7 Lessons from 7 Hikes: #HiketheSummer at the Halfway Point

Eunice Lake and Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier rises above Eunice Lake as seen from the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Thirteen hikes in 13 weeks is totally doable, right? After all, I live in a state known for mountains in every direction, with residents who are, by and large, dedicated to a passionate pursuit of the outdoors. For this erstwhile couch potato, however, a goal to hike at least once every week this summer was the start of a commitment to shaking off the shackles of a somewhat sedentary lifestyle and embracing contentment through fitness and communion with nature. #HiketheSummer was born.

#TrailSelfie
#TrailSelfie

It’s been a glorious summer so far. Together with my friend K, we’ve spent every weekend weekend on a trail. We’ve gotten lost on the De Leo Wall Trail, sauntered easily along Discovery Park‘s North Beach Trail, huffed and puffed up Little Si, encountered biting flies at Anti-Aircraft Peak, faced our fears on Mount Zion, questioned reality on Denny Creek Trail, and stood in the shadow of a sleeping giant at Tolmie Peak. We’re just getting started. Ultimately, the goal isn’t merely to hike every week this summer but to lay the foundation for a life measured in miles on the trail.

Lessons learned at the Halfway Point

Seven weeks in and I’ve gathered a bouquet of takeaways:

  1. Fuel accordingly – I’ve realized that simply eating breakfast the morning before a moderate to strenuous hike isn’t always enough, especially when your body is unaccustomed to a certain level of physical activity. Take the necessary supplies to refuel on-trail every couple of hours to ensure your body has access to the energy it needs.
  2. Insect repellent doesn’t always work – On a couple of separate occasions (most notably and recently at the Tolmie Peak Lookout where I had my own personal swarm of mosquitoes), it’s become apparent that insect repellent–even the stuff with the highest-allowable levels of DEET–is little more than gravy for the most determined buggers. To enjoy your well-earned views in spite of insects, find your zen and be ready with the After Bite.
  3. Take more water than you think you’ll need – Although water requirements vary according to your fitness level, the weather, and the length of the hike, a good rule of thumb is to take approximately three quarts of water along on the trail and perhaps have an additional amount waiting in your car back at the trailhead.
  4. Mind over matter – If you’re a beginning hiker who’s progressing towards more challenging trails, remember that hiking is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. Sometimes, a brief rest, a few sips of water, and an internal pep talk is all you need to get you up and over the next long incline or switchback.
  5. Invest in a camp towel – These lightweight, chamois-type towels don’t take up much room in your pack but they’re nice to have on hand for drying off should you encounter a lake or creek you simply can’t resist soaking your feet in.
  6. Keep things interesting – In the same way that runners have longer runs interspersed with easier ones, it’s a good idea to mix up your hikes: a longer, flatter hike one week and then a shorter, more strenuous hike the next. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.
  7. Live hike-minded – Even when you’re not hiking, committing to getting adequate rest, hydration, nutrition, and physical activity can go a long way to making your next hike even better.

As we speak, I’m firing up the ol’ Washington Trails Association Hike Finder Map in search of this weekend’s adventure. Onward to number 8…

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