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We’re hot for hiking!

Summer hiking tips
Post-hike soak in Kimsey Creek on our Standing Indian weekend.

Tuesday at lunch I headed to a favorite local wild area for a two-mile hike. Five minutes in and I was a glow: my eyes stung with sweat, my shirt stuck to me, I’d even collected a cobweb or two. Ah, the return of hot weather hiking. 

I love a good hike in the heat. In large part that’s because not everyone else does. Head out on a day when the temperature’s in the upper 80s, as it was Tuesday, and there’s a good chance you won’t see another soul on the trail. But the summer forest is a whole other world: it’s teaming with life, yet it’s oddly quiet. It’s the best time of year to find a secluded spot and plant yourself for 15 minutes and quietly observe the world around you.  read more

Take the fear out summer stream crossings

Just because summer arrives Thursday (at 6:06 a.m.) and the temperature this week already has hit the mid-90s doesn’t mean we’re going to stop hiking. We’re just going to adjust our approach. We’re going to make sure that, for the next three months or so, the majority of our hikes include one of two things:

  1. Water
  2. Elevation

Today, we focus on the former. Specifically, on the sometimes traumatizing prospect of hiking a trail with creek crossings. Creek crossings that don’t have bridges, and sometimes don’t even have a decent rock-hop crossing.

A stream with no bridge or obvious rock-hop crossing can be intimidating to the unprepared hiker. Just the thought of getting your feet wet and continuing on in soggy boots seems capable of raising blisters. Fortunately, most rivers can be easily forded. Here’s how:

=&0=&. If you know you will be dealing with multiple crossings in a short span, slip into a water shoe. Keens (or anything that’s similarly constructed) are ideal, with their closed toe and firm fit. Old running shoes also work, though they don’t dry as quickly. If it’s just a crossing or two, walking across in hiking socks (preferably wool) provides a bit of protection to your feet and improves grip.

=&1=& Your balance crossing water is greatly improved if you have trekking poles or a hiking stick: three or four points of contact beats two. Probe with your poles/stick, plant firmly, take a step. If you don’t have poles or a stick, you can often find one leaning against a tree or rock at the crossing.

=&2=&Don’t be hasty, it’s a several step process:

  • First, check the opposite bank and see where the trail resumes. Often, the direct line across is where you’ll find the logical crossing, but not always: water levels in particular can impact the best place to cross.
  • Check to see if there is a viable rock-hop.
  • Generally, the widest spot in the river — where the water is often shallower and the current not as strong, is the best place to cross. 
  • Look for a worn path headed either upstream or down. Odds are it leads to a preferred crossing.
  • In general, slow moving water shouldn’t be above your thigh, fast moving above your knee. If it is, scout upstream and down for another location. 
  • Look for large rocks or other obstacles in the stream; they create an eddy (slow moving water) behind them, making for a good spot to rest and catch your breath before continuing on. 
  • read more

    Hot times on the trail

    As the days heat up, you might be tempted to cool it on your hiking habit. But, actually, you can hike all summer long — the secret lies in the when and where. Here are a few tips to keep you on the trail. 

    =&0=&. Evening is good. So is early morning: Hit the trail at 7 a.m., be done by 11 and you can get in a decent hike before the temperature gets much above 80.

    =&1=&. One concession you might make is the length of your hikes. If you love a good 10-miler in winter, maybe a 5- to 7-mile hike is more appropriate in hot weather.

    =&2=&. Select trails with high canopies: leaf cover can trim about 10 degrees from the heat. Also look for trails with minimal understory to allow better access to whatever breeze may be available. 

    =&3=&. Trails that are wide, preferably double track, provide superior air flow. And on early morning hikes, you’ll be less likely to Swiffer up a raft of spider webs.

    =&4=&. Especially at lower elevations, hike along water. If you start to heat up, shed the hiking shoes and wade in, and splash a little over your head and neck.

    =&5=&. In summer, cotton can be your friend (for the very reason it is your enemy in winter): Cotton absorbs sweat and keeps it close to your skin; on hot days, this works as a personal air conditioning system

    =&6=& Of course you’re carrying water; make sure your water is cold. If you use a hydration pack, fill the bladder with ice, then water. If you use bottles: the night before, fill them 3/4 full and put them in the freezer, then top off before heading out. If you’re going for 5 miles or more, take an electrolyte drink (or water stir-in) to replenish your body with vital minerals including sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. 

    =&7=&. Stop, drop, and rest if you have any of these symptoms: you sweat more than usual, you have muscle pain or spasms, you feel nauseous or dizzy or get a headache, or have any of the heat-released illness symptoms you’ll find listed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention link below. Take further action as noted at the CDC site. 

    =&8=&. Things that fly and bite and spread rashes are a few of our least favorite things about summer hiking. But if you plan ahead and prepare, you can make them a little less pesky. See our handy link below.

    =&9=&. Hike in the mountains! They’re cool in more ways than one. We have several trips planned this summer. Come join us: 

    Our cool summer hikes

    Here’s where we’ll be keeping our cool on the trail this summer:

    Peaks of Otter (basecamp hiking)
    Standing Indian (basecamp hiking)
    Linville Gorge (base camp hiking)
    Linville Gorge (backpacking)

    South Mountains State Park read more

    Five Great Tips for Fall Hiking

    The lower temperatures and splendiferous colors of fall will entice many of us to take longer ventures into the woods in the coming days. This is a wonderful thing, but we want to remind you of a few things that will make your hike more enjoyable.

    =&0=&. Do not look at a 10-mile hike as a crash diet, or crash you will. Just last week, one of our hikers suddenly went weak. Turns out that, in addition to a few other conspiring factors, she’d eaten only a fig bar for breakfast and had only a 16-ounce water bottle for a 5-mile hike in 85-degree heat. Calories are key to getting you down (and up) the trail. And we’re not talking HoHos and Ding Dongs, but the nutrient-rich calories found in whole grains, fruits, and nuts. Have a good breakfast, then pack up a lunch and healthy snacks.
    =&1=&. In lower temperatures, when we might not sweat as much, we might think we don’t need as much hydration. Not true! Not drinking water is the fastest, surest way to stall your engine, even on a cool fall day. Some more modest hikers might be averse to drinking water because they don’t want to pee in the woods. But, you should embrace the idea that you’ll be ducking behind a tree once or twice a hike. It’s biology, people.

    =&2=&On June 28, the sun set at Umstead State Park in Raleigh at just past 8:30 p.m.; by the end of August, there was sunlight in the park past 8 p.m. Today, less than a month later, the sun sets at 7:04 p.m., and we’ll lose more than a minute of sunlight a day. The sunset creep sneaks up on you. Before determining a start time, check sunset, figure out your estimated hike time, build in some cushion, then set your start time. And pack a headlamp, just in case.
    =&3=&. This weekend, our GetHiking! Classic Escapes crew is visiting Mount Mitchell. In preparing our trip guide, I checked the weather and discovered that fleece should be on our packing list: the temperature will barely top 50. This time of year, it can reach 80 degrees one day, then only 55 the next. Checking the forecast before heading out is especially important this time of year.
    =&4=&On fall weekends, several state parks post a similar advisory: expect a wait for parking — if you can even get in the gate. (Crowders Mountain State Park is even planning to shuttle hikers from nearby Gastonia.) If you really want to visit a more popular park, check out lesser-known access points to avoid the more crowded parking areas (links below). To ensure that you get to see the color you’re stalking, check out websites where groups monitor fall color (links below).

    Stay well and enjoy your autumn hikes.

    Happy trails!



    =&0=&: 5 Food Tips for Hiking and Camping from EatRight.org cover the basics. Click here. WildBackpacker offers a more in-depth look into nutrition, here.
    =&6=&=&7=&If you’re curious about why hydrating is so important, WebMD answers most of your questions in The Quest for Hydration
    =&9=&: Find sunrise and sunset times near you, here.
    =&10=&. To check on lesser-used access in North Carolina State Parks, go here, for Virginia State Parks, go here.
    =&3=&. You probably have your favorite site for checking the forecast (we prefer

    WeatherUnderground.com read more

    Hydration: A word about your drinking problem

    With temperatures throughout the region expected to flirt with the 100 this week, it’s a good time to talk about your drinking problem.

    As in, you don’t drink enough.

    And in this heat especially, that’s a problem.

    Here are some quick FAQs on staying hydrated:

    =&0=& The Mayo Clinic says that for everyday survival, men need to consume about three liters (13 cups, three Nalgene bottles) a day, women 2.2 liters or nine cups. Bouts of exercise that make you sweat demands another 1.5 to 2.5 cups (roughly half a liter). Prolonged exercise — hiking, for instance — requires even more. How much, says the Mayo Clinic, depends on how much you sweat. On our hikes, of anywhere from 3 to 10 miles, we recommend you take two liters of water. (On longer hikes, we take a water filter.)

    =&1=& Yes, says the Mayo Clinic, but usually only altitudes above 8,200 feet, which rules out anything in our region (Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet, is the highest point east of Souther Dakota’s Black Hills.) You’ll also want to drink a little more on an especially humid day.

    =&2=& “The basic guideline for most people is that if you are doing continuous exercise for 60 minutes or less, then water is fine,” Suzanne Girard Eberle, sport dietician and author of “Endurance Sports Nutrition,” tells The Washington Post. “But beyond 60 minutes and if the intensity is high, you should consider a sports drink.” Sports drinks include electrolytes, which help regulate nerves and muscles; carbohydrates, which help restore glycogen, sodium and potassium levels, as well as water. On a long hike, it might make sense to have one bottle filled with water, and one with a sports drink. And don’t flinch when you see the sodium levels: replenishing depleted sodium (as well as potassium) is crucial to keep you going — and to keep you from cramping.

    =&3=&No. Start the day before — even earlier — if you know you’re going on a long hike, especially on a hot day: your cells can absorb the liquid. And continue to drink and rehydrate after the hike.

    =&4=& Are you not thirsty, or do you have no desire to drink tepid water? Our solution: If you use water bottles, fill them three-quarters full the night before your hike and stick them in the fridge. Then, just before heading out for your hike, top ’em off. You should have tasty cold water for a couple hours at least. If you use a hydration bladder, load the bladder with ice, then top off with water. If water sits in your tube long it will heat up; you may have to spit it out to get to the cold stuff. Also, according to Girard Eberle, cold water is more easily absorbed into the stomach

    =&5=&If you’re drinking enough, you will have to pee. That’s good. If you have a thing about peeing in the woods, well, we have a support group — talk to us. And when you do pee, make sure it’s clearish. If it’s obviously yellow, you aren’t drinking enough.

    So drink up! You got a problem with that?