Editor’s Note: This is part four of a introduction to day hiking series.
So you’ve selected the hike and are prepared. Time to hit the trail!
Getting to the Trailhead
Get all your gear in one place the night before, clothes and everything. I put everything in the middle of the living room, packed and ready to go. This helps you not forget anything.
Tell someone where are you going — be precise and remember there are numerous places in the ADKs with the same name. When should the person know you are back? When should they call for help? Sending it via email/text messages is a good idea so long as you get a confirmation reply.
Check the weather one last time before leaving. Pay attention to temperatures and precipitation obviously, but also how the cloud cover, cloud height and wind will change throughout the day.
Knowing wind will help you determine if you want to eat on the summit or during a break on the hike up a mountain. Knowing if the clouds are dense or low may make you reconsider that hike up the mountain, sense you will have not view, and opt for a remote pond. Morning cloud cover typically breaks up during the morning. Make a note of when this is expected.
Hit the Trail!
Register: Once you make it to the trailhead, sign the log at the trail register (used for emergencies and trail usage statistics) and suit up.
Pace: You and your group (your surely not going alone right!) should walk a comfortable pace. Faster hikers in a group should stop and smell the roses so not as to get too far ahead. If the group is heavily mixed in ability, the faster hikers should carry all the gear (or as much as possible) to help even the pace.
Etiquette and Other Hikers: You will undoubtedly find other hikers on a popular trail. Be sure to smile and say hello, though do not expect a conversation. It is commonly agreed that when encountering hikers from the opposite direction, uphill hikers have the right of way if they want it. That does not always happen since a passing hiker is a perfect excuse for a quick break when hiking uphill. When two hiker meet going in the same direction, the front hiker should let the faster hiker pass at the next reasonable spot to do so.
Expert Tip: If you are coming upon a group from behind, they will likely will not know you are behind them. I always make a bit of extra noise when about 30 – 40 feet out so they turn and look – boot on rock (not dirt – causes erosion), talking with my hiking partner, etc. It gets the hiker’s attention without being obnoxious or startling them. Etiquette says you should always leave some space between the groups. If they do not allow you to pass (and know you are there) ask to be let by.
Breaks: Stop as a group often, particularly when hiking uphill. Make sure you stop long enough so that the last person to arrive gets a break. The faster hikers (less tired) should have water and snacks ready for slower hikers. Take your time, it is a journey, not a race.
You made it to the top (or into a remote pond). Congratulations, not take some time and enjoy it. Don’t be in a hurry to leave. If the weather is nice and there are no crows, take a nap…literally! Be sure to eat and drink.
Return Hike: Start your way back to the car. Take your time if descending a mountain. It is far easier to hurt your self on the way down than up.
Sign Out: Remember to sign out when you made it back to the trailhead.