One of the best ways of obtaining wisdom is to learn from other people’s experiences. After one year of taking hiking seriously, these are the tips and lessons I’ve learned.

What I’ve Learned From Taking Hiking Serious For One Year

I’ve always loved the outdoors and the feeling of being outside and surrounding myself with nature. One thing I procrastinated on was doing more hiking. Up until about one year ago, my hiking career was limited to short half day hikes around San Diego County. I hadn’t really taken much time to explore much of the mountainous Southern California area and the only National Park I had been to was Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. That might sound pretty significant, but it’s not considering I grew up there.

One year ago I wanted to take hiking more serious and get out there and explore more. I thought that Yosemite National Park would be a good place to visit. Setting out alone I made the drive from San Diego and set out to do some day hikes through a place I had never been to. Since then I’ve been obsessed with exploring more and more. I’ve learned some things in the last year that I’d like to share. Hopefully this can help other new hikers or those who have been on a similar journey.

Proper Equipment Is Essential For A Good Time

The first hike I set out on was Cloud’s Rest in Yosemite National Park. The peak to this trail sits higher than Half Dome and is around fourteen miles long. The views on the trail are incredibly rewarding, however. What I didn’t have with me was proper hiking gear.

First Serious Hike Aresenal

Among my arsenal for my first hike was gym pants, gym shirt, old gym shoes, a baseball t-shirt, and a thick hooded Volcom jacket. My backpack consisted of a very large school backpack with no built-in water bladder. To carry my camera gear I had a Canon camera bag that came along with the purchase. I also carried with me, way too much food.

I learned a lot on this first hike. I was carrying too much food and too much water. I didn’t realize how hot I would get on the trail (in late October) and I didn’t even use the thick jacket. The camera bag was awkward and got in the way.

Changing My Gear 

Since then I’ve bought two different Teton hiking packs with water bladders. One for short, local hikes, and another for long distance day hikes. Changing the backpacks have cut down on the weight tremendously. I also ditched the camera pack and looked for a hiking pack where I could store a camera in a safe compartment. I also realized that there’s a reason lightweight jackets are expensive – they are light and they still keep you plenty warm. My old gym shoes are gone and have been replaced with a nice pair of trail running shoes.

One of the biggest tips I have for new hikers is to consider the type of gear you have. Changing my gear has allowed me to down my carrying weight. Carrying too much weight not only slowed me down but tired me out way too quickly. Proper equipment really does make the difference of having a good time on a hike rather than having a poor time.

Nature Is Zen

There are some incredible things to witness in nature. Some views are absolutely breathtaking and some trails I’ve been on have been a once in a lifetime experience. My favorite thing has been to share this experience with my fiance. It’s something that adds value to our relationship. I also love the peace and quiet away from city life that hiking offers. Capturing moments in nature on my camera brings a sense of joy and happiness.

Hikers Are Friendlier Than Surfers

You would think that surfers would be friendly towards other surfers. I was wrong. Hikers are so friendly to each other compared to surfers. Surfing can be competitive. Surfers battle each other for positioning in a lineup and can get angry at times. I’d like to compare it to instances of road rage at times. There’s times where surfers will yell, curse, and even try to fight others all for a wave.

Hikers on the other hand are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Most of the hikers I encounter are always saying hello along the trail, not afraid of having a peaceful conversation, or always willing to offer to take your picture.

Know Your Poisonous Plants

Hiking is incredibly fun but it’s important to be aware of potential hazards like potentially poisonous plants. Poison Oak is pretty common in valley and mountainous regions of Southern California. It’s also fairly easy to recognize with a little bit of research. But there are other plants to be aware of and I learned this the hard way. While hiking Boucher Trail and Palomar Mountain Loop I walked into a patch of Stinging Nettle. This tiny plant with green leaves shoots off tiny spicules into the skin that cause hives, burning, and itching. It’s Important to be aware of all hazards from weather, to animals, poisonous plants, and trail conditions.

An America The Beautiful Pass Is Worth It

If you haven’t heard of an America The Beautiful Pass, I highly recommend you look into it. It’s a annual pass with a yearly fee that gives you access to all national monuments, parks, and forests. I bought it around last April and have used it to go to a handful of National Parks. It also works as a pass to all national monuments and forests. I think that just having the America The Beautiful Pass inspires me to use it and check out areas that it’s used in.

The Appetite To Explore Has Grown

In the last year my appetite to explore has gotten even bigger. It’s now a goal for my fiance and I to try to get to as many National Parks as we can get to. I also want to take in as many views and hikes as possible. In the future I’d love to try some small backpacking trips for a couple days and even add Mount Whitney to my bucket list.

John Muir Hated Crowds

John Muir is often looked upon as a pioneer conservationist. His quotes on the magnificence of nature is well documented. Muir was instrumental figure and leader in working to ensure protection for Yosemite as a National Park. What’s not often talked about is his disdain for crowds. Muir wrote on the amount of visitors in Yosemite Valley that they,

will float slowly about the bottom of the valley as a harmless scum, collecting in hotel and saloon eddies, leaving rocks and falls eloquent as ever and instinct with imperishable beauty and greatness.” (1)

Muir also complained about the amount of tourism in Yosemite valley on other instances as well writing,

“As soon as the winter snow melts, an ungovernable avalanche of tourists comes pouring pell mell into Yosemite, flooding the hotels, and chafing and grinding against one another like rough-angled bowlders in a pothole.” (1)

No one can deny Muir’s conservationist work, but some of his quotes scream, introvert at heart.

People Are Disappointing

While a the majority of hikers I come across are completely respectful and happy. There are a fair share of people that make hiking a little less than enjoyable for others. Take a couple of local San Diego hikes for instance: Cowles Mountain and Lake Calavera Preserve. Coweles Mountain is one of San Diego’s most popular trails and it’s not uncommon for cars to be broken into there. Lake Calavera is one of three extinct volcanoes in Southern California. This park is maintained by the City of Carlsbad. They’re nice enough to provide a multitude of trash cans and bags for discarding animal waste. Yet, people frequently leave trash and animal waste along the trail.

Another disappointing thing that people do is blast speakers while on their trail. Not only does it show respect for those that are out there trying to enjoy peace and quiet, it shows a total lack of regard for animals. Animals have ears that are much more sensitive to humans and noise from speakers can be heard from a surprising distance away. The noise causes animals to avoid the area altogether and forces them out of their natural habitat.

Please use common courtesy while hiking and adhere to picking up after yourself. The least amount of impact you can have on the environment, the better.

For other hikers who have been doing this for a while, what are some learning experiences that new hikers could benefit to know? Share them in the comments below.

Sources:

  1. Ogden, K. “Yosemite.” Realkton Books Ltd. London, UK. 2015. Location 1398, 1649.