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Take a Hike

Ron Wayne

MOUNTAINS CAN MAKE you feel inconsequential and weak when you stand at their base, or important and strong when you climb them. Even a minor hike up their sides gives you a sense of power and pride in your abilities.

On a recent trip to California to celebrate my retirement, I went on more hikes than I have since I was a teen. Walking about 2½ to 3 miles almost daily for more than a year at home helped prepare me for the rigor. That said, Gainesville—like much of Florida—is flat.

There were paths in most of the places we hiked: Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Pinnacles, Yosemite and the Big Sur coast. But some can be rocky and twisty, and much steeper than the terrain of north Florida. Not so easy for a 65-year-old.

My only mishap was when I was descending a hill in Death Valley’s Artists Palette. I started to fall forward because it was steeper than I expected. Luckily, my son had gone before me and turned around when he heard me falling. He put out his arms and stopped me. I would have fallen on my face, but instead only twisted an ankle.

The author hikes the Big Sur coast.

Otherwise, I did well for an old guy. My son, an experienced hiker, complimented me. Of course, I had to rest more often than he did, but hiking is not a race. I also found it hard to navigate the rocky Mirror Lake trail at Yosemite. We walked about 10 miles that day on the trail and valley floor.

My biggest climb—500 feet in elevation gain—was in Mariposa Grove at the southern end of Yosemite, where you can find sequoia trees. The hike to and from the top was about four miles, and well worth it.

If you’re new to hiking hilly terrain and not in the prime of your life, here are some helpful hints I learned:

  • Buy hiking shoes. They aren’t cheap, but they provide more grip. I wore Salomon Outline Low GTX shoes, which cost $130 at REI.
  • Use trekking poles. They add a lot of stability and made me feel more secure. I used Black Diamond poles that I borrowed from my son. They were a great help and can be had for $99.99 on Amazon.
  • Angle your feet when descending a steep incline and walk as though you’re skiing downhill, from side to side.
  • Lean slightly back going down a hill and slightly forward going up a hill. This seems obvious, but our nature is to walk upright.
  • Wear layers of clothes. That way, you can shed some as it gets warmer.
  • Carry a backpack, so you can bring water and nutritious snacks. You’ll get hungry and you need to hydrate, even if it isn’t hot.
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen.

Hiking can be done anywhere, and I plan to do more of it. Park fees vary by state. Some are free, but national parks require a $30 admission. If you live close enough to one or more and plan to visit regularly, an all-year pass for $80 is a better value.

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w0_0dy
w0_0dy
1 year ago

I’ve become a big fan of using poles when hiking. For added balance, yes, but also for getting some upper back strengthening which is useful for other activities such as nordic skiing. Previously when hiking long distances without poles, I would get some hand swelling. Using poles keeps my hands elevated to heart level and eliminates that problem.

Luckless Pedestrian
Luckless Pedestrian
1 year ago

You’re off to a good start. Next you should try a multi-day backpacking trip in one of the national parks. I’ve done several of these and would highly recommend Glacier and Yosemite.

John Yeigh
John Yeigh
1 year ago

I recommend the All Trails app for your cellphone. All Trails has a free version which works great and of course, a nicer subscription version. My wife’s All Trails app has stored data from our 130ish hikes over the last five years with family and friends. In a couple of cases hiking on unmarked trails, All Trails quickly highlighted to us that we had mistakenly taken the fork to the 20 mile loop rather than the planned 7 mile loop.

William Perry
William Perry
1 year ago

Getting to hike with my adult children and family is one of the most fun things for me too. Thanks for sharing your adventure and tips. I was fortunate to be able to buy a lifetime senior pass before the price went up a number a years ago. I also try to walk 2-4 miles a day at home to be ready for the next hike.The current lifetime senior pass is generally available to most when you reach age 62. Link – https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/senior-pass-changes.htm.

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
1 year ago
Reply to  William Perry

thanks for the tip!

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