I’ve never really been a hiker. I’ve always been a walker. Hiking sounds kind of hard core to me. But at 53, I felt like it was time to get an active hobby. Something to get me, and keep me in shape. Something I would really enjoy. I searched around and tried out some of the local hiking trails on my own. I knew I’d rather go with a group, but didn’t think I had the stuff for an actual hiking club. Initially, I found some clubs online, but the members were younger and the hikes tended toward the more difficult. I kept walking on my own, sticking with popular trails where I was assured of seeing other people. I thought of it as practice, conditioning in order to get myself up to speed for an actual group. I found that I generally walked a mile in 15 or 20 minutes, or about 3.5 miles an hour. I was walking for an hour, which meant 3 miles, with no problems at all.
After a bit more web searching, I came across a group for hikers over age 50 in my area. Better yet, it specifically said the hikes were “recreational”. Perfect. But I still felt nervous about the prospect of joining the group and actually committing to hiking 5 or 6 miles with a group of people I didn’t know at all. I was familiar with one of the locations the group had hiked previously, so I decided to take a practice walk by myself. One beautiful sunny Saturday, when I knew that many others would be on the trail, I hiked the entire 6 miles trail by myself. Then, I signed up for my first hike with the hiking club for people over age 50.
For others new to hiking, start by going outside and walking. Maybe take a drive first and figure out a one, two, three, four and five mile course. Take a walk and see what you can do comfortably, and what you can do if you push a bit. Walk alone, with your dog, or with someone else. From my experience, I can always do more with the group than I thought I could.
· Take a practice walk prior to your first hike with a group. If you can do it without the group, you’ll be more confident and at east with the group.
· Get yourself some actual hiking shoes. I bought a pair of Timberland hiking shoes at the outlet for $30 and they have served me well so far. You absolutely must have some good comfortable hiking shoes.
· Bring a bottle of water, an apple and maybe a granola bar or some nuts. Fanny packs are still “in” with hikers. Nobody will make fun of you and they are actually very comfortable. Some people bring small back packs. Personally, I travel light, with just my apple, water and phone in my pockets.
· I know it’s important to hydrate, but if you down your water too soon, you will have to pee and there may be no place to go. I go very light on the water during the first half of the hike. I tend to limit the water intake until I know we are on the way back, and close to the bathrooms.
· Bring an apple. The apple is my secret weapon. I eat that at the half way point and it keeps me going. You will never enjoy an apple so much as when you are out on a hike.
· Talk to people. Connect with at least two people on the hike. You will be much more likely to stick with it, and you will have a much better time if the hikers become your friends.