Take a Hike!

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:

  • It's better not to go alone! A lot of things can go wrong when you hike. Bring a responsible friend--and let an adult know where you are going and when you expect to be home.
  • 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.
  • Cotton kills! 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.
  • Ah, technology. A cell phone couldn't hurt. Likewise a small radio. For the cell phone, think about getting a booster to improve reception, a solar recharger, and check to be certain your service will go into the region you visit.

Check out these books and websites 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 CRRL!

Where to Go

50 Hikes in Northern Virginia, opens a new window

Our area isn't completely covered with asphalt and shopping malls! These hikes' terrains vary from the seashore to the mountains. Lists short hikes, long hikes, and hikes where you could camp overnight.

AMC's Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C, opens a new window

A four-seasoned, detailed guide that includes 50 of the best trails to hike in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC.

Skills for the Trail and Forest

The Backpacker's Handbook, opens a new window

An indispensable portable companion for hiking and camping in the wild offers information on different travel conditions, using a map and compass, moving over rough terrain, dealing with dangerous animals and severe weather, finding food and building emergency shelters.

Crinkleroot's Guide to Walking in Wild Places, opens a new window

Crinkleroot the forest dweller gives tips for walking in wild places and avoiding such hazards as ticks, poisonous plants, and wild animals.

Let's Go Geocaching, opens a new window

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, opens a new window

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, opens a new window

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.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail, opens a new window

This grandma from Ohio was one of the first "through" hikers on the Appalachian Trail. She wasn't any kind of experienced hiker, but she had something she wanted to do. And, she did it!

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, opens a new window

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.

The Hike, opens a new window

Three friends go out adventuring together. If you can't go on a hike yourself, this picture book may be the next best thing.

On the Web

Make a Geocache Trail, opens a new window

A geocaching activity from Ranger Rick's website brought to you by The National Wildlife Federation.

A Kid's Wilderness Survival Primer, opens a new window

Serious advice for kids lost in the wilderness = S.T.O.P.-- Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.

Kids' Don't-Leave-Home-Without-It Equipment, opens a new window

"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."