camera. Why not record your efforts and what you see?

A small shoulder bag or backpack. A basic school backpack will do. Just something that leaves your hands free that can be used to carry extra clothes, water and snacks. Gary often uses a messenger bag on day hikes.

Flashlight. Essential if your afternoon hike gets delayed and you have to hike the last bit of the trail in the dark. It will also help you to peer under rock shelves and into caves.

Cash. Just in case, you never know when you may need some.

Energy Drink. We keep these in a cooler in the car for when we’ve finished our hikes. We have been known to pack away the odd beer to celebrate the end of a few days backpacking.

Clothes. Wear what’s comfortable. Wear layers because you’re going to warm up as you move. Also, if its going to be very wet or muddy, you might like to put a towel and a spare set of clothes in your car so that you can dry off when you’ve finished.

Now stop reading and get out there and enjoy!
Silliness on the Sac River Trail

Silliness on the Sac River Trail

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