Add Some Interest to Your Hikes
May 12, 2023 at 3:26 p.m.
Adding a variety of outdoor interests to enjoy during your hike multiplies the chances that you will take the time to go. Over the years I have acquired a number of excuses to go hiking. With luck, if I share a few with you, we will be able to meet up on a trail and discuss the ones that you like.
Journal with photos: Favorite hikes can be revisited years later if you take time to document what you see with pen and pictures. Your friends may enjoy seeing a copy of your outing too, motivating them to come with you next time. You might observe wild animals, wildflowers, rare bird sightings and more. Be prepared to capture them with your camera. Try new trails occasionally and spend time researching the new trails that you consider interesting, confirming they are physically achievable.
Look for foraging opportunities: Many public lands allow harvesting of fruits and vegetables that you might come across. National forests do not. Keeping an eye open for fresh fruits or vegetables for your table takes practice and preparation. I generally carry some plant identifying books in my backpack to help me intelligently choose what I harvest. I also consult a calendar identifying plants and berries that might be ripe and edible at the time of my hike. Even though something you see resembles a photo, check out its edibility by asking someone experienced in identifying plants. As an extra precaution, eat just a small amount during your first tasting. You must be especially cautious with mushrooms.
Once you locate a really good food source, document when and where you found it, as most edible food will ripen at the same time and place every year. Wild asparagus, for example, will continue to produce for up to 100 years, provided its roots continue to get enough moisture. When eaten fresh, many foods, like asparagus, taste so much better than those aged in a store. It will keep you hiking back for more.
Tracking identification: Tracking knowledge can add another level of interest to your hike. Animals are so good at camouflage and avoiding human contact that you may not know specific animals even exist in the area you are hiking. It takes good outdoor skill to be able to see them before they see you. However, their tracks give them away, especially if you add snowshoeing. Animal scat and/or bird droppings offer clues to their presence. When you get good at tracking, you can actually tell how long ago the animal was there and even glimpse their feeding habits. It is quite exciting to see where a coyote has chased a grouse or when a cougar has leapt after a prey animal.
Be safe on your hikes: If you hike alone in a new area, bring a backpack with food and water, plus first aid and survival equipment in case you get lost. I keep one packed and ready to go to make sure that I don’t forget anything. Tell friends where you are going and when you expect to be back. Make sure that they have your cell phone number.
Bring someone with you whenever possible. The company adds interest to your hike and helps you remember it better when you share your experiences along the way. Take note of your surroundings as you leave your vehicle for landmarks that will help you get back. Bring a compass, smart phone or GPS to aid your return. Dress appropriately, especially if you might run into weather changes. If you have some favorite hikes, bring a litter bag and do your part to help keep them looking good.
It would be great if we meet on a hiking trail some day and can compare notes on all the new things we were able to see on our outing.
Roger Urbaniak writes about the Great Outdoors from his home on Mercer Island. “Rogers Outdoor Channel” is the place to learn about the adventures of Northwest Outdoor Enthusiast Roger Urbaniak along with his lovely wife Linda and trusty pooch Sparky. Visit rogersoutdoorchannel.com for more information or email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.