Small tips for new hikers
It’s that time of the year again in Arkansas for many to explore the natural areas around the state. One thing that always stands out when Brandi and I visit areas is that there seems to be an overwhelming number of people that are unprepared. I think the general mindset is that many liken it to walking through their backyard. This entry will be a summary of some things you should consider to help protect your feet, skin, and other items to help make your hiking in Arkansas more enjoyable.
Hiking shoes. I cannot count the number of times we have been somewhere, and people are wearing flip flops or sandals. This is my biggest peeve. Most hikes in Arkansas are pretty rocky. Lost Valley is about the only trail that comes to mind that is paved or pretty well maintained. The Cedar Falls trail is pretty rough on the feet and is a popular destination during the spring and summer months. Hiking shoes, although sometimes pricey, serve a purpose. The soles on them are typically sturdier so that they can absorb sharp rocks better when walking. Inadequate shoes can lead to bruised/sore feet. They also protect your toes. Rocks can fall, you can slip, and you could run your foot into something. A good pair of hiking shoes can prevent a lot of small injuries that could ruin your week. Additionally, they typically have better grip than regular shoes.
Insects. Bug spray is another one that can help. There are many people who hate to use deet based products, but ticks are abundant in the Natural State. There are plenty of deet free products on the market. This past weekend we visited an area, and I probably removed 30 ticks throughout the day. Maybe more. I did not have any spray with me, and I was being eaten up. Typically you have up to 24 hours to find ticks before they set in well, but given the diseases they spread I suggest you remove them as soon as possible. Spray can also help with mosquitos. A lot of the hikes within Arkansas will be under canopies of trees where insects thrive.
Know where you’re going. There are way too many books available in addition to the amount of information available online for anyone to go somewhere unprepared. The popular trails are easy to stay with due to obvious paths and a decent amount of traffic. A lot of trails in the state tend to grow in because not enough people hike there to keep the trails worn. Do not rely on having a cell phone signal. Buy a GPS device and learn how to use it before you leave the house. We have a book that we use that stays in the car. To avoid carrying the book with me, I will take pictures of the pages for quick access on the trail. Study a map so that you have a visual image of what to be looking for as well as how your path should go. For me, I always assume that there will be no signs, no markers, or anything else to help me find where I’m going.
Water. Make sure to carry plenty especially during the summer months. A good add-on to water would be some electrolyte drops. They give you the same benefits as Gatorade/Powerade without all of the sugar. A small bottle is also not that expensive and will last for quite a while.
Sunblock and clothing. Nothing is worse than a sunburn. Given the current state of my hair, I typically wear a hat. So I have to make sure to apply something to my neck, face, and ears to make sure all of that is covered well. If I know that I will be fully exposed to the sun for a lengthy amount of time, then I will also cover my arms. Clothing plays a big role in this also. I wore shorts this past weekend and wished I had worn pants. Now I have a small case of poison ivy, scratches from thorn bushes, and had to deal with way more ticks than I would have if I had worn pants. I highly suggest that you do not wear cotton shirts. Dry wicking shirts are pretty inexpensive now and do much better with handling sweat while retaining heat. Flexible clothing makes obstacles easier to maneuver, especially pants.
Snacks. If your daily eating habits consist of a lot of carbs, then you better make sure you carry some carbs with you just in case your blood sugar decides to bottom out. There are plenty of options available but try to think of space whenever you’re packing. Mixed nuts are a good option that does not require a lot of room. Beef jerky is a good choice as well. Protein bars can also do the trick, and there are many flavors for people to purchase.
My last point is the most important to me. Leave no trace. Everything you carry with you, you carry out. Do not leave trash, bottles, or anything else behind because you do not feel like carrying it back. This happens way too often in our state, and it’s a disgrace. Leaving trash behind is the epitome of laziness. Everyone loves to see the beauty that we have, but it is also up to all of us to take care of our trails. There is no excuse for leaving trash on trails. Most of my friends I know practice this, but it’s always a good reminder to have.