Tag Archives: hike

Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Trail Etiquette

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

We’re getting closer and closer to spring hiking season, and as the weather gets nicer, more outdoor enthusiasts will take advantage of warmer temperatures to get outside. Trail etiquette is important no matter the time of year, but when trails get crowded, it’s essential to observe a few key unwritten and written rules to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for you and other hikers.

Hikers Observing Trail Etiquette

Image: Katie Levy

What you take into the woods with you comes out with you.

It should go without saying, but somehow I still frequently see items like water bottles and granola bar wrappers left behind. Even on the most well-used trails, the “pack it in, pack it out” concept is still crucial to the protection of the landscape and to the enjoyment of others using the trail, including organic matter. Things like orange peels and apple cores take time to decompose, and if they’re not native to the area, tossing them into the brush is even worse.

Be courteous with technology on the trail.

Hiker a trail with heavy backpack

Image: Katie Levy

As ubiquitous as smartphones and other gadgets are these days and as useful as they can be in emergencies, most of us are familiar with seeing them in use on the trails. But that doesn’t mean everyone around us wants to hear our text message alerts, ringtones, and favorite music or bump into us because we’re not paying attention to where we’re walking.

Keep your phones on silent unless it’s essential you hear alerts, and if you do stop to use your phone, make sure you’re not blocking other trail users. Also consider leaving your headphones at home. Listening to music makes it tougher to hear what’s going on around you, including other trail users and wildlife.

Know who has the right of way.

During peak hiking season (and even during non-peak hiking season), you’re bound to run into other people making good use of the trails. But what happens if you run into someone on a mountain bike or on a horse?

As a rule of thumb, no matter what method of transportation you’re using—two wheels or two feet—horses have the right of way. Step in the downhill direction from the horse when you’re yielding to avoid spooking them. As another rule of thumb, mountain bikers should yield to hikers. As always, let common sense guide you. If it’s easier for you as a hiker to yield to an oncoming cyclist flying down a hill, step aside to help keep everyone safe. Know what direction has the right of way.

Two hikers on a summit

Image: Katie Levy

In addition to the hierarchy of who yields to who, it’s important to remember that if you run into another hiker or hiking party coming uphill toward you, they have the right of way. As much fun as it can be to run downhill, going uphill is a lot of work. Interrupting the pace of an upward-bound hiker is a no no, unless they let you know it’s OK. I know I’m often grateful for an opportunity to step aside and take a break! Offer to yield first, then let that upward-bound hiker make the call.

Do your business far, far off trail, and clean up afterward.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is pretty specific around how to relieve yourself in the woods with minimal impact on the environment and other outdoor enthusiasts. Specifically, “Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug six to eight inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.”

And even if you’re not depositing solid human waste, ultimately getting yourself far away from trails and being picky about where you do your business makes it less likely that someone else will stumble upon your temporary bathroom spot. Try bringing a sandwich bag with you to pack toilet paper and hygiene products in, too. There’s not much worse than seeing a pile of used TP in the woods.

What other rules do you think we should add to the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Hiking To Twin Falls in a Torrential Downpour

Contributed by Grant Thomas

A few days ago, my friend Andrew and I set out to explore Olallie State Park in Snoqualmie Pass, Washington. We planned on hiking to Talapus and Olallie Lakes, located off Exit 48 on Highway I-90, but as we got closer to the trailhead, we quickly realized we would need to come up with a new plan—the snowstorm that was passing throughout Snoqualmie Pass and most of Western Washington hit harder than expected. We briefly pulled over to assess the situation, and as we watched the snow continue to come down harder and harder, we decided to turn around. Not wanting to get snowed in, Andrew and I opted for a lower elevation hike at Twin Falls in order to escape the foot of snow that was predicted to fall within the next few hours. Fortunately, Twin Falls is also located in Olallie State Park, and the trailhead was just a few miles away off Exit 38.

We arrived at the trailhead a little after 10:00 a.m. With the torrential downpour that was taking place (the snow had turned to rain now that we were no longer in Snoqualmie Pass), it wasn’t a surprise to us that there was only one other car in the parking lot. I placed my Discover Pass (if you do not already have one, you can pay the $10 fee for a single day pass) on my dash, and we set off.

The trail started out with very little elevation gain as it meandered along the South Fork Snoqualmie River. Oftentimes you can find people fishing this river during the spring and summer months, but being that it was winter, the river was empty. After hiking alongside the river for about a half mile, we began to gain some elevation. After another half mile of hiking, we reached a viewpoint of the falls. There are two benches where you can sit and rest your legs while taking in the beautiful waterfall.

Lower Twin Falls

Lower Twin Falls as viewed from the second viewing area. [Image: Grant Thomas]

After a brief rest on the benches, Andrew and I ventured the last half mile to the second viewing area of the Lower Twin Falls. This section of the trail is much steeper than the first, and one should take caution as it can be slippery during the rainy season.

Lower Twin Falls and the pool the waterfall feeds into

Lower Twin Falls and the pool the waterfall feeds into. [Image: Grant Thomas]

The second viewing area can be accessed via steps that lead down to a platform. This is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the incredible 150-foot waterfall and take pictures before hiking to the Upper Twin Falls. After taking a few shots of our own, Andrew and I walked a few hundred yards to a wooden footbridge that was perfect for viewing the Upper Twin Falls.

Upper Twin Falls as viewed from the bridge above the Lower Twin Falls

Upper Twin Falls as viewed from the bridge above the Lower Twin Falls. [Image: Grant Thomas]

After Andrew and I took in the sights and sounds of both the upper and lower falls, we began our descent back to the car. We proceeded carefully and made sure not to slip on roots and rocks along the trail. We only passed two groups of hikers on our way back.

Overall, despite the weather that caused us to change our plans at the last minute, we had a fantastic morning exploring Twin Falls and the South Fork Snoqualmie River. Hopefully I will be able to get to Olallie and Talapus Lakes in the next couple of weeks once the snow has melted and the road to the trailhead is clear.

Tips for Staying Warm and Dry During Winter Adventures

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should stop adventuring, but it does mean that you have to prepare more. Staying warm and dry when you’re out on a long winter bike ride, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or exploring the wintery landscape in another way is essential. You definitely won’t have a good time with numb fingers and toes, and a negative experience will make you less likely to get outside during winter in the future. Plus, hypothermia and frostbite are not laughing matters and should be avoided at all costs.

Woman shivering.

Brr! Bundle up—winter is officially here. [Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk/]

Dress Appropriately

Winter calls for certain gear that you obviously don’t need in other seasons, and while it may seem excessive at times, it’s all necessary. From top to bottom, there are a few essential items to make sure you have in stock.

Couple snowshoeing.

The couple that dresses warm together, probably goes on to do lots of fun outdoor adventuring together. [Image: http://www.active.com/]

  • Socks, socks, and more socks. And not just thin cotton socks, but at least one pair of heavy-duty wool socks to keep your tootsies snug. You’ll also probably want a pair of thinner wool socks to put on underneath the thicker ones. Layers are essential for keeping your extremities toasty warm.
  • Large, breathable, waterproof boots. To account for the thicker socks and extra layers, you’ll need a pair of boots that are larger than your normal shoe size. You’ll also want a pair that can breathe and that are waterproof because wet, sweaty feet lead to wet boots, which will eventually freeze and lead to your feet getting colder quicker.
  • Kneewarmers or tights/long johns underneath snow pants. Your legs will probably be one of the warmest parts of your body as you’ll typically be exerting yourself by using your legs. Tights, long johns, and kneewarmers are all helpful in providing a bit of extra warmth, though. And these, of course, go underneath any heavier snow pants or thicker pants you may be wearing—unless you’re trying to create a new fashion trend, that is.
  • Jackets for days. There’s a general “rule of three” when it comes to layering. An insulated jacket is essential, and depending on the temperatures and how long you’ll be outside for, an extra jacket as well as a breathable, non-cotton shirt might also be necessary.
  • Fingers are like toes and should be treated similarly. What we mean by this is that fingers, like toes, are extremities and often get cold first as your body concentrates heat on your torso for your vital organs. Therefore it’s appropriate to layer and invest in some extra linings. There is also a lot of talk that mittens are more effective than gloves, but that’s usually up to your personal preference—if you absolutely hate mittens for some reason, then it’s probably not worth the investment. Hand (and foot!) warmers are also helpful and are available in bulk on many sites.
  • Protect that beautiful head of yours. A hat and scarf combo are great for winter exploring and help to keep your ears, neck, and face comfortable. There are other items—like a buff, balaclava, or earmuffs—that you might also want to look into, but as long as you’re covered then you’re good to go. It’s also important to remember that if you start becoming warm, the scarf and hat should be the first items to be removed.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Cold Spongebob.

Trust me, this is not the life you want. [Image: http://media.tumblr.com/]

There are more than a few ways to know if you’re suffering from hypothermia or frostbite as well as plenty of ways to treat both. With frostbiteyou’ll start out feeling a cold, prickly feeling in your body parts and they’ll turn red (as mentioned before, extremities are the first areas that typically become afflicted with frostbite). From there, the body part will grow increasingly numb and will turn white, and may even turn blue or purple. You’ll know you’re in trouble if your body starts feeling warm and you experience stinging or burning. At this point you may also experience blisters a day or so after warming back up. If your frostbite advances even further, all layers of your skin will be affected by the freezing temperatures. You might lose functionality in your joints and will become completely numb in the frostbitten areas, which will eventually turn black in the days following the exposure.

On the other hand, hypothermia is a whole other monster to deal with. A few signs of hypothermia are shivering, dizziness, confusion, trouble speaking, lack of coordination, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Although it’s usually difficult to notice hypothermia as the symptoms are gradual, the more it sets in, the more apparent the symptoms become. However, the shivering will cease in extreme cases. Wearing breathable, non-cotton clothes during your winter adventures is very important as cotton absorbs sweat and can freeze, making you more vulnerable to hypothermia.

Stay Hydrated

Woman drinking water.

Drink up! The water’s great! [Image: http://thoughtfulwomen.org/]

It’s easy to overlook drinking water when your teeth are chattering and your muscles twitching with the cold, but it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated during wintertime exercise. When your body is cold, your mind ends up preoccupied, and you simply don’t feel thirsty as often, even when you’re on the brink of dehydration. Water also helps you generate heat easier and quicker, which is especially important when you’re covered in tons of layers. It’s important to drink water often (and not a swig of whiskey, as some movies may have you believe).

Hopefully with these tips you’re feeling a bit more inspired to head outside and explore, despite winter’s chill. And nothing can make that easier than our handy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, which are available for download in the iTunes and Google Play Stores!

Ring in the New Year at a State Park

As we bid farewell to 2015 and prepare to welcome 2016 (where did the time go!?), we naturally want to carve out some time to head to a few of our favorite state parks to celebrate. We expect the new year will be filled with tons of outdoor exploration and wilderness appreciation, and we want to start the year off on the right foot. Here are some New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day events that you’ll want to check out.

Cacapon Resort State Park, WV

Indoor New Year's Eve celebration.

Raise your glass (or child) for a toast this new year! [Image: http://travelchannel.sndimg.com/]

Cacapon Resort State Park knows how to ring in the new year the right way—with music, dancing, and even a formal toast! It’s a relatively common New Year’s Eve celebration, except at a completely unique setting. Then on the next day, you can partake in a First Day Hike, starting your year off on a happy and healthy foot!

For more info, call: (304) 258-1022

Weeks State Park, NH

Dogs packed for hiking.

“Did you bring the champagne?” “No, I thought you packed it.” [Image: https://ruffwear.files.wordpress.com/]

The second annual dog hike is being hosted at New Hampshire’s Weeks State Park, so bring your furry, four-legged friends and take a hike! It’s a 3.2-mile moderate hike (approximately two hours long) along the Mt. Prospect auto road and includes an interpretive tour along the way. It’s just one of the many First Day Hikes that New Hampshire state parks offer!

For more info, call: (603) 788-4004

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, NY

Two girls jumping in the air on snowshoes.

Spoiler: This could be you at the end of your snowshoe hike. [Image: https://evergreenhiker.files.wordpress.com/]

Strap on a pair of snowshoes and trek through the Peter’s Kill Area at Minnewaska State Park where you’ll be treated to views of the Rondout and Clove Valleys. Although it’s only 2-miles, some might find the moderate hills challenging—especially in snowshoes. This hike, along with many others throughout New York’s brilliant state parks, is just one of the many First Day Hikes.

For more info, call: (845) 255-0752

Fort Snelling State Park, MN

Woman skiing through a Candlelight Walk.

If this doesn’t convince you to join in on the fun, then we’re not sure what will. [Image: http://www.mnnature.org/]

Is there anything more picturesque and seasonal than miles of candle-lit trails coursing through Fort Snelling State Park? Hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski along these paths on the New Year’s Eve Candlelight Walk, and you will be rewarded with toasty bonfires throughout. Winter’s chill won’t bring you down, especially at this fun event!

For more info, call: (612) 279-3550 or (612) 725-2724

Ending 2015 or starting 2016 at a state park sets the course for a healthy, outdoor-filled year! Make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps so you’ll be prepared to conquer your resolutions and enjoy the parks in the new year!

That Hiking Guy

That Hiking Guy, Chris Colbert, in the woods.

Image: Chris Colbert

Whether you are stuck in the office or ready to take on the wilderness, the Pocket Ranger® video channel is your one-stop shop for entertainment. Spanning across the United States, the video channel captures some of the most pristine views in the country and some of the best terrain for your next adventure—but wait, there’s more! Filled with loads of excitement, education, and even some laughter, hiking videos like this one from contributor That Hiking Guy are well worth the watch:

That Hiking Guy demonstrates that to maintain health and wellness, you have to start somewhere—so why not make it an adventure? Narrated by Chris Colbert, “an average middle-aged male in Indiana who recently discovered the joy that comes with getting outdoors,” viewers get a firsthand view of the fun that can be had in their own backyards. His videos of the forest trails, sloping mountain crests, and winding rivers put Indiana on the map for fun in the outdoors. Subscribe to his YouTube channel to watch his hikes, like this one of the Birdseye Trail:

Want to make your memories last? That Hiking Guy reviews the latest and greatest in video and camera gear to make your outing one you will remember for years. Follow That Hiking Guy on Instagram, Twitter, and Google+ for details on what to pack and where to go. Don’t forget to stay connect through Facebook as well to get updates and tips on how to shoot videos like this one:

Fully loaded with what you need to get psyched, watch the Pocket Ranger® video channel today! Packed up and ready to explore? Download the FREE Pocket Ranger® mobile app for full access to everything you need to know about where you’re going. Happy trails!

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Your Favorite State Park!

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to spend in mother nature’s warm embrace: The weather is crisp yet not too cold to make you want to bundle up inside, and the changing foliage presents a gorgeous backdrop to any outdoor activity. It probably goes without saying, but we’re big proponents of not spending the day after Thanksgiving stuck on long lines buying discounted electronics and would much rather be outside at our favorite state parks. Luckily, many state parks feel the same way as us.

After Thanksgiving Hike, Tennessee State Parks

Tennessee's After Thanksgiving Hikes.

Work off all the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing on any of Tennessee’s state parks. [Image: http://tnstateparks.com/]

Eat as much as you want on Thanksgiving, then work it off while also avoiding the Black Friday craze at any of Tennessee’s lovely state parks through their After Thanksgiving Hikes series. Hikes range from easy to more challenging and are of varying distances. Get totally immersed in any of the parks and reconnect with your roots a bit along the way.

Thanksgiving Day Buffet, Ohio State Parks

Thanksgiving dinner.

Celebrating Thanksgiving the way it was meant to be—alongside family and friends. [Image: http://www.decoist.com/]

Don’t feel like cooking this Thanksgiving? You’re not alone on that front. Head on over to any of Ohio’s state park lodge and conference centers or dining lodges where they’ll do the cooking for you—your biggest responsibility will be relaxing, eating delicious food, and chatting with friends and family. And really, is Thanksgiving meant to be spent any other way?

Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot, Choke Canyon State Park

Wild turkey.

A little inspiration for the event perhaps? [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

If you’re looking for a unique way to spend your Thanksgiving weekend, then you’ll definitely want to check out Choke Canyon State Park’s Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot. Learn the history and basics of archery with trained instructors, and maybe even learn a bit about turkey hunting as well. It’s a great event for the entire family! If you’re looking to exert yourself on an exciting hike, want to play around with arts and crafts, or just want a tasty Thanksgiving dinner, many other Texas state parks have events going on for the long weekend as well. Don’t let the opportunity to spend the weekend outside and with other outdoor enthusiasts pass you by!

Thanksgiving Dinner, Kentucky State Parks

Turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Cue mouth watering and stomach rumbling. [Image: http://www.lexingtondowntownhotel.com/]

All of Kentucky’s resort state parks are offering delectable buffet-style meals on Thanksgiving so you don’t have to slouch over your stove for a whole week to prepare it yourself. So kick your feet up, stuff yourself full of tasty food, and join other state park lovers to start off the holiday season on a positive note. Use the weekend to camp out in one of these gorgeous parks rather than on a long line at your local Best Buy.

Are you totally convinced yet that you need to spend Thanksgiving and the following long weekend outside? We knew you would be. Make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to enhance your outdoor experience throughout the fall, too.

Pocket Ranger® Video Channel: Yosemite Half Dome Day Hike

Some grey clouds making their way across the face of Half Dome.

An arresting, cloud-obstructed vantage; quite thrilling from down here! [Image: Telegraph Hiking Club]

A recent Pocket Ranger® in-app video features a Telegraph Hiking Club trip up Yosemite’s Half Dome. Half Dome, as you can see above, is a nearly sheer granite precipice that juts about 9,000’ into the sky of the Yosemite Valley, which was once deemed impossible to summit. Indeed, with its dynamic profile and gorgeous locale, Half Dome is easily one of the most identifiable natural features in Yosemite National Park. The 14- to 23-mile challenge is met regularly each year by thousands of bold explorers between late-May and mid-October. The trip is difficult even for seasoned hikers, but is possible because of the work of the National Park Service and certainly the equipment, experience, training, and will of the hikers themselves.

Joey Miller, our intrepid filmmaker and a Telegraph Hiking Club member, has taken the summit of the Half Dome 11 times to-date. Her most recent endeavor was one of the most formidable due to difficult weather conditions that made the surface of the granite especially treacherous. She was able to enjoy success because of a mindful approach and a practiced knowledge of the terrain—along with a fortunate break in the inclement weather. We asked her about the climb, and she imparted some valuable insight for those curious about Half Dome. Some of her quotes are below in italics.

Know Your Limits

two female hikers amid fog at half dome

Telegraph Hiking Club chums scale a foggy escarpment. And how! [Image: Telegraph Hiking Club]

“This was the first time we’ve encountered weather on the Dome. And, if you read the websites or any time you’re training, they’re very clear: If the Dome is wet, you just do not go up. So our plan, because of the weather, was just to get to the sub-dome, touch the cables and, you know, it was a lot of work and preparation, but our plan was just to turn around.”

It takes months of training to even make the base of Half Dome. If you make it, you might be focused on how hard you worked and how much you deserve to take the summit. But you have to consider temperature, precipitation, time of day, and many other factors—you might just feel like something is off, for instance. Listen to what your senses are telling you.

Do Your Homework

“Getting a permit can be very, very challenging. Start looking six months to a year in advance, and make sure you’re aware of what permits are needed and what time of year to apply. It’s usually going to be 4-6 months, sometimes more, before you can do the adventure…And if you can, choose a weekday. It’s much easier to get a permit on a weekday than it is on a weekend.”

The Half Dome preseason permit lottery occurs in March. Half Dome is a very popular destination, and only 300 permits per day are offered through the lottery system to both backpackers and hikers. The National Park Service confirms on its website that your chance of success is higher on weekdays, particularly in September and October. “For the entire season (2013), average success rate on weekdays is 56%, but only 31% on weekends.” This and other information about getting a Half Dome permit is available on the National Park Service website.

Trust Yourself

“We waited at Half Dome, and by the time the last two members of our team showed up, the storm started to clear and a little sun got on the granite. It started to dry pretty fast. Our plan just was to take a couple of photographs and turn around, but it actually felt pretty good…I wasn’t outside of my comfort zone. A woman behind me heard me guiding some people up the rocks and asked if I would take her to the top, and I told her I would take her as far as she could go. We ended up summiting.”

Though testing their limits, they were able to enjoy the summit on a day that might otherwise have been too dangerous by being aware of their personal safety and comfort as well as working as a team. They were lucky to have the sun on their side, too!

“I was a little apprehensive about the Dome this trip just because I’ve never encountered it in weather…But I guess just trust in yourself and trust in that you’ve prepared appropriately. And trust where you are; that you’re where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.”

Two hikers at the summit of Half Dome

“We made it!” they are probably saying as they stand at the slippery edge of the world. [Image: Telegraph Hiking Club]

There’s No Time Like the Present

While summiting Half Dome takes time, planning, and training, there’s really no time like RIGHT NOW to get out and find adventures of your own! With Pocket Ranger® apps, you can access information and resources for all manner of outdoor thrills, including trail details, interactive GPS maps, weather reports, reservations, GeoChallenges, and, of course, the Pocket Ranger® in-app video channel to entertain and inspire your next wilderness excursion.

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