Things every hiker should remember

Considering the state of Earth’s climate, I am struck with appreciation for the natural world now more than ever before. Getting to experience different climates and landscapes is one of the aspects of traveling that I look forward to the most. I credit my travel experiences with igniting my love for the outdoors, and I am convinced that one of the best ways to combat ignorance and apathy regarding global warming is for people to experience and learn about the natural world.

Last year, outdoor recreation corporation REI started the social media movement #optoutside, in which they encouraged people everywhere to put down their phones, close their laptops and do exactly what the slogan says. Since then, I’ve seen the hashtag multiply across platforms like Instagram and Facebook. People are eager to share their outdoor experiences, and so am I.

Hiking is among my favorite things to do while traveling. Regardless of the climate or location, there’s always a feature of the landscape to experience. I enjoy hiking because, compared to many other sports, it requires minimal equipment and is a great way to see the beauty of this planet firsthand.

Although many of my best memories are from hiking trips, I’ve also had a number of uncomfortable experiences as well. Thankfully, these haven’t been without gain, as I sincerely believe that I’ve learned and grown from every experience on the trail. In my opinion, these are the most important lessons I’ve learned from hiking:

Embrace adventure.

One of my favorite hikes that I’ve ever done took place at five in the morning. Though I was initially reluctant about scrambling up a mountain before a full day of work, there was nothing like looking out over the Atlantic Ocean as the dawn turned to day. Safety should always come first, but don’t be afraid to say yes to new adventures.

Be conscientious.

In order to continue to enjoy our state and national parks, we must take care of them. Littering on federal land or disturbing wildlife or vegetation can result in penalties and fines. If you’re camping, clean up after yourself. If you’re hiking, be respectful of other life forms on and around the trail.

Wear the right footwear.

Before you leave for any hiking trip, you should always ensure that you have the right shoes. While tennis shoes are perfectly acceptable for many easy day hikes, backpacking trips that scale cliffs and canyons often require hiking boots to reduce the risk of slipping and increase ankle support. Having the right shoes for the hike will increase your comfort considerably.

Look around.

Rife with sweat and blisters, there are few that would argue hiking is easy. When the miles you’ve put on or the elevation you’ve conquered starts to climb, it’s easy to long for nothing more than for it to be over. But there’s a reason that we hike– to actively experience this planet. Look around you, and remember how fortunate we are to get to see some pretty spectacular views.

Photos by Laura McGlynn