The sun's warm rays danced through the vibrant canopy of the forest. You could hear birds chirp their songs through the tranquil wilderness. If you listened carefully, you could hear a stream gushing, not far away.
Picture by Esther Tuttle Via Unsplash
In this picturesque scene, a nervous yet determined figure stood at the trailhead. Ishani was embarking on a hike for the very first time.
A week ago, a colleague had mentioned the Hudson Groove hike planned for a Saturday. Ishani had wanted to visit this groove ever since she moved into the area for work. This was her chance. She saw that the hike event was up on MyTrailPals app and she had signed up right away.
After the initial excitement had subsided, Ishani felt countless questions swirling in her mind. Would she get left behind? What if she got lost or ran out of water? Oh and what about a restroom?
She checked the MyTrailPals to see if anyone she knew had signed up. That’s when she noticed the event chat where other attendees had already exchanged some messages. As she read through, she realised that Hudson Groove was a popular hiking destination with well marked trails. The conversation seemed friendly, so she felt comfortable joining & asking questions.
She shared her immediate concerns about getting lost, water availability and bathrooms. Sam, a veteran of many hikes, responded immediately.
Once he learned that this was Ishani’s first hike, Sam shared the following insights with her in order to put Ishani’s mind at ease.
He told her that this was the perfect hike for a first timer, not too hard or long.
He shared with her a link to the National Park website which had details of the Hudson Groove trail.
Then Sam listed the facilities available to her on the trail
Restrooms every few miles
Trail markings every mile and at forked routes
Parking at the trailhead
Sam knew that there was one question Ishani had hesitated to ask - what if there are no restrooms?
In the wild, when you gotta go, you gotta go. No point in holding back and giving yourself an infection. The best way to go about it is to find a tree, rock or bush to go behind. Ask a friend to watch out and warn anyone approaching to steer clear. While squatting watch out for loose rocks or insects that can cause you harm. Inspect the area a little before you go, Sam explained.
It just takes some practice to drop your inhibitions and adopt a true backcountry “so what” attitude, he added. Encouraged by the responses, Ishani was happy she had signed up. She asked Sam about things to carry and precautions.
Sam mentioned a few items that she would need in a small pack for a warm day hike:
Refillable water bottle
Snacks and a packed lunch for a scenic picnic
Hat and Goggles
A charged mobile phone with a backup battery pack
Sam mentioned that the day was predicted to be a hot one, but the trail in the groove was shaded. Yet he advised her to wear full sleeved tops and avoid wearing denim trousers. Suggested to carry fruits like oranges/grapes/strawberries that would be perfect trail food for a warm day. Most importantly he warned her of the need to wear hiking shoes or boots, and avoid wearing sneakers or sports shoes.
Since he knew this was Ishani’s first trek, Sam also familiarised her with the hike rules so that everyone was safe and accounted for. They would meet at the trailhead parking point at 6:30 AM and once a head count was taken, proceed from there at a steady pace. Sam would identify captains to stay in the middle and at the back of the hikers group so that they could account for everyone.
After a hike of about 3-3.5 hours, they would reach a groove with a beautiful lake view. Their picnic lunch would take place at this spot. People could walk around, take pictures, rest or play games if they wanted. By 2.30 pm latest they would start back and reach the parking again. The same captains would make sure everyone finished the hike safely.
Sam mentioned that with MyTrailPals Event Organizer's are advised to carry a first aid kit, extremely helpful in case of unforeseen injuries on trails.
Ishani was impressed with the detailed planning Sam shared. She felt no hesitation now, to join the MyTrailPals community and make new friends.
If you are a beginner like Ishani, don’t ever hesitate to ask questions however stupid they seem. There’s the first time for everyone.
Consider these points as a first timer
Start with a small duration, easier and local outdoor activity, be it hiking, cycling or trail walking.
If there is an event chat or the whatsapp group, ask questions. Don't be shy.
Share your concerns so that they help others understand what situation you are coming from.
If you have special needs, check with the Event Organizer about facilities you might need.
Educate yourself - Don't blindly follow. You also have a responsibility towards yourself to be safe.
Ask what things you can carry and particularly about availability of food and water. Some trails have small kiosks and water stations. Some trails have none.
Trust the leader and don't question their motives if they ask you to go fast or slow. They are trying to keep everyone together and safe.
Familiarise yourself with things like the use of hiking boots, buying backpacks, using walking poles.
Introduce yourself and converse with your fellow outdoor enthusiasts. You’’ discover there is so much flora and fauna to discover in the outdoors.
Read the trail information given at the trailhead for any fires, closure, or wildlife warnings.
Check the weather before you go and prepare accordingly. Carrying a windcheater is always handy.
Remember, every outdoor enthusiast starts somewhere. Embrace this opportunity to explore the outdoors, challenge yourself on the trails, and discover the joy of being in nature.
With your trail pals you've got this!