©2017 By Anne Marlowe
After almost 30 years of marriage, I found myself forced to make a new life on my own terms and to create a new me.
Hmmm who was I? Well, I had been a wife and mother most of my life and had interests revolving around four kids and a husband. Homework, church, horse lessons, raising chickens, running a family business, hunting,4-H, countless hours spent making sure everyone was happy and all that goes with raising competent people. I never tried super hard to keep my own identity or interests. Who had time for that?
After my divorce, I spent months in a friend’s spare bedroom in a new city trying to make sense of Anne. I call it my WTF year. I existed. I healed. I made new friends. I began to create a new life, and in part, I did it by hiking. In doing so, I have learned some valuable lessons about myself, the mountains and life.
In the three years, I have been seriously hiking, my friend Mike Martino and I have made over 30, day hikes, probably closer to 40. I don’t consider myself an authority necessarily, but I am certainly an experienced enthusiast now. Most of our hikes are hikes from 7-12 miles all over the Colorado Rockies.
There are common sense things like carrying snacks, water, mapping out your trail, letting people know where you are going and so forth. If you don’t know much about these things, there are oodles of places to get that information.
Here are some of my ideas for a great day of hiking.
Paramount to having a good time is finding someone to share the experience with and it adds to your safety.
Mike is an experienced hiker and has taught me a lot. He is always encouraging but challenges me too. There have been a couple times I wasn’t sure I would make it up a trail or over a huge rock slide and patiently he has always made sure I have. We learned quickly that we had similar hiking likes and desires and are a little competitive. We haven’t had a bad day hiking…ever.
Is your prospective hiking partner similar in fitness and endurance to you? Mike and I are in our early 50’s. We have a few pounds we need to shed, and both like a good beer and burger after a particularly tough hike.
Does your hiking partner like to take their time or is covering a long distance in a short time their goal? We both take hundreds of photos along the way. I probably have 200 photos of Columbines alone. I have learned I am a pretty good nature photographer which is a bonus. We may not make super long hikes, but that isn’t important to us. We prefer to take our time and really enjoy our surroundings.
Know where you are going. Seems pretty obvious.
We don’t go into huge detail mapping things for days, we have a pretty good idea and just go. Many trails are noted online where Mike spends time checking out great trails in the areas we are interested in. I always text my daughter the vicinity of where we are going or send a photo of the trail marker if I can, but we don’t over analyze it. That said, we are prepared for things to get weird and have fairly solid outdoor skills in case they do.
Some people like to go out on their own and create their own trails. I believe we need to be careful with our natural resources so we mostly stay to designated trails. Most trails are marked and easy to follow, especially in the National Parks. Colorado has a huge network of incredible trails so we never run out of ideas.
Watch how far you are getting in, so you can get back out before dark. We usually turn around by about 3 on a Summer hike to get back to the car before dark. We have learned how to do this through trial and error and make sure we have head lamps in case we don’t quite make it. We really want to see what is over the next hill or around the bend and have been disappointed to not get as far as we wanted, but we make sure we get out so we aren’t caught. We know from experience that our hike out is roughly 2/3 of the time it takes to get in.
Yes, you need water. A 2-liter Camelbak™ type bag is usually enough for an average day hike. Make sure you ration it so you have plenty to get you back to your vehicle. I usually try to keep at least half until my trip out. Camelbak™ water can be nasty tasting and I have not found something to really make it taste a lot better other than squeezing lemons in it or getting those little squeeze flavor thingies’ like Dasani Drops™. I went to the Camelbak™ website and they say it isn’t anything toxic, but hiking with the nasty plastic taste is not fun. I also put warm water and baking soda in mine like the website said. That certainly helped. I also have a Life Straw™. It is light and easy to carry so it just rides in my pack for emergencies.
I go to the gym to train for hiking especially when the weather is cool. Mike likes the Stairmaster, which I think was created by Satan and he hates the treadmill. I recognize, I need to spend more time on the dreaded Stairmaster however, for my hill climbing ability. You don’t need to be super fit to start, that will come. For instance, I was very concerned with my knees when I started hiking. I was very sore frequently, especially going downhill. Now they rarely bother me at all. Get some walking sticks if you need to. I am a curvy gal and am always working on that, but am very strong and can beat many folks up a mountain.
We also hike, to train to hike. Get out there, take your time at first and your fitness and endurance will improve. I had very weak knees when I started, but they rarely cause me any problems now.
A note about altitude here. I frequently hike high up in the mountains. I don’t suggest starting there if you are new to the sport and are just feeling out your fitness. Altitude sickness is a real threat if you are not used to it. Take it slow and easy for your first few hikes.
Heading to REI or Cabelas for the latest gadgets won’t necessarily make your hike any better, but they really have some cool innovative goodies out now! Choose quality items, but you don’t need to spend a ton. I use a cheap day pack I bought at Walmart that works just fine. It has enough room for my Camelbak™, my wallet, a great backpacking REI medical kit, fire building items, lip-balm, bug spray, sunscreen, knife, snacks, rain poncho, extra camera, Life Straw™ and whatever else I decide to toss in. I don’t want it to be too heavy, but I want whatever I need handy.
For snacks, I am a big fan of jerky, trail mix and granola bars. I wasn’t too big on jerky before I started hiking, but it gives a great boost of energy and strength for the trail and is light to carry. Choose what you like. I prefer not to get salty jerky as it makes me drink that much more water.
The last thing you want is sore feet. Again, you don’t have to spend much, but you certainly want to invest in good shoes and socks. There are so many good brands out there. I chose sturdy, short shoes that have a good tread. I don’t prefer tall heavy leather ones. This isn’t the 70’s and klunky boots are not necessary.
Another note, I hike in the Fall and hunt as well. Please wear a blaze-orange hat and some other bright orange clothing. Be courteous of hunters and watch for them. You don’t want to mess up someone’s hunt or get shot by not paying attention.
I usually use my phone. I have a Samsung Galaxy 7 and take fabulous pictures. I can get especially beautiful close-ups. Mike takes his larger camera and can get better pics of birds and things far away. We consider it a tradeoff. I have a great Canon Rebel camera, but frankly, it is heavy to carry and I am not the best DSLR jockey yet. We are learning as we go, but have so much fun getting those “Action shots.”
If you take your time, you will see such wonderful opportunities to get beautiful shots. Pinecones, water drops, tiny flowers, the perfect view through the trees.
There is a place called Piney Lake, just outside of Vail, Colorado, where just thinking of it I can smell the warm, golden aspens, dewy grass, and sunshine. It is one of my favorite places on earth. If I had just charged through on my hike there and not taken my time to enjoy the quiet moments I would have missed a very special Spiritual experience. If you slow down and watch your surroundings you will spend more time in the moment and really appreciate your hike. This is where you get in touch with yourself and the beauty around you.