- Virginia Johnson
Sometimes, it seems like everybody goes hiking and camping in the great outdoors in the sticky, sweltering summertime. Those are the days when the bugs are at their worst, and the heat alone can leave you panting on the side of the trail before an hour is done. For an easier time of it, grab your gear in the spring or fall. Cooler days and mostly bug-free trails make for great hiking adventures, whether by the ocean or in the mountains. November 17 is Take a Hike Day, but any day is a good day to hike.
A hike can be a quick, spur-of-the-moment thing—a great break from a long drive in the mountains. By taking a time out from the cramped car for just an hour, your family can enjoy wildflowers, trees, fresh air, and wild creatures. For this kind of hiking on a well-marked trail, sturdy shoes, some water, and a camera are enough and plenty for a good time, although if you are hiking on a warm day, a little bug spray couldn't hurt!
A longer hike takes more planning. If you want to hike into a wilderness area, eat a meal or two, and camp out, there are safety and comfort issues galore to be considered. Plan on bringing plenty of water along with a cook stove, sleeping bag (and sleeping pad for comfort!), tent, and first aid kit. You'll also need a plan and some extra stuff in case you get lost out there.
Here's a little advice for those longer hikes:
A good night's sleep
Place your tent so your sleeping bag's top (head opening) will be uphill if there's a slope. Make sure you have a nice thick hat and an extra pair of socks so you'll sleep as comfortably as possible on a cool night. When pitching a tent, clear out as many stones as possible so you don't have to sleep on them. Ouch!
But, it won't go away!
Count on rain even if it's not in the forecast. Scotch-guard the tent a day or two before you hit the trail, bring a lightweight rain poncho, and make sure you're wearing something a little sturdier than basic canvas tennis shoes.
Okay, that sounds melodramatic, but it does get soaked easily and doesn't dry off, so if you sweat, and it's cold, the water freezes, and you, too, will freeze. Think about wool and dressing in layers instead.
Wild animals are not your little, furry friends.
Watch them from a safe distance, and take all the photos you like, but, please remember, a frightened wild animal may attack you to defend itself or its babies.
A cell phone couldn't hurt. Likewise a small radio. For the cell phone, think about getting one of those bigger antennas that improve reception, and check to be certain the service will go into the region you visit.
Below is a list of books and Web sites that can give you more information about hiking basics and safety and suggestions for fun things to do while on the trek.
Happy Trails from the CRRL!
Where to Go
50 Hikes in Northern Virginia: Walks, Hikes, and Backpacks from the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay by Leonard M. Adkins.
Our area isn't completely covered with asphalt and shopping malls! These hikes' terrain varies from the seashore to the mountains. Lists short hikes, long hikes, and hikes where you could camp overnight.
100 Easy Hikes: Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Maryland, Delaware by Barbara A. Noe.
This detailed guidebook takes you on the best easy hikes in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware -- all within a three-hour drive of the nation's capital. Includes natural hikes, plus a couple of urban walks that bring the past to life. Each hike is five miles or less and is graded easy, medium, or difficult.
Skills for the Trail and Forest
The Backpacker's Handbook by Hugh McManners.
An indispensable portable companion for hiking and camping in the wild offers information on different travel conditions, using a map and compass, moving over tough terrain, dealing with dangerous animals and severe weather, finding food, and building emergency shelters.
Crinkleroot's Guide to Walking in Wild Places by Jim Arnosky.
Crinkleroot the forest dweller gives tips for walking in wild places and avoiding such hazards as ticks, poisonous plants, and wild animals.
Hiking from the Boy Scouts of America.
An overview of the basics of hiking, what equipment one would need, how to plan a hike, describes desert hiking, trail hiking, what clothes to wear, first aid equipment to take and the like. There is another publication from the B.S.A. on backpacking.
Let's Go Geocaching by John McKinney.
Teaches children how to use a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver in order to find caches, or hidden objects, while out hiking, and to learn orienteering.
Stories to Share with Little Brothers and Sisters
Because Your Mommy Loves You by Andrew Clements.
When challenges arise during a hiking and camping trip a mother could do a lot of things herself, such as carrying her son's heavy pack or putting up the tent by herself, but always finds a way to lovingly teach self-reliance.
Corduroy's Hike by Alison Inches.
Corduroy sneaks into Lisa's backpack when she goes on a hiking trip and has quite an adventure when he gets lost along the trail.
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson.
While his friend works hard to earn the train fare to Fitchburg, young Henry Thoreau walks the thirty miles through woods and fields, enjoying nature and the time to think great thoughts. Includes biographical information about Thoreau.
Sophie's Knapsack by Catherine Stock.
Sophie has a marvelous time when her family leaves the city to take a camping trip. She especially loves seeing all the different animals and plants, all the while hiking and carrying her terrific new knapsack and sleeping bag to Purple Cloud Rock.
On the Web
Get Ready to Hike
Handy guide from the National Wildlife Federation gives essential tips for hitting the trails.
Kids' Don't-Leave-Home-Without-It Equipment
"A few inexpensive pieces of equipment that will fit in your pockets are all you need to make survival and rescue a sure bet and your unforeseen stay in the wilderness a lot more comfortable."