It’s amazing how people’s differences fall by the wayside when you’re hiking in the woods. By in large, everyone is in a good mood! Here are a few helpful tips and suggestions that can make hiking and walking public trails, state parks, national parks, wildlife preserves, lakes and forests a wonderful experience for everyone.
Take it at your own pace. The outdoors is energizing and new places are exciting to explore. Just remember to take your time to build up some endurance for hiking. Start with some shorter trails and see how that feels. It’s all about having fun and being part of something that’s bigger than yourself.
Be courteous to others and wildlife by keeping your music to yourself. If you play music while hiking or running, please use ear buds or headphones so that others can enjoy the peace and solitude of the forest.
Along the same lines, it’s polite to others to keep your voice low if you must talk on the cell phone…unless you need help. If you need help and you’re shouting, then that’s okay.
Enjoy your hammock but don’t hang it across a trail. Seems like a no-brainer, but it happened to us once. We couldn’t get down the main trail or past the hammock unless we went under it with someone in it. Are you kidding me? Uh, wrong…just wrong.
Right of Way on the Trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way. Sometimes a hiker going uphill may stop to take a rest and let you go by, but that is at their discretion. When you need to pass someone from behind, always announce your presence with a simple hello. In fact, we say “hello” to everyone we meet! It’s best to always stay on the trail to help prevent erosion, even when passing others. When you’re hiking in a group, always hike single file or make sure you’re never taking up more than half of the available trail. When a group meets a single hiker, it’s often easier for the single hiker to stop, step aside and let the group go by.
On trails shared with horses, the horses have the right of way. Give them a wide berth and don’t make abrupt movements or loud noises on approach or as you pass. Horses are easily spooked and have a tendency to run uphill, so on narrow trails it’s best to get off the trail on the downhill side and let the horse have the higher ground.
On trails shared with mountain bikers, the hiker has the right of way. Having said that, bikers are usually moving much faster than hikers and may not see you until the last minute, so you need to be very aware of your surroundings when sharing a trail with bikes. If a biker is coming towards you huffing and puffing up a hill, it’s considerate to step aside and let them go by. And because they are usually going much faster than we are, we always step aside and let them by.
Unless you have a permit to fish or hunt, please don’t remove any living thing – animal, insect or plant – from the trail, wilderness area, park, etc. Most state and national areas are pretty clear that it’s illegal to do this, but please don’t do it and try to keep your kids from doing it…teach them well. Not only does it disrupt the ecosystem of the area, but transporting a plant, insect or animal out of its native environment to another place and planting or releasing it can cause a huge problem. If it happens to be an invasive species, it can result in killing other native plants, animals and birds.
Pack out your trash and your dog’s trash. I remember a time when every street, highway, waterway and walkway in this country looked like a huge litter pile. Then there was a national campaign to stop littering. And it has made a huge difference. Let’s not go backwards with this. Please, don’t litter, period. No one will come along behind you and pick up your plastic water bottle, food wrappers or used doggie business bags even if you tie them to a visible limb or prop it up on a stump.
Watch your step. This means walk carefully and take your time. Be aware that there are slippery slopes and surprised creatures out there. Pace yourself, look around and walk carefully. If a snake is crossing your path, stand back and let it go. It’s more afraid of you than you are of it. If you’re planning to hike or walk in an area known to have a high rattlesnake population, be aware of your surroundings and familiarize yourself with rattlesnake habitats and protocols before you go. Likewise if you’re in an area that is a habitat for bears, and particularly in cub bearing season, educate yourself on various bear protocols. Bear bells can also helpful.
State and National Park Passes…get one! We had already paid a lot of money to enter parks and park the car before finding out that most states have a yearly pass that is much less expensive. If you are a senior (65+), you can get a National Park pass for a song that is good for the rest of your life for free entrance and parking, as well as other discounts, in any National Park in America. What a deal!