The frigid air on my face and body this morning was no consolation, when you add in the bleakness of a grey December sky. The wind was nasty cold and I didn’t even venture into my trusted meadow. I just wanted to get the hike done so we could enjoy hot soup! And, ……….yesterday was even worse. The major influence that disturbs our sanctuary is always the ice. Although on hot summer days I dream of a cooler winter hike; this never includes 8 inches of slush and water to be followed 24 hours later by ice. The real problem on Monday wasn’t the rain pelting down on us, but the overall condition of the road in and the deep slush in many areas of the trail. Then to test your mettle further, 24 hours later, everything, including the deep footprints of the previous day, are hardened like cement all the way into the forest. Maybe it’s time to twist an ankle or break one like I did 25 years ago on the very same type of ice!
Which brings me to the focus of this post – how do you successfully navigate, a sometimes treacherous trail; – all year long? A few folks messaged me about a previous post where I mentioned “gear” and they wanted to hear a few suggestions. Let’s face it, Norm and I are just casual hikers; but, we have hiked some pretty cool spots in Canada and we have learned many lessons along the way. Hiking to the top of the Kokanee Lake Trail, without any water; was not one of our stellar moments; but wow ! …..is it ever a great memory! We dipped our hats into a cascading mountain stream and gulped down that water! It was so wonderful! We also hiked “Flock of Sheep” on Grand Manaan Island and many parts of the Bruce Trail near Tobermory – each time, we learned something.
One of the most important lessons for me would be, “Have some Knowledge of the Trail”. Do not trust anyone else’s interpretation without looking at a real map. We learned this the hard way when we tried to navigate what was a three day canoe trip, in an afternoon….in a spring run off on the Saugeen River. We are careful to try to follow the trail carefully the first time around. I would never count on my phone or GPS on my phone.
Trail blazing when your feet are at their utmost comfort level is the only way to go. Never wear new hiking shoes on a long hike. Wear them around the house for a bit and break them in. Make sure your boots are decent. I broke my ankle on bumpy ice with lousy boots and I have sprained my ankle. I have purchased at least two pairs of boots that were uncomfortable and one pair that were impossible to wear. My feet need support and I want them to be DRY. The best boots I have ever owned are my LOWA Renegades. They are available at WildRock and are totally water resistant and goretex lined. I wear them in the winter with cleats and I only hike in them. I want them to last a long time so I never wear them in the warmer months. If you are hiking in the winter you NEED cleats. period. They are amazing and they make you feel so much safer. I keep a second pair in my backpack in case one breaks.
My summer boots are cheaper but, my plan is to buy a proper pair of Renegades for summer hikes. I notice a great difference in the ankle support, my own sense of well being, and safety when we are into some rocks, some slippery mud or climbing short bits.
I always carry a backpack. I keep several items in the bag but the most important piece is definitely my rain gear. My 25 year orange old gore tex jacket only stopped working about three years ago, when I purchased my gore tex Arteryx jacket…..it is amazing. I think in this case, the brand name means something. Burton sells gore tex also and again, totally wind and waterproof. I bought my boots one year and my jacket the next. And I am SO glad I did. I also bought rain pants at Adventure Outfitters for $50. They aren’t pretty but they do the job. If anyone knows of a light weight “hiking” gore tex pant, I would appreciate more information.
I get super warm whenever I hike, no matter the conditions, and I always dress in plenty of layers in sub zero temperatures. I always have mitts and a hat. If I start out with merino base layer, I am almost always too hot. Everyone is different and I got this experience when I cross country skied in Kincardine many years ago. I went in with only my adidas track suit because you get uncomfortably warm and it is absolutely NO FUN, when you cannot get comfortable. I have skied for most of my life and only recently bought base layers that work. I read a lot about the fabrics and made decisions based on experience.
Good luck hiking Leesha and Cheryl! I know you both have a lot of experience, too. I would love to hear your stories.