Hiking Happy: Top Tips from Naturalist Jenny
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or still need to get some miles on your boots, it’s important to know the basics so you can hike happy. Naturalist Jenny Richards from Shawnee State Park offers a little insight about hitting the trails.
I’ve been lucky enough to work at Shawnee State Park for the past 11 years as a Naturalist. It’s an awesome place to hike and I really take advantage of the expansive trail system for my programs.
Throughout late fall and winter, I use sections of the forest’s 60-mile Backpack Trail for long strenuous hikes in the cool air. It really helps shake the cabin fever that sets in when the days are short and skies are gray.
In the busy spring and summer months when the park is hopping with visitors, many of them being families with younger children, I tend to use the shorter easier park trails.
Whether it’s a short or a long hike, it’s an adventure. And it’s always important to be prepared! Here are a few things that I recommend for those of you who want to hit the trails anywhere in our State Parks:
Check the weather. Know what the conditions will be like and dress accordingly. I recommend dressing in layers, especially in the colder months.
Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good tread and ankle and arch support. Thick hiking socks also help keep the moisture away from your feet. Avoid flip flops, high heels, and dress shoes– they have their place, but it’s not on the trail!
Bring a backpack of supplies. You don’t need anything fancy, a simple over-the-shoulder school pack will do. Include first aid supplies (band-aids, sting ease, sunscreen) and changes of clothing (socks or shirts).
Pack water and snacks. There’s nothing better than taking a rest out in the wilderness with your favorite snack and a cold beverage. Use reusable bottles and snack containers to reduce waste, and ALWAYS carry out your trash!
Take a map of the area. It’s always good to know where you are and how you got there, especially if you get lost or confused.
Stay on the trail. Leaving the trail is best way to get lost. Also, staying on the trail allows you to respect the natural environment by avoiding trampling any plants or animals in the area.
Pay attention to signage. Most paths are color-coded to help you find your way in and out, especially at intersecting points. If you’re taking the blue trail, follow the blue markers!
Avoid slippery rocks and steep embankments. Slippery rocks can swoop out your legs and take you, painfully, to the ground. Slippery rocks near cliffs, drop-offs, or embankments can lead to falls resulting in serious injury or worse, so take care!
Know what’s around you. Be aware of the plants and animals you may encounter, knowing about your surroundings really pays off to keep you safe and maximize your enjoyment!
Now that you know the basics, I encourage you to get into the woods and explore the nature around you. Sit next to a babbling brook, watch and listen for birds returning from their winter homes, enjoy wildflowers or just sit quietly and see what happens.
If you’d like to hike with me in the park or forest you can find a copy of my program schedule at the Shawnee State Park web page. I’m always looking for new friends in the forest!
What are some of your hiking tips? Share them in our comment box below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
You can also follow Jenny on Facebook to see more of her pictures and get updates about her programs!