I’ve been hitting the trails for five years now and have heard some myths about hiking that need to be dispelled. I will not disagree that hiking can be a dangerous pastime for a woman. You may break bones. You will get dirty and bruised and cut up by tree branches. Manicures, pedicures, and perfume are all useless entities in the middle of the forest. You will, in certain parts of the country, be eaten by bugs. You will, in other parts of the country, be in the company of rattlesnakes or grizzly bears. Those are the simple truths about hiking. But here are a few untruths worth discussing.
Hiking Myth #1: You have to be really young to start hiking.
Answer: Absolutely false. I didn’t start hiking until I was in my early forties. I always see people at the summits of mountains that tell me they wish they could have hiked up instead of driving but feel they are “too old to start.” That’s when I tell them about the hiking club I used to belong to in which there were people in their sixties and seventies, cancer survivors and heart surgery survivors whom hit the trail several times a week and kept in excellent physical shape doing so. Wow, I guess I don’t have any excuse not to hike, some say, seemingly convinced. But hold up, doesn’t hiking equipment cost a lot of money?
Hiking Myth #2: Hiking is an expensive hobby.
Unless you plan to backpack, which is different than hiking in that you are usually spending days going from point to point and are carrying everything you need on your back, a minimum of equipment is needed to be a day hiker. I have the following equipment: three backpacks of different sizes, trail shoes for shorter hikes, boots for longer hikes, and poles, which help if you have bad knees. (I do.) Having comfortable socks that stay up is a must as is a rain jacket just in case, though I have to admit that I’m a fair-weather hiker and rarely get caught in a storm. A hydration pack for longer hauls is great, though I know a lot of hikers that still carry bottles of water. I also carry a small supply bag in case of injury because I almost always hike alone.
But wait, a woman can hike alone?
Hiking Myth #3: Women can’t hike alone.
I started hiking with a club but found it to be too restrictive for me. I was always going too slow or taking too many pictures for the tastes of others. Now I hit the trails solo, go my own speed, and take as many pictures as I want. I might not take as many risks as I would if I was with someone, but I’ve now hiked in twelve states, eleven National Parks, and a few foreign countries too. Because I go it alone, I’m always tucked into my own bed or a hotel room by dark.
Which brings up the final myth I’ll cover:
Hiking Myth #4: You can’t see anything in a day.
I’m not someone who is all that interested in sleeping in a tent, so I’ve mastered the art of being a day hiker. Backpackers might tell you that you won’t see the best of everything in a day, but take my word for it: a day hike of even a few miles will have you seeing things that ninety percent of the population is never going to experience. Use your favorite search engine and type in “best day hikes” in the area that you plan to hike. You’ll be surprised to find that there are many hikes you can do by sundown that are the best hikes around, no tent required.
You’re never too old or too broke to hike. You can be successful at it without anyone’s help, and you only need a day to do it. Now that those myths are dispelled, are you ready to pull on those new boots?