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Hiking. Why You’re Probably Doing It Wrong!

Congratulations! Your curiosity and succinct Google word search has brought you to  me, Shiri Greenwood, your Pacific Northwest expert hiking guide.  

This article will discuss various hiking trails and help you find the perfect hike. 

Whether you are looking for the best local trails, gear-head packing advice, or the ways  in which hiking is a totally hip method of self care, your girl has you covered.  

As I tell the zooglial map that is my Kombucha “mother”, I’m going to nurture the hell  outta you and pave the way for your success, but then it’s up to you to thrive.  

Nature is Calling 

Have you skipped through the woods, nary a thread on your body, only to feel the cool,  open breeze on your tits (you too, guys)?  

When was the last time you took to the trail? A pack on your back, a hydration bladder  full of water, and half a pound of trail mix that’s really just squirrel food but, fuck it, out  here you feel like king squirrel. 

There’s no greater feeling in the world, just ask the multitude of famous hikers who  spend their lives committed to traversing great heights.  

If you can’t quote it, does it really exist?  

A famous hiking quote by Henry David Thoreau quoted in an 1862 issue of The Atlantic states, “I think that I cannot  preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is  commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields,  absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” 

And let’s not forget the famous quote from Aussie mountaineer Greg Child; “somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the  mystery why we climb.”  

I mean, I didn’t even think there was a mystery but this guy’s out here solving it! 

And are we even hikers if we don’t have at least one of these quotes tattooed on our  bodies? I, for one, have both.  

Hiking For Health & Happiness 

Times are tough.  

Mental health is on a steady decline, physical health is getting harder to keep up. The  couches are comfier and the tv shows are more addictive. It’s no easy feat to convince ourselves to get outdoors, but now more than ever it’s imperative we understand the effects this sedentary lifestyle is having on our bodies; and minds. 

Hiking characteristically forces you to work on your cardio, blesses your lungs with a dose of highly concentrated oxygen and gives your body a break from the pollution of the city.  

The benefits of hiking are almost endless. Hiking has also been proven to strengthen your immune system, reduce blood pressure, increase energy, release endorphins, even reverse the effects of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and arthritis.

Here is a fun fact. Did you know hiking is a natural alternative to drinking milk when it comes to promoting increased bone density and slowing the rate of calcium loss?

That’s right; save the environment and strengthen your bones! 

Listen, I shouldn’t have to sell you on how great hiking is for your body and mind. You  know how you feel after spending the day outdoors, away from your smartphone and  the bustle of life.  

You feel great.  

So if you don’t trust me or the doctors, trust your body. 

You can truly fall in love on the trail. In love with yourself. Cue cheesy aaawwws. 

History’s Mysteries 

The history of hiking dates back to religious treks in the 1400s through the Andes by people in the Inca Empire.

Much of the Oregon Trail was laid down by trappers between 1811-1840. And emigrants began the trek across the tumultuous terrain during the Westward Expansion to the wild Pacific Northwest. 

There are still areas of the Oregon trail that you can explore by foot, such as Keeney Pass, named after one such trapper; Jonathan Keeney, who pioneered the trail in 1831.  

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest isn’t as rough and tumble as it  once was.  

We have the knowledge and, more importantly, the high-tech, heavy duty, best that  money can buy gear to protect us and keep the sport of hiking a passion, not a  necessity.  

In fact, in this day and age, there is no reason a Pacific North-Westerner shouldn’t be  hitting the hiking trail.  

I think it’s more of an obligation than a privilege, like voting, am I right?  

Just Start Hiking

Do you know how many people live their entire lives never experiencing the  breathtaking views and mind-numbing glory of hitting the peak on the highest point of  the best Oregon coast trail?!  

Me either, but rest assured it’s a lot!

There are a helluva lot of people who live in flat, boring terrain, with nary a mountain in sight. And here we are, sitting at the head of hundreds of incredible PNW trails and we’re still like, hmm, maybe I should go to brunch instead

Do yourself a favor and stop making excuses!

Anyone can do it. Whether you are an incredibly experienced hiker; say someone who completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail like your girl Shiri here, or the cutest little newb who ever tried on a hiking boot.  

That’s what makes hiking the perfect sport, its inclusivity. 

Where, Oh Where, Will Your Perfect Hike Be?

Spoiler alert, there is no bad hike, so get that right out of your head. 

There’s being out of shape, inclement weather, and poorly fitted gear, but blaming the trail for those things is like spanking a kid for stealing a cookie. It’s not their fault, it’s just the nature of things.

In nature, especially in the Pacific Northwest, there are endless possibilities for choosing a hiking trail. If you’re new to hiking; or were unfortunately born outside of the Pacific Northwest, you might find picking a place to start a little daunting. 

Don’t worry I’m here to help! Below I’ll point you noobs in the right direction and even point out a few spots on the map that you can get started with today!

Multnomah Falls 

For all of you outsiders who have travelled to Portland, you will have likely visited at least one of the three main attractions. I’d guess Powell’s Books, Stumptown Coffee, or Multnomah Falls. 

While the first two are splendid choices; in fact I have an email out to Stumptown about carrying my homemade Shiri’s Kitchen Kombucha ( fingers crossed ), this article is focused on hiking trails for both beginners and experts alike. As such there’s really no better place to start with than with the famous Multnomah Falls. The tallest waterfall in Oregon and the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States

At 620-feet, this spectacle is open year round and offers a base of the Falls hike as well  as a trail all the way to the top.  

I have hiked Multnomah Falls in the dead of winter and it was absolute heaven to see the ice covered river and snow-topped trees. It didn’t take more than a pair of winter boots, warm pants, and gloves to comfortably enjoy the experience.

While the hike from the foot of the falls to the top is a pleasant one, you may be in the  mood for a less touristy feel. In that case, I encourage you to try out the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop which is 6.05 miles long with an elevation of 1,525 feet between its highest and lowest points.  

This loop provides the breathtaking views of Multnomah Falls at the start, while  venturing into less populated trails that provide solitude amongst the forest, full of  basalt cliffs, smaller waterfalls, and cascades. 

Shiri says. If you are new to the area this is a must visit, but anticipate being one of the only Pacific Northwesterners as you enjoy the sights alongside overdressed tourists from Los Angeles, rude New Yorkers with superiority complexes, and social media influencers from God knows where teetering on the edge and stomping the life out of endangered plants with their off-trail poses.

Mirror Lake

Within Mt. Hood National Forest there is a heavily-trafficked hike with a spectacular view of Mount Hood and similar hike circling Mirror Lake creatively named; Mirror Lake Loop. 

Be warned, you won’t ever have the Mirror Lake Loop to yourself.  

While there is great snowshoeing in the winter months where you may experience more  peace and quiet, generally this is a high access spot that hard-core hikers don’t  consider a challenge.  

Located near Government Camp, this trail is low-elevation and a perfect hiking trail for late Spring/early Summer due to the great swimming, picnic spots, and clear view of Mount Hood. 

The water is serene and pairs perfectly with a Northwest brewed hard cider and kayaking with my dog, Rogue. 

Please note if you live here for any amount of time and do not have a blow-up kayak it’s probably painfully clear to your friends you have no idea what you are doing with your life! 

Oregon Coast

While the Oregon Coast may not boast great swimming or sane surfing, the coastline is a vision constructed from the iris of Mother Nature herself. 

Without a doubt, if you are exploring the Oregon Coast, you should not miss some of the great hiking trails in the area.

Sunset Beach to Necanicum Estuary 

The Sunset Beach to Necanicum Estuary is an enjoyable, long-distance hike, starting at the Sunset Beach Recreation Park outside of Seaside and ending in Gearhart. 

This is a moderately difficult hike, but the main thing here is the mileage. She’s a long trek, clocking in at about 12.6 miles. It is a must-do for wildlife enthusiasts, as the trail enters the habitats of many shore birds, and the Necanicum Estuary is a nesting area for the Snowy Plover.  

These are a great start to the countless coastal trails to explore. Give it a hike and mark it off your little travel passport with self-satisfaction. 

Tillamook Head

Located between the towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach, Tillamook Head is an almost ten mile hike through protected wilderness with incredible ocean vista views.

Also along the trail one finds views of The Tillamook Lighthouse and World War II bunkers. Take your dad, I’ve no doubt he’ll find it thrilling.

Crater Lake 

The deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake is a flawless, slightly terrifying pit of  pristine water resting in a dormant volcano. 

Depending on the time of year, hikers will run into an apocalyptic amount of mosquitos. It is actually quite terrifying and almost threw me off my trail game. But, after a half mile walk down the trail, the clouds of mosquitoes part, as if stopped by a hidden curtain of DEET. 

Other than the easy hike to the lake itself, there are numerous other hikes of  varying difficulty to explore in the surrounding Crater Lake Wilderness. 

The above hikes are, literally, just the teeniest-tiniest start to the wonderful world of  hiking in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve really only added them for visitors, because I’d be surprised if you call yourself an Oregonian and haven’t been on any or all of these hikes. 

A Safe Trail Is A Happy Trail

This is getting exciting. Because now that we’ve got some awesome ideas for where to  start on the hiking journey, and believe me there’s much more where that came from,  now we can delve into the important, life-saving shit, the goodies and the goods. 

I didn’t always start out as the queen of the Pacific Crest Trail. I started out just as green as you; maybe even more. 

There’s no shame in feeling trepidation about starting something new. So I’m going to start at the basement level and work my way up, just so I don’t scare you off.  

In the Zone: What to pack in our pack.

I highly recommend zone packing. It’s an efficient three zone packing technique that maximizes the backpack’s potential while prioritizing the items within in order of importance and necessity.

Going through the zones helped me organize my life for the Pacifc Crest Trail, but it also works for simple day trips.

Bottom Zone

Here are bulky items/things that aren’t needed while hiking.

If camping, this zone is where items like sleeping bags and thermal clothing will be stored. The Bottom Zone holds goods that aren’t necessary until a camping spot is reached and camp is ready to be set up.

It is important to add supplies like a well folded tarp, in case an emergency shelter is needed. Also include in this zone the insulation layers. If a storm hits the trail, there may not be an opportunity to start a fire and the insulation blanket will be a godsend. 

Core Zone

This is the midsection, put the heavy stuff here, it balances out.

The Core Zone will house fire supplies like matches and flint. Also store any cooking supplies like a small propane tank, stove, and your food stash, not snacks.  

Hydration supplies will be kept here as well, but more on that later. 

Top Zone

Picture it: you’re hiking a trail, you’ve veered around a steep switchback but you’ve  veered too fast and didn’t anticipate that gooey patch of mud just under your foot. You  slip, ass over elbow, and land hard, with a mighty gouge in your arm to prove it. 

Thank goodness there are so many important items in the easy to access Top Zone. 

This is where the First Aid kit will be stored, fully stocked with antiseptic wipes, blister cream, butterfly bandages, antibacterial ointment, ibuprofen, and other important items.  

Snacks go here, easy to reach for those hangry trail moments. Add a light rain jacket and toilet supplies such as T.P. and a bag. 

Badger Tip: When packing, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

How Much Does A Gallon of Water Weigh?

8.34 lbs. That’s how much a gallon of water weighs.

There are approximately 3.78 liters in a gallon of water and each liter is about 2 lbs.

It’s incredibly important to maintain appropriate water intake to avoid dehydration. That’s why it is recommended that a hiker drink one liter of water for every two hours of a hike.

Personally, I think hydration should be the number one focus, because even if you’ve never suffered from dehydration, just think about how you felt after a night of heavy drinking — like your guts were human jerky being dried on a hot rock under the sun. 

How Much Water Do You Need To Hike With?

So, total transparency, math isn’t my strong suit. But let’s take a moderate six hour hike  on the coast in 70 degree weather:

6 hours ÷ 2 hours ( 1 liter every 2 hours ) = 3 liters we need to drink for this hike. 

Ok, we’re doing great.

1 liter of water = 2 lbs

3 liters of water x 2 lbs = 6 lbs!

You need to plan on carrying three liters; or about one gallon, that will weigh  approximately six pounds. 

If you are having trouble visualizing three liters let me help. You can plan on packing the equivalent of six PBR tall boy’s! For our readers; six paperback books, or; for the foodies out there, two standard size bags of onions.  

Now that I have painted you a picture; plan on packing the right amount of water and know how it will feel in your pack.

Also, be sure to check the weather, as hot days will require more water. 

Best Way To Pack Water On A Hike

There are options when it comes to packing water. It is valuable to take the time to choose the maximum efficiency of the water supply.

Hydration Bladder

I personally love hydration bladders because they have a straw that attaches to the shoulder and is easy to access without stopping.

They are also better for the environment if the other choice is a plastic water bottle. ← OMG Please don’t. 

Portable Water Filter

These work well for hikes near a body of freshwater. Portable water filters are great because they are incredibly compact and are successful in straining out some, not all, bacterias and microorganisms.  

Don’t ever think that water is potable just because it’s pretty! Microscopic impurities that cannot be tasted or seen may contaminate water. So even if water appears clear and clean, don’t trust that it is. Sometimes the prettiest things can be the most deadly. Just ask my ex. LOL

Portable Water Purifier

It may behoove the germaphobes and virus nuts to look into portable water purifiers, which tend to target smaller bacteria and viruses that manage to sneak past simple filters.

When it comes to gut health, no precaution is too extreme. And when it comes to hydration, proper research and preparation is the sign of a smart hiker.

Mountain Lions & Bears & Snakes & Poison Ivy, OH MY!!! 

Ever had that dream where you’re walking in the woods and you start to slip, but you catch yourself just in time by putting your arm in a bush full of poison ivy?

Whew, thank goodness it was just a dream! Or was it?

In the rough and tumble world of hiking, that shit can be a stark reality. As fun as packing up and hitting the trail is, there are inherent dangers involved. Mother Nature can be a cruel lover.

All you have to do is pop on an hour of David Attenborough to know that nature and the animal kingdom don’t give a damn about your feelings. 

Preparation is the Key to Success

The best way for a hiker to protect themselves from hazards on the trail is mental preparedness and carrying the right tools.  

We’ve discussed dehydration, which is within our power to control.  

Less so are cases of snakes on the trail, bears lurking about, poisonous plants hiding  in plain sight, ticks that fall down the back of your shirt, flash floods…like I said, Mother  Nature is a righteous fright. 

Snakes

This isn’t the old days of uncharted territory. If someone has run across a snake on a  trail, it will be recorded, so read up on the trail. 

Since you are probably not accustomed to hiking or the outdoors at all, I don’t assume you are knowledgeable in snakes, so you should assume it’s poisonous. Don’t touch it, don’t rush it, just give it space. 

If you do get bit, it’s not likely to be fatal, but obviously utilize your first aid kit and wash the area with soap and water and apply neosporin. 

Bears

When hiking in bear country, pack bear spray, avoid wearing scents or perfumes, and don’t leave gear unattended because bears love a good pantry raid.  

I avoid hiking at dawn or dusk because bears are most active during those times. And I hope you at least know to never run away from a bear. 

Ticks

Ticks are common in the wild, and tweezers are a small but crucial item to pack for easy extraction in case you do wander into a heavily bushed area rife with ticks. 

Unless it’s very hot, I wear and tuck long pants into my boots so that there’s no skin  exposed. This is helpful to avoid access to spiders, ticks, snakes and other ankle-level  dangers.  

It also keeps my skin away from what is, in my opinion, the greatest scourge of the trails — 

Poison Oak and Ivy

While these poisonous plants are important to other wildlife, they are the ultimate killers  of a good time for weeks after exposure.  

The oils from the plant genus Toxicodendron can penetrate the skin in minutes, making it crucial to pack Isopropyl alcohol in a first aid kit if hiking in areas where these plants thrive. 

Washing the area with the alcohol as well as soap and water may help stop a rash from  developing, but it is imperative that you burn your clothes when you get home.  

At least, that’s what I’d do! You do what you want LOL. 

A good way to avoid contact with many of these hazards is to stay on the trail.  There’s danger in trying to forge your own path, so stay the course. 

Evening Hikes, Day Hikes, and Weekend Hikes 

This section explores a few options for different times and days of the week in order to give a clearer idea of just who and what a hiker may experience. 

Evening Hikes 

When planning an evening hike, it is smart to hike a familiar trail because the elements will be different and possibly more dangerous than in broad daylight. The evening will be cooler and the wilderness will be wilder than ever.  

Pack the essentials plus extras like a warm layer, headlamp, extra batteries for the lamp, and trekking poles.  

This is not overkill, evening hikes are inherently riskier. Plus trekking poles make great crutches — just in case. 

Additionally, consider that the human eye takes upwards of 20-30 minutes to adjust to the dark. So if you hit that peak just in time for sunset just know unless you’re spending the night, you still have to hike down.

Saddle Mountain

One of the most glorious sights I have witnessed was a sunset crest of Saddle Mountain, a basalt outcropping that is the highest peak in the northern portion of the coast range

Saddle Mountain is a beautiful, high elevation, 4.5 mile hike that offers a trail dotted with wildflowers and Noble firs stretching to the sky. It is a continuous climb, but there are many areas to pull off and rest if necessary  

Enough with the fear of darkness. Face those fears, open your ears to the sounds you can only hear at night, and always stay in the middle of the trail

Day Hikes 

The ability to wake up at 11 a.m. and decide to go on a hike is one of the perks of living in the Pacific Northwest.  

When you live here you should want to blend in, and feeling at home at the foot of any mountain is the first step. And if you aren’t, please stop calling yourself a local, because you are a glorified tourist.  

Invest $30 in a Northwest Forest Pass, available at any Ranger Station and some outdoor stores. This way there is nothing stopping that perfect day hike!  

And speaking of… 

Wahclella Falls is a 2.0 mile round trip flat hike culminating in a killer waterfall.  

Oneonta Gorge was one of the wettest day hikes I’ve been on in a minute. Prepare for some icy submerging because this one mile round trip hike veers into a stream, a narrow gorge, and over a log jam.  

The Monte Carlo-Monte Cristo Hike is located in White Salmon, Washington, and is a 5.8 mile hike that nets views of the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades and is a prime destination for wildflower enthusiasts. 

Weekend Hikes 

Hiking is a part of the culture in the Pacific Northwest. Along with beards and flannel,  hiking is just something that we all do if we aren’t lazy posers.  

Considering the traditional work week of Monday-to-Friday, assume that most trails will be packed on Saturday and Sunday.  

Children

To avoid running into kids on the trail, I suggest choosing a higher difficulty level hike, one that a parent would be crazy to try and do with a kid. This is not a guarantee that there won’t be the occasional hard-core parent who saddles the kid up a hard one, but on the weekend, it’s the best bet to avoid the shrill half-human squeals of a child. 

If you have kiddos and want to explore an awesome hike that will knock their socks off,  I recommend the Johnston Ridge Boundary Trail North of Mt. Saint Helens. It’s a 4-mile hike with only 400 feet elevation and the visitors center overlooks the volcano’s 1980 blast zone.  

Weekend Warrior

On weekend and overnight trips, plan for all possible weather turns.  

Take the time to research the area and the trails to know if it’s necessary to pack extra insulation or special first aid items, and to have the correct amount of food and water.  

The worst idea is to go in underprepared. No one wants to have to go in and save you.  

At the same time, when packing for weekend warrior-ing, remember that everything carried in will be perched on your back, and that everything you pack in you’ll need to pack out.  

So leave the books, take the flask. 

CAMP HERE:

Three Sisters near Bend, Oregon provides breathtaking views, lava fields, and alpine meadows and  streams. This is the perfect area for a weekend trip.  

Camp Lake from Pole Creek Hike is a 35 mile loop by hiking up between the South Sister and the Middle/North Sisters. It leads through undeveloped trails at a higher elevation, and is harder to find fresh water so pack accordingly. 

Aaayyy. Don’t be a Dick. 

It isn’t difficult. I promise.  

Even though our social media feeds are inundated with videos of Karens and Kevins  being major dicks all around the country. Even though we’ve had nothing but dick-like  behavior pouring out of the highest offices for years.  

On the trail, being a dick could hurt or kill someone.  

We are in the wild to escape the burden of everyday life, and so we should all want  what is best for our fellow hiker.  

If you must be an asshole while wobbling around, I encourage you to visit Disneyland. Your people are waiting. 

The National Park Service has a wonderfully polite website with sweet suggestions on  how to maintain a happy hike for you and others. 

They are a good deal nicer than I’ll be.  

Pack It In, Pack It Out

I shouldn’t have to say this, because even Boy Scouts, tiny little boys who are barely yet people, are taught the importance of keeping their refuse out of nature’s can. 

This goes for every little thing you pack in! On the trail, there is no one to pick up after you so pick up your trash, all of it. 

If there is an outhouse on the trail or at the trailhead, use it. It’ll smell like Golgothan the  Shit Demon, but it’s better than risking contaminating water sources and will minimize  the possibility of spreading disease by doing your biz on the trail; and no one wants a repeat of 2020!

That said, on longer hikes or overnights, bring a bag to pack out used toilet paper, and appropriately bury or bag feces. 

Think about how it feels to see dog shit on the sidewalk. Not cool. 

The most common thing left behind is food waste and water bottles.  

It takes a banana three to five weeks to disintegrate. A cigarette butt sticks around two to five years. And a plastic six-pack holder has a life expectancy of 450 years.  

Think about Snow White’s friends limping out of the trees to greet her with their head in  a holder hole, mouth full of cigarette butts, slipping on a banana peel.  

You think about that. 

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires… 

Smokey the Bear knows his shit. There are things out of our control that cause fires, but mostly, we have the power to preserve forests for ourselves and future hikers, if only we are aware and not stupid. 

As many as 90% of wildland fires in the US are caused by people as a result of campfires left unattended, burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and pure human-scum arsonists.

A part of the fun of setting up camp after a good hike is the fire to rest our feet at. But  this is a privilege, and it is important to follow proper guidelines concerning fires.

  • Follow the regulation that is set in the area.
  • If there is a fire ban in the area it is because the risk is high. Don’t be an asshole and decide to do it anyway. Bad news, smokey bears.
  • If there is a fire pit, use it. If not, build one out of rocks.
  • Use the matches packed in and make sure to fully extinguish them when used.
  • Look around for firewood. Don’t pack in firewood because using what is in the forest eliminates risk of outside wood that may be detrimental to the area. 
  • Watch the wind. Those beautiful sparks that soar into the sky are thousands of tiny matches waiting to light the woods on fire with the right wind gust. Remember, you  are lighting a fire in the woods, everything is kindling. 
  • Put it out properly. This is a consideration for overnight hikes. Plan on using water to full extinguish fire at the end of the night.

Following these rules may save an entire forest from being burnt to the ground.

No. You may not shoot your guns. 

It isn’t obvious, apparently, that shooting guns in the woods is a big no-no. I would think it would be very obvious, but I underestimate the love affair that people have with their guns. So I’ll keep this short and sweet.  

You don’t know where in time and space another person is on your trail. It is not the time to have a hootenanny yeehaw, skittle-di-do-good time with your AK-who-gives-a shit or your Bolt Action Big Boi Rifle. Hiking is not the time for hunting. Don’t bring that weird compensating shit to the trail!

Short-Cutting is for Assholes. 

Trails have been cut for hikes. They are developed by people who plan efficient and safe  hikes, and minimize the damage done to the natural habitat of plants and wildlife. 

Some steep mountains or hills have what’s called a “switch-back”, which is a trail that  moves in a zig-zag pattern which protects the trail from excessive erosion. 

“Short-cutting” is what assholes do when they think they’re above the rules.  

Hiking is about the journey, not the destination, and “short-cutting” is ignoring the  switch-back trail in an attempt to get to where you’re going quicker.  

This is bad trail etiquette that kills vegetation and speeds up erosion which will  eventually cause the trail to be un-hikeable.

Again. Don’t be that asshole. Nobody is impinging on your freedom by asking you nicely to stay on the trail.  

Love on the Trail 

Ah, romance. It’s great, everybody loves love.  

And hiking is a wonderful idea for a date, as long as you’ve fully vetted the person and  know they aren’t a psychopath. You will, after all, be in the middle of nowhere.  

I think there’s nothing more stimulating than a long hike with a lover. Plan on the extra  weight of that bottle of champagne (pack it out!), bring that flannel blanket, oh so good.  

BUT—  

If I see your naked asses humping away on the hiking trail I will not hesitate to  designate you unfit for decency, take your picture, and put it on the internet.  

There is a time for everything, choose wisely. 

Shaming is Good 

On the hiking trail, shame can be a great motivator. So if someone tosses an aluminum can, tell them you saw, make them pick it up.

If you come across a group of boys lighting firecrackers and throwing them into a  canyon, yell at them the way your Grandma did when you put your fingers in the pie.  

When an influencer ducks under a do-not-enter fence to get pictures in a wildflower  field, feel free to take their picture and tell them you’ll be posting that online along with  the stats of all the wildlife they’ve murdered by being selfish.  

Shame can be good. You just have to know how to use it. 

Dress for the Hike You’re On. 

This isn’t a day at the beach. I’d understand lookie-loos up from Cali who think flip-flops and shorts are perfectly fine hiking attire. But this is the Pacific Northwest. 

The weather here is unpredictable and moody.  

Even a day at an Oregon beach requires thoughtful consideration of what to wear,  because the weather channel is not always accurate. 

Hot Hike

My favorite season is around Spring and Summertime because of the blue skies and fresh air. But there is also sweltering heat, blistering sweat, sporadic rain showers, and terribly uncomfortable boob sweat.  

An experienced hiker has a greater understanding of their body and how it reacts to hiking in the heat. I choose my clothing as carefully as I can while keeping all of those issues in mind. 

Above the Neck

A brimmed hat is imperative when hiking in the sun. Even in the shade of the forest the strong rays of the sun can get through and burn the scalp. 

Sunglasses help keep the harmful rays out of eyes. 

Always apply and reapply sunscreen to the exposed parts of you including your face, ears and neck. 

It’s 2020, the year of the plague, so I advise carrying a mask. A buff (or neck gaiter) is easy to quickly pull over the nose and mouth when passing other hikers. 

Below the Neck

Wear a shirt that feels comfortable under your heavy pack. I’ve found that synthetic shirts — polyester or nylon — work best for me because they allow ventilation, along with a breathable, wicking undershirt and strong sports bra.  

Some people may prefer shorts on these hikes, but every part of the body that isn’t covered will be exposed to the sun, backpack straps, the whipping tendrils of branches, and those pesky snakes and ticks.   

Don’t forget that the PNW is full of surprises so it’s a good plan to pack a light  windbreaker or rain gear just in case.

Cold Hike 

Layering is a blessing when planning a hike in colder temperatures. Choosing what to wear on a hike will be determined by the research of the trail and the weather. 

Keep in mind that layering is perfect for hiking because it allows the versatility to remove layers as needed. As a hiker gets warmer in their layers, they are able to stop and strip off bits as needed, so they aren’t sweating their asses off in a cocoon of fabric.  

To start off, pack a fleece or wool hat and lightweight gloves with insulated liners. 

A mask is all the more important, not just for the safety of others, but also to protect the face from icy winds. 

It is also an option to pack snow goggles and microspikes, but the need will depend on if the hike is in higher elevation and in the snow.  

From there, work into layering. 

Base Layer

This layer sits closest to the skin and helps keep the body dry and chafe-free. It may include long underwear and fabric that wicks moisture away from the body. 

The base layer is important during cold weather hiking because the energy expended will cause the body to sweat, and it is imperative to avoid hypothermia by keeping moisture away from the body to avoid chill and maintain body heat.

Mid-Layer

The mid-layer insulation can include one or more of the following:

  • Fleece jacket
  • Insulated vest
  • Softshell jacket 

Outer Layer

For the outer layer, which is the first line of defense against the elements, choose a puffy waterproof jacket with good insulation. Take time when purchasing this jacket, as it will provide the versatility that is needed for a good cold-weather hike. 

Over the base layer long johns, choose water-proof and wind-proof pants with zippers up the sides to provide ventilation.  

I have found that layering works best as I tend to be a sweaty hiker and have dealt with being unprepared to stripping down when the air warms up. 

The answer to perspiration is preparation!

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

This area deserves special attention, as the footwear a hiker chooses will make or  break their hike. 

Boots are a hiker’s most important purchase and should consider comfort, durability,  stability, weight, warmth, and water resistance.  

I recommend finding a boot fitter to help with the perfect fit so that the process is done correctly the first time. There are countless sporting goods stores that could help with this, or try a hiking specific store, as they can provide a more hiking-focused fit.  

There are different types of boots depending on the degrees of intensity of the hike, but since I doubt I’m talking to advanced or even competent hikers, I’d like to focus on a basic boot fit. 

The Fit

Look for a snug fit at the heel with wiggle room in the toe box.  

Take into consideration that feet swell during a hike and so there needs to be room for the swell while still ensuring that the heel stays in place, avoiding a floating heel, the  cause of most blisters. 

A bad fit can lead to blisters, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, and other equally painful  issues. These things are avoidable but require time and testing out several pairs.  

Concentrate on the material of the boots as the wrong material may force the foot into a hot-box with no ventilation.

While I prefer high-cut boots because they provide the maximum balance and ankle support, ankles come in all shapes and sizes, and no boot is one size fits all. If the high-cut is too binding or tight on thicker ankles, try for a mid-cut, which still provides support and debris protection without crowding the ankle. 

Try on the boots with the same socks that you’ll be hiking in, and keep in mind that the  socks you choose will also have an effect on your comfort within the boot. 

Don’t skimp on buying boots. This is an investment into the health of your feet; they need love and care if you want them to carry you over rocky terrains. 

Sexy Hiking? 

Did you know that there is no federal law banning nudity in the Federally owned U.S.  Forest Service? I didn’t, but I never thought to ask. 

There are people who have begun to embrace going au natural on the nature trail. It is a risk, as there is still the possibility of being ticketed for indecent exposure if a ranger catches someone in the buff, but for some, that risk is worth the reward. 

Living in or around Portland, you may have witnessed the Naked Bike Ride. Once a year throngs of nudies on bikes pedal through downtown in all their exhibitionist glory. 

Naked hiking appears to be an extension of that desire to rid oneself of protective gear and challenge oneself to ultimate vulnerability.  

Maybe you have a deep-seated fantasy to hit the trail in all your glory. I won’t begrudge  you that pleasure.  

Just please, wear sunscreen. 

Hiking with Dogs 

Dogs tend to have massive amounts of energy.  

Hiking is a brilliant, bonding way to expend some of that energy while exploring new  terrain. A dog is probably bored of the same four block walk, so what is more exciting than the new and interesting smells and sights of the trail?! 

If a dog is well-trained, there is no greater joy than taking them hiking.

Be aware that the health and fitness level of a dog will determine the types of hikes they will enjoy, as opposed to those they will endure. They can’t tell us when they are hurting, so making sure that they are properly trained is imperative. 

Don’t expect that he will be able to pick himself off the couch and hike ten miles no problem.  

Hiking with a pup is an inexpensive way to beat the doldrums. Without shipping the dog off to an expensive day care to hike alone, his company on the trail can be wonderful for all spirits involved. However, there are trails that don’t allow dogs, and getting caught breaking the rules can lead to a pretty hefty fine.

It is also good to have a dog’s alertness and intuition on the trail, and can help a hiker hone their own internal alarm bells.  

The health benefits of hiking will also be provided to your dog through hiking, helping cultivate a strong heart and bones, possibly extending his life span! 

Pup Packing 

Packing for two holds wholly different issues than packing for one. Luckily, there are some great hiking packs for dogs that can help them carry some of their own supplies. Plan ahead and have the pup wear the pack around the house for a few days to acclimate. 

Water is just as essential on the trail for dogs, and they will need clean water to drink,  so pack a collapsible water bowl and enough water for two.  

Expect to take about 50% more than their usual food portion for the day, as the energy they expend will need to be replenished. 

Speaking of energy, watch the dog for signs of fatigue and be sure to rest when  needed. If they’re limping or panting extra hard, check the body for any splinters or cuts and be sure to offer water. 

There are booties made to protect the paws, but, as with the pack, plan on giving the little guy time to get used to them before hitting the trail. 

Always properly identify the dog, ideally with both a tag and a chip. He’s a good boy, but he’s still a dog, and if he sees a squirrel he may just dart off into the wilderness.  

Pick up every poop along the way. It is a hike-ruiner to step in dog poop on the trail and very bad hiking karma. Pick up the poop.  

Your good boy or girl is an animal, and you want to be aware that other animals may be interested in your animal. There’s no telling how your dog will act when they come into contact with a big cat, so prepare yourself to protect your animal as he protects you.

Yes, leashes matter.  

Bring a leash. This is the don’t be an asshole doggie edition. Just because you think your dog loves everybody it doesn’t mean everybody loves your dog.  

People are on the trail to enjoy themselves, and like it or not, seeing an unleashed dog  careening down the trail is pretty terrifying.  

I love dogs, especially my dog Rogue, but I was bitten across the face when I was a kid  and still have that gut reaction of fear when a strange dog bounds at me. 

Consideration is key on the trail. Keep your dog on a short leash, this ensures other hikers that you have control of your dog and are not relying on them to avoid a problem. 

Be sure to keep your dog on the trail, as he can trample wildlife or be exposed to ticks  and ivy plant oils if he is allowed to wander in the higher grass.  

It will be up to you before you ever hit the trail with your dog to make sure that he is  properly trained and ready for the challenge. 

Summary 

Well, newbie, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the pull.  

Do you feel it? The magnetic pull of the path. The come-hither call of the trek?  

Are your feet itching to get fitted into the perfect boot? Are your legs tingling, desperate to start the climb to your next heart-pounding obsession?  

You are ready for it, friend. With the guidance I’ve given you, you are more ready than  you’ve ever been to respond to the call of the wild.  

So get out there. Climb every mountain, crest every peak.  

You’ll thank me for it later.  

If you’ve enjoyed this article then please subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll see you on the trail.

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