Tips will keep you on the right path while hiking

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We live in the perfect state for some of the most beautiful hikes in the country.

Washington even boasts some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain of the Pacific Coast Trail. While most people aren’t quite ready for that Mexico to Canada trail, nearly everyone can enjoy a walk through the woods, the valley or climb a hill.

But before you take off here are some things to keep in mind.

Dress the part — Footwear is probably the most important piece of your wardrobe. Leave the flip-flops or sandals at home. Trail hiking is best done in hiking/trail shoes or at least a good pair of tennis shoes. For longer trails you may want to consider wearing a pair of hiking boots.

Make sure you’ve had sufficient time to break in your shoes. Too many hikes are cut short by the blisters worn by a brand new pair of shoes. Secondly, layer your clothing. It is likely you will experience myriad weather changes during your day. Keep your clothing light, breathable and light in color.

And, don’t forget your head. Whether you’re wearing a hat to insulate your body heat on a cold day or protecting your head from the rays of the sun, a hat is an essential part of your hiking attire.

Take water — In fact, take more water than you think you’ll need. Pre-hydrate by consuming 1 liter of water a few hours before your hike. Then, keep sipping water throughout the day.

Know your route — Have a plan for your route and communicate it to someone back at home or at your campsite. Include the time you left and the approximate time of your return.

First aid — Make sure to take a basic first-aid kit that includes bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, pain relievers and a whistle.

Food — Take snacks. GORP (Good ol’ raisins and peanuts) is a hiker’s staple. Eat along the way, but make sure to follow the next hiker rule which is …

Pack out — It’s part of hiker etiquette to pack out your own trash.

And since we’re on the subject, yes, this includes animal and human waste. Seriously! In the unfortunate situation that you must take a pit stop in the woods, it is the hiker’s responsibility to pack out human waste and any tissue or toilet paper used. Dog waste, too.

Check with your local laws on this to make sure you’re in compliance and aren’t leaving anything that will make its way into a local water supply.

These are just a few basics to get you started enjoying the great outdoors.

For more information check out The American Hiking Society online at americanhiking.org.

So whether you’re headed to Bennington Lake, Harris Park, the Cascades or the Pacific Crest Trail, make sure you’re well prepared and “go take a hike!”

Leslie Snyder is senior program director of Healthy Living at the Walla Walla YMCA. She holds national certifications with the American Council on Exercise in group fitness, personal training and as a health coach. She can be reached at lsnyder@wwymca.org.

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