Hiking: Starting off on the right foot | TheUnion.com

Hiking: Starting off on the right foot


The headlines scream from half the magazines on the supermarket rack: “WALK YOUR WAY TO FITNESS,” “HIKE FOR BETTER HEALTH.” The articles make it sound so easy: buys some boots, glance at a map, and you’re doing 10 miles within a week, right? Well, yes and no …

I wish I had a nickle for every time someone’s said,” Oh, I read your column all the time! And I have some of them tacked on my fridge.” But when I say, “Great! Have you done any of the hikes?” many people admit, “Er, no … but I intend to someday!”

I’ve also had a lot of people tell me, “But your hikes sound like so much WORK!” Hiking should be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other outdoors, but it can be intimidating to a couch potato. Here are some tips to get started:

— Since trail walking demands more from your body than pavement or even the treadmill at the gym, start an exercise regime to stengthen your calves, shins, stomach, back and butt. Lower-body muscles push you up the hill, but it takes more strength to brake on the downhill.

— New hikers should realistically assess their limits. Don’t do too much right off the bat; if you’re not a reguar walker, start with two to three miles on relatively flat terrain. Elevation places multiple stresses on the body, so take it slow above 3,000-5,000 feet.

— If there’s one truism, it’s that Sierran weather is changeable. Always dress in or carry layers, even if it’s clear and 80 degrees at your 7,000-foot trailhead. A wool hat, gloves, polypropylene shirt and poncho live in my daypack year-round. I always wear a hat in summer to save my eyes from UV damage and keep my head cool.

— You don’t have to shell out a fortune on hiking shoes. I have a serious, all-leather boot with ankle support for backpacking and stream crossings. But I usually wear lightweight, Cordura, $39 boots for dayhikes in mild weather. I always wear a thin synthetic sock under a heavy wool/acrylic-blend outer sock – and carry moleskin and adhesive tape.

— More and more folks hike with a pole or two for added stability and upper-body workout. I take a staff on dayhikes when I know the terrain will be rocky but always take one backpacking for balance compensation. You can buy expensive, telescoping poles or pick up and do a little whittling on a straight stick you find on the trail.

— The Tahoe National Forest map, available at any U.S. Forest Service office, is your most valuable trails resource. Buy some field guides to increase your appreciation and knowledge of our woods. The best all-around guide for all species and geology is “Sierra Nevada Natural History” by Tracy I. Storer and Robert L. Usinger, University of California Press.

— Join a hiking club. Make friends, plus get fit – you’ll be so busy yukking it up over your grandkids’ latest exploits, you won’t notice that you’ve just climbed 1,500 feet in a mile.

— Lastly, hiking feeds your soul and trims your butt. I sit at a computer terminal for 40-plus hours a week and NEED to be around shaggy, green, disordered, dirty things every weekend to maintain my sanity. Try venturing into nature to see if it will rejuvenate your spirit.

Pat Devereux is a copy editor for The Union and a member of the Nevada County Hiking Club. Contact her c/o The Union, 464 Sutton Way, 95945, or at patd@theunion.com .


To join the Nevada county Hiking club, send $4 cash and seven, business-sized self- addressed stamp envelopes to 316 Miners Trail, Grass Valley, CA 95945. You wil receive a monthly schedule of weekend hikes from April through October. A shorter-distance hiking group meets at 9 a.m. every Tuesday on Sutton Way just past the Gold Country Center Shopping Center’s parking lot.


Bridgeport, South Yuba River State Park

Empire Mine State Historic Park

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

The Independence Trail

Old Downieville HIghway, Champion Road to Highway 20

Edwards to Purdon crossings, South Yuba River

This article was originally published on 2/10/2000.

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