October 27, 2013

How Do I Start Hiking?

There are many resources to help beginning hikers. The internet is an excellent resource for clubs and meetup groups organized specifically for hiking. Other ideas include clubs named for a specific hiking trail or geographic region, classes or events organized by a local sporting goods store, and don't forget our wonderful state and national parks. 

As a beginning hiker, I was fortunate enough to find a group of women who enjoyed hiking weekly at a local wildlife management area with easy access to trailheads. After catching the “hiking” bug, I wanted to hike more than once a week so I started looking for other groups and new trails. Someone mentioned alltrails.com. I subscribed to their weekly email which provides trail suggestions based on your location and hiking experience, plus a list of local hiking events. I participated in some of these events and learned about groups and organizations such as the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, Benton MacKaye Trail Association, and Meetup groups. It may take you some time to get connected with others who love to hike, but be patient and continue to search.    

Here are some helpful resources for beginning hikers:

1.  Alltrails.com was very helpful in finding local events and learning about new trails. 

2.  The American Hiking Society is a great resource.

3.  The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club is a very organized group. There may be such a group in your state. 

4.  There may be a hiking meetup group close to you. 

5.  State parks offer organized events which include hiking. 

6.  The Benton MacKaye Trail Association offers organized hikes. Perhaps there is a regional trail in your area with a similar association. 

7.  National parks have clubs which maintain trails and offer connections to area hiking clubs.

8.  Cities such as Chattanooga have numerous festivals like the River Rocks Festival which introduced me to an area hiking club.

9.  REI , the closest outdoor recreation outfitter to me, offers classes and events specifically for hiking. 

10. If you live in an area with lots of hiking trails, surely there are regional hiking clubs such as Mountain High Hikers.

Mountain High Hikers at the Miller Trek trail near Young Harris, Georgia.

Chattanooga Hiking Club at Walls of Jericho near Scottsboro, Alabama. 

Georgia Appalachian Trail Club at the Len Foote Hike Inn near Dawsonville, Georgia. 

Tennessee Wild Meetup at Sunset Rock atop Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Chattanooga Hiking Meetup at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park near Atlanta, Georgia. 

There are many wonderful clubs and groups to help in your hiking journey, and I hope that the resources provided in this post will  help you "Keep On Hiking." 

October 20, 2013

Be Kind To Your Feet

Whether you’re hiking 5 or 15 miles, your feet are the most important body part in getting you to your destination. Having the proper footwear, sock liners, and socks are essential so that your feet will outlast the hike. While there are many great brands on the market, I’m sharing my favorites.   Please note that I haven't been paid by any of these companies to market or recommend their products.   

Since I frequently hike two days in a row, I like to alternate between footwear so I own two pair of hiking boots, one pair of hiking shoes, and one pair of sandals.  The decision on what to wear is based on length and terrain of the trail.  

The Vasque Breeze 2.0 Mid GTX Hiking boots for Women.  I like these boots because they are higher on the ankle, offering great support when hiking on rough and rocky terrain.  Here is what Vasque has to say about their boots:  "This durable women's hiker features a waterproof nubuck and air mesh nylon upper with a protective TPU plate; the GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane ensures protection from the elements. The Arc Tempo Last provides powerful toe-off and enhances agility over technical terrain. The dual-density EVA footbed and molded EVA midsole absorb shock and lend support. The Vibram® Contact outsole  grips into the terrain with aggressive high-traction lugs for added stability."  

The Keen Gypsum Mid Hiking Boot for Women.  These boots are also waterproof and offer great toe protection which is important on long hikes as your feet and toes tend to expand.   Here is what Keen has to say about their boots:"Follow the trail farther afield in the Gypsum Mid, an all-terrain boot built with the technology to take you there. Featuring a wide, 4mm lugged outsole, a KEEN.Zorb strobel and KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane, the Gypsum Mid delivers the stability, comfort, and moisture management needed for overnight hikes and winter ascents."

LET'S MAKE SURE WE'VE LACED OUR BOOTS PROPERLY.  Here is a video from hikinglady.com that will surely save you a toenail or help prevent heel blisters.

I also own a pair of Salomon Ellipse Aero hiking shoes.  According to Salomon, the shoe offers “athletically inspired details and specific fit to make this lightweight hiking shoe ideal for women who like to move quickly in the mountains." 

For stream crossings, short hikes, and driving to and from hikes, I own a pair of Keen Newport sandals.  They are waterproof, have good tread, arch support, and protect your feet and toes on rocky stream crossings.  According to Keen, the Newport is the foundation of the Keen footwear line. Designed to perform in the adverse conditions of a marine environment, the razor sipped outsole and 3mm lugs provides excellent traction both on land and on the slick surfaces of boat decks or river rocks." 

If you only own one pair of them, I highly recommend the Injinji Coolmax Toe Sock Liners. These sock liners are one of the best ways to prevent blisters when worn underneath a hiking sock.  Each toe is seamless so there is no chance of rubbing and they also wick to ensure your feet stay dry in your boots or shoes.  According to Injinji, "the LINER toesock is extremely thin and intended to be worn as a base layer sock paired with your favorite outer layer.  Your feet don’t need to be running or hiking to deserve the best sock treatment. "

There are many brands of hiking socks, but I love the SmartWool Cushion Hiking socks.  They wick moisture away from your feet, are very durable, and fit well.  They are also soft and comfortable, and unlike other wool hiking socks, they aren’t scratchy! 

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!   Please share your favorite brand of hiking boot by commenting below.  The next time you head out on the trail, make sure you are kind to your feet so you can "Keep On Hiking".

(Photograph courtesy of Patricia McAlpin.)

October 13, 2013

Leaf Peeping and Hiking

Fall is prime hiking season mainly due to the mild weather. I love to hike any time, but Fall has many advantages including the colorful fall foliage, cooler temperatures, and fewer insects swarming about, with the exception of pesky yellow jackets.

To help you plan some great leaf peeping on the hiking trails, here are some of my favorite trails:

No. 1 - Hickory Creek in the Cohutta Wilderness  near Crandall, Georgia. 

Locating the trailhead is tricky due to navigating 10 miles of unpaved forest services roads just off U.S. Highway 411.  I recommend purchase of this guidebook before venturing out on trails in the Cohutta Wilderness.

Hickory Creek is a moderate trail of approximately 6 miles "in and out" to Bray Field.  It is less popular than some of the other trails in the Cohuttas, but just as scenic.    

A good portion of the trail is on a former rail bed which was used to harvest timber in the early 1900's.  Even though 70 percent of the timber was harvested between 1915 and 1930, oak and pine trees have now reclaimed the forest along with a rich growth of hardwoods.  

No. 2 - Pinhoti Trail, Section 7, High Point to Mack White Gap near Summerville, Georgia.  

The High Point trailhead is easy to find off Highway 100 south of Summerville, Georgia.  The trail is best hiked as a "shuttle," meaning transportation at both trailheads.  Here is more information on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail.

The trail is easy to follow and blazed with the official "turkey track" logo. 

The Pinhoti National Recreation Trail is 335 miles and starts at Flagg Mountain near Weogufka, Alabama and ends at the Benton MacKaye Trail in North Georgia's Cohutta Wilderness. 

At almost 3 miles into the hike, you enter a gravel forest service road on the top of Taylor's Ridge.  If you include the side trip to this communications tower at High Point, the trail is 10 miles in length and considered moderately strenuous.   

The view from High Point overlooks Lyerly.  Here is the guide to the Pinhoti Trail in Georgia.

No. 3 - Old Mill to the Reservoir at Berry College near Rome, Georgia.

Not only is the Old Mill a popular tourist destination, it serves as the trailhead to the Reservoir which is a two-hour "in and out" hike.  Fall is bow hunting season, so be sure to check here for updates on trail restrictions at Berry.  (Photograph courtesy of Joel Lieberman.) 

The Reservoir is part of Berry's water system and was a gift from Henry Ford in 1928. Here is more information on the reservoir.  (Photograph courtesy of Berry College.) 

No swimming or fishing allowed.  (Photograph courtesy of Berry College.) 

No. 4 - Cloudland Canyon, West Rim Trail near Rising Fawn, Georgia.

The West Rim Loop Trail is 5 miles and is moderate to strenuous in difficulty.  

The trail is easy to follow and blazed in yellow. 

The West Rim Loop Trail is one of the most scenic hiking trails in the nation and provides magnificient views of Cloudland Canyon.   Here is more information on Cloudland Canyon State Park. 

Cloudland Canyon is a great destination for hikers and leaf peepers. 

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the upcoming Fall foliage. It will surely inspire you to "Keep On Hiking." 

October 6, 2013

Why Use Trekking Poles?

When I was a beginning hiker, I didn't use trekking poles and quite frankly didn't think I needed them. Who wants to look like Jane Hathaway on a birding adventure? Not me, but since I  have the short hair like Jane, why not use trekking poles?

Below is information from the outdoor equipment retailer, REI, on the advantages of using trekking poles:

They provide better balance and footing.

On downhill hikes especially, they decrease the amount of stress on your legs and joints. (Photograph courtesy of Beth Hemann) 

On uphill climbs, poles transfer some of your weight to your shoulders, arms and back, which can reduce leg fatigue and add thrust to your ascents.

They make crossing streams, loose rocks and slippery surfaces such as ice and snow patches easier and safer.  (Photograph courtesy of Patricia McAlpin)

They help you establish a walking rhythm. 

They can push back overhanging vegetation from the trail and probe soggy terrain for holes and boggy spots. 

If you would like to learn more about trekking poles and how to select them, here is the article from REI.

Whether you choose to use trekking poles or not, I think all hikers agree they make better photographs as evidenced below.  

(Photograph courtesy of Rhonda Bulman) 

(Photograph courtesy of Patricia McAlpin) 

(Photograph courtesy of Patricia McAlpin) 

Glad that I made the decision to use trekking poles, so I can "Keep On Hiking" and I hope you will too!