Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘hiking’

A Walk in the Woods

Myself and a friend, looking at the map.

It’s always good to know where you are going.

Since fitness is my passion, most of my posts are commenting on articles I run across pertaining to fitness. However, I just had the opportunity to backpack for the weekend, and I feel it was worth writing about. I find it ironic that I’m getting into this hobby at the time when “Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods” are in vogue. I was told to read both those as I started doing this. I don’t think I’ll ever be a through hiker, the term for those who stay on the trail from start to finish. When I was younger, I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, but now that I know what that entails, I find I’m happy with just doing weekend hikes.

I have experienced many facets of fitness – aerobics, weight lifting, biking, kayaking, swimming and walking. I’ve worked out in the gym and at home. I’ve participated and taught classes, and done fun things that were incidentally fitness producing. I’ve done indoor rock climbing and learned how to climb trees safely. Having done all this, I’ve discovered that fitness is a positive circular cycle. You have to exercise to be fit enough to do active things, and doing active things increases your fitness level. A way to demonstrate this is how you feel the first time you go for a bike ride in the spring, vs if you keep it up all winter on a stationary bike.

a picture of me going down the stairs.

Down is worse than up.

So, I had to train to hike, and hiking was what I did to train. It is excellent for fitness. There are all the benefits of walking, and many of the benefits of weight training, since you are carrying 30 lbs on your back. Unlike walking, most trails are rather challenging, like the one I just went on that had an uncounted number of stairs. The first few times I did it around my neighborhood, I was so sore the next day, especially my calves and feet. I quickly adapted. The heat was an issue, we had one seasoned member bow out after the first day, opting to get a boat home. (We were hiking along a lake.)

We left on a Friday, and did 8 miles (roughly) the first day. We did shorter hikes the next two days, roughly 6 miles Saturday, and five on Sunday. Since I had not trained on consecutive days, I was concerned that there would be some adaptive stress to daily hiking, but there was none. My right knee and foot got sore the second day, after all those stairs, but seemed completely recovered the next.

Hiking and backpacking aren’t for everyone. If you have physical limitations, or just aren’t sure of your

a group picture, including the dog.

Our merry band

footing, it can be daunting. Backpacking means carrying everything you need on your back, which can be physically too much for some. It also means accepting a certain amount of risk, being organized and learning new skills. Of course, it also means eating, sleeping and peeing in the woods, which can be a gross-out for overly fastidious people. Having said this, many state parks have shorter, flatter trails for the less able. My husband hikes on shorter hikes. Also, you are in control of your hike. You can decide how many miles you want to do. You can always turn around and go back. Many trails are loops, of set mileage, which helps determine if they are something you’d like to challenge.

I do think most people would benefit from some sort of hiking. Getting out in nature, getting your vitamin D, socializing (you should never hike alone), and, of course, exercising, are all benefits of it. I like backpacking because of the feeling that I’m tied to all of human history. Most people lived their whole lives in a fashion similar to how we camp. It gives you great respect for our forebearers, and deep gratitude for all our technological advances.

New Hobby

Ok, so anyone who knows me knows that I need a new hobby like most women need more shoes. In spite of that, my neighbor took me hiking on Saturday, and she taught me about geocaching, and about the tags the orienteering clubs put on trees to find. These two things turn any walk in the woods into a treasure hunt. I followed up by taking my husband out the next day to find some more.

This isn’t the first time I had heard of geocaching. We had signed up on the website back in 2007, and had never done anything about it. For the uninitiated, or “muggles”, and the website calls them, geocaching  is where you hide a waterproof container with whatever you want, usually a notebook, some trinkets or coordinates to another site, in it. You then post those coordinates (latitude and longitude) on the website, and other people try to find them. I don’t know if this was played prior to gps’s but they are the standard tool today. When you find a posted cache, you then log it online, as well as sign the notebook if there is one.  Obviously, cache’s have to be in public access places, and there are rules, like don’t disturb grave stones if you hide it in a cemetery.

The orienteering clubs have organized events, where people compete to find all the tags in a race. However, they leave them up all year, so if you have one of their maps, you can go whenever you want at your own pace. Their maps are marked with clues like “distinct tree”, being difficult for being open to interpretation.

Both (games?, hobbies?) teach you map reading and navigation skills. They both get you out of doors, walking and hiking. If you are not a big fan of a walk in the woods, there are urban and suburban geocaches, and you still have to do a bit of walking to find them. Even if you are dead on the coordinates, the cache is still hidden, and some cachers take fiendish delight in making them hard to find.

In any case, it got us out this weekend, we practiced our winter survival skills. Never leave home in the winter without supplies! We tested our cold weather gear and had fun.

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